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Time to Hire Your First Executive Assistant?

If you’re in business and you have employees but no executive assistant, it’s likely time to hire one. In most industries, an executive assistant is the first hire a business owner should make. Be honest with yourself: What are you juggling? How many balls are being dropped in the process? Do you spend your days feeling that you’re spinning out of control or, in contrast, that you’re spinning your wheels without getting anywhere?

These are telltale signs your next hire should be an executive assistant. While that seems like it may be a daunting process, it doesn’t need to be. The following four steps can help:

  1. Find a matchmaker: You’re hiring an executive assistant because you’ve become too busy for administrative work. But, yet, embarking on the hiring process to find an executive assistant will only add to that already heavy burden. Enter the executive recruiter. As an executive recruiter, I spend time inside the walls of the company that’s hiring. I get to know the company’s culture, how the executive communicates, and what a “day in the life” for a potential executive assistant will be. The more open and honest you are with an executive recruiter, the more they will be able to find the right fit for your needs—without handholding or second guessing—which can help ensure you have someone in place as effortlessly as possible.
  2. Understand communication styles that fit your needs: Many executives make the mistake of assuming that skills and competencies are the most important attributes to look for in an executive assistant. However, that’s not the case. Those attributes can be learned. The most important attribute is—by far—communication style. Administering personality tests like DISC may help identify the right fit but that’s assuming you—as the executive—already know what communication style you exhibit and to what style you respond best. Be honest: Do you know yourself that well? When I’m assessing culture and fit within an organization, I’m paying close attention to the actual communication styles within the organization that work, and which ones don’t work. It may be different than you originally perceived.
  3. Be clear on the skills that will be required: With communication styles squared away, you can then look at skills and competencies. While many of these can be learned, it is important to be clear on what exact skillsets will be needed. Look beyond the basic executive assistant job skillsets at any areas that make the job unique. Some executive assistant positions are relatively technical, others include complex financial, forecasting or project management skills. It’s important to highlight these unique areas in order to attract the candidates that have the right combination of interests.
  4. Be open to counter-questioning:  Recruiters encourage executive assistant candidates to ask questions liberally. Be open to it. The reasoning behind this is, again, to assess cultural fit and communication styles. Some of the best questions may seem invasive at first: What keeps you up at night? How do you communicate? What does your typical day look like? But understand that your answers to these questions will give your potential executive assistant clues as to whether or not he or she can meet your expectations and also be happy in the position.

If you feel you’ve reached the end of your rope, don’t juggle it all on your own anymore. Finding an executive assistant can be a daunting process, but it doesn’t need to be. Enlist help, be honest with yourself, be clear with what you need and—above all—be open to finding an executive assistant that simply makes your life easier. It’s more achievable than you may think.


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