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Executive Assistant Interview
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| Angela has supported hiring efforts for over 15 years. She's a Senior People Business Partner and a Career Development Manager for Hive and Bloom. She's conducted thousands of interviews and reviewed countless resumes.

Question 1 of 25

What approach do you use to stay on top of email management?

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Executive Assistant Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    What approach do you use to stay on top of email management?

      The Executive Assistant role's critical function is ensuring that the company and executive inboxes are being managed and responded to appropriately. Interviewers want to ensure that you will be able to manage emails promptly, regardless of how many come through. Email management is essential since emailing is generally the central hub for all communications.

      Angela's Answer

      "Email volume can be quite high and can become unmanageable very quickly. To ensure that I stay on top of email volume, I approach the inbox as a to-do list. Nothing is removed from the inbox until I have actioned or responded to that particular email. Once I have addressed an email, I file the email in the appropriate folder so that it is available to reference, if needed, at a later date."

  2. 2.

    Can you share what qualities you feel are the most valuable as an Executive Assistant?

      Interviewers often ask questions such as these to ensure that you align with the qualities that they value. Additionally, they validate that you have a strong understanding of the competencies required to succeed in this role. Some of the qualities that are must-haves in this position are excellent communication skills, organizational skills, extreme professionalism, collaborative skills, autonomy, and a willingness to learn.

      As a best practice, select one or two that you have excellent examples for so that you can tie it back to the role.

      Angela's Answer

      "While many characteristics make up a great Executive Assistant, I find that the most valuable is superb organizational skills. As an Executive Assistant, you are responsible for a broad scope of work, and becoming disorganized is a surefire way to create chaos and make mistakes. I also find that the more organized I am, the more productive I am. In my current position, I'm responsible for creating standard operating procedures that focus on organization strategies and their benefits."

  3. 3.

    What best practices do you use in coordinating travel arrangements?

      As an Executive Assistant, you are responsible for making travel arrangements. Many complexities come into play when booking travel, such as weather, time zones, varying schedules, budget, etc. The interviewer is looking to see if you can anticipate others' needs and forecast any hiccups that may happen. They want to ensure that you pay attention to detail and do your best to mitigate any annoyances or delays in travel booking. When traveling for business, the company is paying for employees to travel. If you book a flight with too many layovers, the company pays for that time. It's essential to be mindful of the many travel components.

      Angela's Answer

      "When preparing to book travel, I first document all travelers, time zones, budgetary constraints, and itineraries for travelers. After I understand where everyone needs to be and when they need to be there, I can methodically develop travel plans for lodging, plane tickets, meal budgets, and car transfer. I ensure I'm mindful of layover time and shop several travel sites to ensure that I get the best deals for the company."

  4. 4.

    What approaches do you use to stay motivated and how do you course correct when you get off track?

      When asking this question, interviewers are quantifying how often they are going to have to coach you. They want someone who can be self-motivated and build an action plan when they get off track. This assessment is also a measure of self-awareness and shows your interviewer that you can work independently with little intervention.

      Angela's Answer

      "I find that motivation often leaves you, and it's vital to leverage my discipline in conjunction with motivation. Some techniques that I use to stay motivated are creating small task items from more significant goals. This task list allows me to achieve quick wins that keep me engaged throughout my day. Additionally, I reflect on my impact on the company and consider what would happen if I don't stay motivated. If I find myself getting off track, I regroup and use prioritization methods to identify what needs my immediate attention to course correct."

  5. 5.

    Can you share best practices for written work and ensuring accuracy?

      Executive Assistants (EA) are responsible for writing correspondence and communications on behalf of executives. If an EA has inadequate writing/grammar skills, those reflect poorly on the executive. The interviewer needs to know that they can count on you to compose messages to present them in a favorable light. Additionally, they won't have time to proofread every communication that goes out, so they need to know that you have processes in place to mitigate errors.

      Angela's Answer

      "When creating correspondence, I employ several techniques to ensure my work is free of grammatical errors and confirm its accuracy. I make the first draft using spell check tools or Grammarly. Then, I read it backward to highlight any immediate errors. Next, I go through to confirm that all data points are correct. This includes dates, names, times, time zones, phone numbers, and addresses. Lastly, if given the opportunity, I have a peer review my work."

  6. 6.

    What strategies do you use when managing competing priorities?

      As an Executive Assistant (EA), your ability to prioritize effectively is a vital component of the EA role. Your interviewer is qualifying your ability to successfully manage competing priorities with a systematic approach. They want to ensure that you can demonstrate the ability to autonomously prioritize your responsibilities and tasks with little to no intervention. They want to validate that you are capable of working independently so that they are free to manage their own high-level tasks. Lastly, they want to be certain that they trust your decision-making skills around prioritization. By providing answers with concrete frameworks, you demonstrate your skills around prioritization and when it's best to leverage each framework.

      Prioritization framework methods:
      Force Ranking
      Hundred Dollar Method
      Moscow Technique
      Numerical Assignment Grouping
      Ivy Lee Method

      Angela's Answer

      "I leverage a variation of prioritization techniques depending on the tasks at hand. For daily task management, I like to use the Moscow Technique. With the Moscow technique, I focus on must-have time, should-have time, could-have time, and will not have time. This approach allows me to strategically bucket my workload in relation to risk, impact, and project size. However, when I prioritize a project's tasks, I find that the Ivy Lee Method is the best approach. This method keeps me on task for six specific actions, not moving on to new tasks or adding until my task list until the initial six are complete. I believe it's important to utilize different techniques depending on what I'm prioritizing."

  7. 7.

    Can you tell me about some common reports you prepare and their intended purpose?

      Interviewers ask this for several reasons. They want to validate how you handle data sources, presentation skills, organizational skills, and general business acumen. By answering this question thoughtfully, you can demonstrate your abilities around reporting best practices and how knowledgeable you are around business reports in general.

      Angela's Answer

      "In my current role, I'm responsible for all business reports and presentation of the content. These reports range from travel expenses, file expense reports, monthly business reviews, and productivity reporting. I'm very familiar with these reports' general content, which makes errors or failing metrics easy to identify. From there, I partner with executives to build programs to improve those metrics or correct the reporting."

  8. 8.

    Can you tell me about a time a peer was failing and how you supported them?

      Employers are looking for you to be autonomous and independent. They want to know that if you have peer issues, you will manage those with minimal involvement. Additionally, they want to know that you will be a support mechanism for your teammates to move the company forward.

      The main call out here is to keep it positive and focus on the process, not the person. Additionally, any peer conversations should come from a place of support and less about finger-pointing.

      Angela's Answer

      "I had a peer who was struggling to meet her productivity goals each month. Thus, the rest of the team had to do more work to make up for productivity loss. I had a private conversation with them and made them aware that I noticed they were struggling and asked if there was anything I could do to support them. They shared that they weren't familiar with a tool that was slowing them down. To support them, I built an informational guide and put together a video tutorial to provide them additional training. I also offered to have them shadow me to learn best practices. Since then, they have become an expert on this particular tool and have increased their productivity scores."

  9. 9.

    What computer systems do you have experience with?

      When asking this question, interviewers evaluate to see if you are skilled with their current software platforms and computer systems. Additionally, they are checking to see how familiar you are with each of these systems. Some standard computer systems that an Executive Assistant uses are:

      Microsoft Programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
      Outlook/Gmail
      G-Suit Tools (Sheets, Docs, Forms, Slides)
      Slack
      Adobe
      WordPress

      Angela's Answer

      "My current employer has elected to use G-Suite tools. I use these tools with expert knowledge and have developed training modules to ensure that other employees use them at an expert level. While my employer prefers G-Suite, I have a history of utilizing all Microsoft programs and have taken an Excel masterclass to ensure my skills stay sharp. Additionally, I'm comfortable with Slack, Adobe, and WordPress. Are these common tools for this position? Are there any others I should become familiar with?"

  10. 10.

    Tell me about a time you experienced a roadblock when booking travel. How did you correct it?

      Interviewers ask this because mistakes happen. When those mistakes arise, they want to know that you have the problem-solving skills to correct those mistakes if you can. Traveling for work can come with many stress-inducing situations, and errors in travel amplify those stress factors. While we aim to be error-free, especially when booking travel, mistakes happen, and interviewers want to ensure that you can act quickly and strategically when something goes wrong.

      Angela's Answer

      "In my previous role, I booked travel for over 100 employees for a business conference to Las Vegas. During onboarding, our director realized he left his ID at home, which was over an hour away, and the flight would be boarding at that point. Knowing that he wasn't going to get on this flight, I immediately booked the next flight for him and sent a courier to his residence to collect his ID and bring it to him at the airport before his next flight."

  11. 11.

    Why do you want to leave your current employer?

      There are many reasons an employer may ask this question. They are looking to see if you were let go or if you quit jobs often. The costs and effort of onboarding a new employee are fairly high, so when an interviewer asks this question, they are trying to figure out how long they think you will stay with the company.

      The importance here is to keep it positive. People rarely leave their employers because things are going well. Be honest but never speak poorly of your boss, peers, colleagues, or the company. This is also an opportunity to highlight all of your remarkable achievements.

      Angela's Answer

      "I've been in my current position for four years now. During this time, I have served over 25 executives, developed processes, and launched Executive Assistant development programs. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with ABC Company, but having achieved all of the major milestones I have set for myself, I am now looking to be challenged and developed in a new venue."

  12. 12.

    What details do you pay attention to when executing administrative tasks?

      A slip in misinformation can cause many problems. As an Executive Assistant, you manage so many details, and missing any of them can be problematic. These mistakes could be transposing numbers, sending an email to someone on accident, or addressing a client by the wrong name. Interviewers ask this question because they want to understand what parameters you put in place to protect yourself from missing key details.

      Angela's Answer

      "As an Executive Assistant, my day is predominately comprised of managing key details. Some of these details include emails, logging client information, taking minutes in meetings, and sending post agenda follow-up correspondence. In managing these crucial functions, I have to be mindful of the audience, the information, dates, and discretion. If any of those are compromised, it can create many issues, some of them detrimental."

  13. 13.

    Tell me about a time you had to deliver communications to multiple people? What methods did you use?

      When asking this question, interviewers are validating that you are knowledgeable about communication best practices. They want to know that you can effectively communicate to large groups and know when specific populations should be communicated to differently. They may also be looking to confirm that you know who to communicate to and when. Not all messages are intended for all audiences.

      Angela's Answer

      "One of my current responsibilities is messaging our discussions and decisions from our monthly business review. The monthly business review is not appropriate for all employees, as it contains sensitive information. When drafting my communication, I bucket the updates based on which employees need specific information on an as-needed basis. Next, I ensure that the email list includes only relevant parties. Lastly, I add a disclaimer to each communication group, explaining what information is appropriate to share and which information is sensitive. This disclaimer helps in ensuring that information is not inadvertently shared."

  14. 14.

    How do you organize your daily schedule?

      Interviewers often ask this question because they want to make sure that you can self-manage and operate productively. Most Executives wish to avoid micromanagement and don't want to get too deep in the weeds with your work. They prefer to use high-level and manage overall strategy versus day-to-day operations.

      Angela's Answer

      "There are many approaches I use in managing my day and my workload. However, I have found the most effective to be a numerical assignment approach. With this strategy, I create a list with my daily responsibilities and assign them each a numerical value based on importance. I address the higher numbers first and have mid-morning and mid-day check-ins to update my list as new tasks arise. Additionally, I proactively add time blocks to my calendar to account for repetitive tasks such as record filing and email management."

  15. 15.

    Tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult client and how you managed that.

      As an Executive Assistant, it's not uncommon to deal with difficult clients or coworkers, for that matter. Interviewers ask this question to gauge your maturity level and assess how you behave when others are difficult. They also want to know that you will manage situations like these without reflecting poorly on the company. Especially in the age of social media, navigating difficult clients mitigates public risk for the company.

      When answering this question, be sure to highlight a positive outcome of the situation.

      Angela's Answer

      "We recently had a client who was angry that she could not reach out to the director by phone. Our director is not client-facing, but she felt he was the only one who would solve her problem. She called for him several times a day and got the same answer each time, that he was not available to take her call. She became more and more escalated each time she called, and no one could calm her down. I requested to take her call, and I utilized the Three R technique. Through this technique, you recognize their problem, relate to them, and reassure them that you will do what you can to help. Using this technique, I was able to calm her down and help her toward a solution."

  16. 16.

    Can you share your approach to record keeping?

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  17. 17.

    What strategies do you use in coordinating a meeting with many stakeholders with varying calendars?

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  18. 18.

    Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision but didn't have all the information you needed. How did you approach that situation?

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  19. 19.

    Tell me about a time, you used a creative solution to solve a really difficult problem.

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  20. 20.

    Tell me about a time you dealt with constant change.

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  21. 21.

    Tell me about a time you received difficult feedback and your action plan in addressing that feedback.

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  22. 22.

    Tell me about a time you had to manage many different details.

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  23. 23.

    Tell me about a time you had to provide difficult feedback to a leader.

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  24. 24.

    Tell me about a time you had to oversee coordination of many moving pieces.

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  25. 25.

    What is your approach when you aren't able to share a full story with a colleague?

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