Is it your New Year’s resolution to be more organized, to keep on top of project management tasks or to stay better connected with key stakeholders? You may not be able to meet these goals alone. An executive assistant can ease the load and contribute to your company’s efficiency. See our full guide to finding an EA who fits your needs.
Crafting the job description. The tasks and expectations for EAs vary between organizations. Be sure to write a job description that clearly lays out the role EAs should play on your team.
Start with a two-column list. Think about all that you do on the job. Divide this list of duties into two columns, suggests Hilani Ellis, founder of administrative staffing firm Exceptional Admins. In the first column, include day-to-day tasks that are mission-critical to achieving your goals. In the second, capture the auxiliary tasks that may frustrate and stall you as an exec – and plan to offload those to your new EA.
Set expectations for today — and beyond. What skills and functions do you anticipate needing from your EA as your role and your company grow? Be sure to explain how your EA’s priorities are likely to shift over time.
Know your boundaries. Some execs may want their EAs to assist with personal tasks, such as picking up dry cleaning. Others may want their EAs to be strictly business. Take some time to consider the boundaries you would like to have with your EA. Reflect these expectations in the job description. Some questions to consider:
Will your EA have access to your email? Will they have the authority to respond on your behalf?
Can they sign documents for you?
Should they book your personal travel and hotel accommodations?
Interviewing and hiring. During interviews for your executive assistant role, you should not only evaluate the skills and experience of candidates — but also their potential working relationship with you. Here’s what to look for.
Compatible working habits. You may be a visionary who works best without much structure. Or you may thrive in a world of long memos, clear processes and calendar invites. Discuss your respective work styles during interviews to make sure your EA matches you, says Linda McFarland, a senior assistant to Silicon Valley C-level execs.
Ask candidates how they take notes and the tools they use to organize their own tasks, in addition to their executive’s. This can help you better understand their organizational style and how it compares to yours.
The “30 day” question. When interviewing, Ellis suggests this critical question: “Tell me how you would envision our first 30 days unfolding.” A wrong answer, she explains, would focus on making changes right away, as this often leads to friction with execs. Instead, seek an assistant who is “not looking to change things at the beginning but would be excited to enhance processes later on,” Ellis recommends.
Getting your new EA started. Finding the right EA is just a beginning. Onboarding is key to long-term success. Here are some ways to get it right.
Create a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan. This three-month window gives your EA time to acclimate to your organization’s processes, says Stephanie Naznitsky, executive director of staffing firm Robert Half’s administrative practice group. Be sure to create checkpoints to evaluate progress and answer questions.
Connect your new hire with other EAs at your company. More experienced EAs can serve as mentors to share institutional knowledge and offer a comfortable environment to ask questions.
Block out time for a deep dive. Set aside as much as a half-day to share the company’s vision and your expectations with your EA. “I just relish in a good-old, half-day whiteboard session with my CEO,” says executive assistant Donielle Markel. “I want to learn the business, the operations, who the key players are.” This meeting can help your EA understand what drives you and how to best support you.
Looking for more best practices? Read our full guide for hiring EAs.