9 Executive Assistant Interview Questions To Find the Best One

Cassy Aite
June 11, 2024
9 Executive Assistant Interview Questions To Find the Best One

In a fast-paced business world, executive assistants are the glue between high-level executives, clients, and stakeholders. Yet, like many positions, finding a great executive assistant can be a futile effort.

A self-starting, assertive, and competent assistant with effective communication skills, interpersonal skills, and organizational skills may seem like a pipe dream. But with an updated job interview process, the process just got a bit easier.

CEOs, hiring managers, recruiters, and business owners, rejoice! Thanks to direct, insightful, and honed executive assistant interview questions, you can narrow in the person who meets and exceeds your expectations.

The 3 Aspects of Great Executive Assistant Interview Questions

Executive assistants don’t have the same tasks as administrative assistants. They’re more likely to be project management experts and handle challenging situations with regularity. Their working relationships are often more personal, as they work almost exclusively with high-level execs.

This isn’t to say that executive assistants are more qualified than their administrative counterparts. However, the skill sets necessary to succeed are often sharpened and pronounced. As a result, you need to tailor your interview questions to determine their specific abilities.

When you create executive assistant interview questions, ensure that you touch on three important aspects: hard skills, soft skills, and behavioral skills. An executive assistant with all three is far more likely to act as an effective planner, decision-maker, and gatekeeper.

Let’s break down each one to fine-tune your approach and questions.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are interpersonal skills, personal characteristics, and cognitive abilities. They’re the intangible qualities that drive emotional intelligence and collaboration and determine a person’s ability to handle difficult situations or absorb knowledge.

Some of the most coveted executive assistant soft skills include:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Critical-thinking skills
  • Time management skills
  • Communication skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Adaptability
  • Self-awareness
  • Assertiveness

Unfortunately, soft skills are challenging to measure, so care must be taken to include soft skill-based executive assistant interview questions and answers.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are technical knowledge and abilities acquired through schooling, on-the-job training, or years of experience in a previous role. These are what you’ll find on the resume of an executive assistant candidate.

Hard skills might include competency in Microsoft Office Suite or project management software programs, expertise in filing expense reports or completing spreadsheets, and creating posts for social media accounts.

Hard skills are easier to quantify than soft skills, and some employers may require proficiency testing as part of the executive assistant job application.

But take note. The hard skills you require might be industry-specific or job-specific. In an executive assistant role, you want to ensure that the person already has the hard skills you want or has the ability and drive to acquire them.

Behavioral Skills

Similar to soft skills, behavioral skills are closely related to how you handle situations or interact with others. Yet unlike soft skills, behavioral skills determine how you react to situations, are observable by others, and can be improved with focus and experience.

Reliability, calm under pressure, work ethic, self-improvement, and self-confidence are all prized behavioral skills for an executive assistant position.

9 Executive Assistant Interview Questions To Find the Perfect Candidate

Woman being greeted by two interviewers during a job interviewer

With a focus on the Big Three skills, you can begin crafting the perfect executive assistant interview questions. Remember to reflect on the job description in your questions, listen objectively to the answers, and think about whether that person would be complementary to your work environment.

Let’s get started.

1. What’s your process for handling multiple projects at once?

This question touches on all three skill sets, so don’t throw it out as an icebreaker. It involves many moving parts, including real-time prioritization, organizational mastery, and top-notch communication.

The answer to this executive assistant interview question isn’t necessarily the workflow but how the jobseeker handles complex problems.

2. Have you improved an inefficient process or task? How did you go about it?

To-do lists and memos are part of the job title of an executive assistant, but not every candidate goes above and beyond. The intent of this question is to find out just that.

Look for answers about how the candidate has improved processes through color coding, software implementation, ready-to-use templates, and other ideas. These answers show that the applicant has the ability, knowledge, and applicable skills to save time — and money.

3. How do you handle angry or disruptive clients and salespeople?

Calm under pressure is an integral skill of any executive assistant. Occasionally, angry clients or salespeople want to talk to executives to complain about the business or pitch an idea.

As an interviewer, you’re looking for a step-by-step process of how the candidate would handle difficult situations. The idea is that they keep cool, divert the question to customer service, or handle the situation in a creative, non-disruptive way. How they answer this executive assistant interview question can shed light on their abilities under duress.

4. How do you keep sensitive information secure?

Executive assistants handle sensitive and confidential information regularly, whether personal or company-based. Not all of it is gossip or trade secrets, however. This sensitive information could be something akin to a surprise party or a shareholder gathering.

The candidate should have examples or ideas for protecting this information. Using coded emails or conversing verbally with only those in the know are two sample answers that would prove satisfactory in this situation.

5. How do you handle travel arrangements while being cost-efficient?

Person using a pencil and calculator to do math while sitting next to a laptop

Travel arrangements are a major part of an executive assistant’s work, but how they do it is another matter altogether. We all know how expensive travel can be, and when it’s on the company's dime, you don’t want to frivolously spend money. That’s a hard sell for stakeholders.

With cost-efficiency, organization, and planning in mind, this executive assistant interview question should walk the interviewer through each step of the process. An ideal answer would include comparison shopping from trusted platforms or carriers and a checklist to ensure no details are overlooked.

6. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your computer skills?

Executive assistants are on the front lines of planning and organization within the company, so strong computer skills and software knowledge are essential. They must send emails, organize projects and virtual events, file expense reports, send out stipends, and the list goes on and on.

You’re searching for knowledge of leading software and knowledge of the office suite you use — think Excel, Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint for Microsoft 365. They should also have an eagerness to learn new software outside of their current knowledge.

7. What’s the role of an executive assistant?

You have an idea of what an executive assistant should be. Now, it’s time to determine if the candidate shares the same beliefs.

This is one of the best executive assistant interview questions to see if your values and expectations align, even beyond the job description and job duties. It allows you to gauge their abilities and whether they will go the extra mile to ensure everything is done right — from remembering office birthdays to sending gifts to clients.

Though you should take every answer objectively, this is the one time where subjectivity can roam free.

8. Do you feel comfortable making decisions on your own?

Autonomy is one of the key tenets of employee engagement and job satisfaction, but simply giving autonomy isn’t enough. You have to trust that the person believes in their choices and doesn’t need a micromanager for every little decision.

Executive assistants should have the confidence and ability to make decisions independently with your blessing — not on everything, but on smaller matters that don’t require an exec’s oversight.

Follow up this question with another about a situation where the executive assistant made a singular decision on behalf of their boss. The answer can help you ascertain whether the candidate has decision-making abilities that act in the best interest of executives and the company.

9. Have you ever worked as a virtual assistant?

With more fully remote and hybrid arrangements than ever, the virtual work environment is integral to the success of many companies. For an executive assistant, this means working from home without distractions or hindrances.

Experience as a virtual assistant isn’t 100% necessary, but it’s definitely in the nice-to-have attributes. In this executive assistant interview question, you can decipher if they have the discipline and knowledge to excel in the virtual office based on their answers.

Give Back to the Person Who Gives So Much to You

Executive assistants often manage the professional and personal affairs of their boss or bosses. Yet, being tied so closely to another individual on personal and work-related levels is an arduous task.

If you find someone who nails all of your executive assistant interview questions, make sure to show your appreciation with a gift. The best way to do that is with Hoppier.

Hoppier gift card

Hoppier is the source for all kinds of gift cards for those special or last-minute occasions when you want to thank, celebrate, or acknowledge your executive assistant. With tens of thousands of vendors, Hoppier creates a special gift without taking too much time away from your busy day as an exec or business owner.

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