Interviewing for an executive assistant position is an exciting but nerve-wracking experience. It’s a chance to demonstrate why you’re the ideal candidate for the job and find out more about the position.
Good interview preparation, however, is key to managing your nerves and impressing interviews. Let’s break down common but tricky executive assistant interview questions and how to answer them.
The key to this question is to be specific. You should demonstrate that you don’t just want to be an executive assistant. You want to be an executive assistant at this company, in this department and for this executive.
To help you answer this question convincingly, take the time to browse the company’s website and social media. Work out what sets them apart from their competitors. What’s their mission statement? What kind of team will you be working on? What specific tasks will the executive — and by extension, you — be involved with?
For bonus points, tie your answer to aspects of your personality, experience and motivations. This will show that not only is the job right for you, but you’re right for the job.
When asked this, many interviewees try to predict the answer that recruiters want to hear and then say that, regardless of the truth. However, it’s important to be honest here.
While you want to make a good impression, you also want to be motivated at work. What you say now will affect how managers treat you, as well as potentially how your salary is negotiated.
Try to strike a balance. You don’t want to just say, “Finishing on time and receiving a good salary,” but if those are important to you, you should mention them. For example, you could say: “I thrive on being challenged at work and receiving a salary that fairly reflects the value I bring to the company,” or, “I want to come into work energized and motivated so I can give 110%. This means time off to recharge is important to me.”
As an executive assistant, you’ll have to balance lots of different tasks with minimal oversight. Your interviewers will want to know that you can evaluate tasks’ importance and how long they’ll take you to do.
Talk them through your process for determining a task’s priority. Explain how you anticipate potential issues and build in time to resolve that, as well. For example, you could say: “I pay attention to which tasks need input from someone else and start those early in case of delayed responses.”
Admitting that you found something difficult isn’t a bad thing. Your job will prove challenging at times, but what interviewers want to know is if you can handle it with a positive mindset, persistence and some creative problem-solving.
Before your interview, think of a few examples for questions like this. You can use the STAR — situation, task, action and result — structure to help you demonstrate how well you handled them. For example:
“My boss had a work trip to India which I had helped them plan, but I had to stay here in the US to handle any local issues (situation). I was concerned that if anything went wrong, the 10 hour 30 minute time difference could prevent us from communicating, so I wanted to find as many ways as possible to mitigate that (task).
“I made sure my boss had all the information they needed in paper and digital form, as well as an appropriate telephone and internet package with good coverage. I also asked them if we could go over potential problems and how to handle them before they left. Finally, I hired a freelance, local PA to help them as required during the trip (action).
“In the end, everything ran smoothly. The local PA helped my boss schedule some last-minute dinner reservations in Delhi, and their local knowledge impressed the clients. Meanwhile, when my boss’ return flight was delayed, I handled changing the hotel dates in India as well as rescheduling meetings here in the US. My boss considered the trip a success (result).”
Saying “no” is never pleasant, but bosses can be busy people. They don’t have time to have meetings with everybody who requests them, nor to attend every event. The right rejection, however, can leave someone feeling flattered rather than dejected.
The important thing here is to demonstrate your people skills: can you turn someone down while staying professional and tactful? What type of language do you use? And, where relevant, are you capable of using your initiative to find ways to soften the rejection?
As an executive assistant, you’ll be working and communicating with a wide range of people from different departments, as well as potentially external contacts. Your interviewers will be looking to see that you’re adaptable and have enough emotional intelligence to handle interactions with potentially difficult personality types.
It’s fine to acknowledge that some personality types can be challenging, so long as you stress that you don’t let it affect your responses. You could also give examples of how you’ve handled difficult personality types in the past.
Imagine You Reserved a Restaurant for an Important Dinner Meeting. At the Last Minute, the Restaurant Canceled the Booking, and Most Other Restaurants Are Already Booked Up. What Do You Do?
Hypothetical problems are a common but tricky interview question. No matter what it is, you’ll want to show that you have some ideas for resolving it, that you’ll keep everyone updated within plenty of time and that you’ll cause the least possible inconvenience for your boss.
In this case, for example, you should explain that you give both your boss and their dinner guests as much notice as possible and ask for confirmation that they received your message. You could also mention making sure your boss knows how to get to the new restaurant booking and how long the journey will take, including if there’s a traffic jam.
If you have experience of the situation in question, don’t be afraid to explain what happened. Use the STAR model from question four to help you emphasize the positive outcomes of your actions.
The first step to impressing interviewers is writing a resume that highlights your best features. It should be targeted to the job and company in question, as well as to your individual experiences and qualifications.
Here at Rocket Resume, we’ve got over a dozen executive assistant resume templates for you to choose from, complete with recruiter-approved phrasing. Each one is machine-readable and fully customizable.
Build your resume in minutes and start applying to executive assistant jobs.