Everyone knows that interviews are stressful enough. Now consider the added stress that remote interviews can cause – a poor internet connection, your roommate walking in on you mid-interview, or the dog barking non-stop messing with your train of thought. While some of these things are unavoidable and understandable, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for a better interview.
These practices can apply to most job interviews; however, we are going to apply them specifically to executive assistant job interviews for this blog. So, why not take the time to learn the best practices to nail your next interview, executive assistant style or not.
- 4 steps to prepare for an interview
- 50 Executive Assistant interview questions
- 5 Executive Assistant sample responses
4 steps to prepare for an Executive Assistant interview
According to Ben Laker, Will Godley, Selin Kudret, and Rita Trehan, Harvard Business Review contributors, there are 4 things that you can do to have a successful remote interview:
1 Organize a space for the interview
Ensuring that you have an organized, quiet space for your interview is essential. As an executive assistant, you will be responsible for helping the executive stay organized with day-to-day things. So, it’s crucial to present yourself as an organized individual.
“Find a spot that is simple and free of distractions (like a blank wall or one that has a few pictures hanging on it). If your background is too cluttered, it will pull the recruiter’s attention away from you.”
2 Prepare for any situation
Laker, Godley, Kudret, and Trehan also suggest mastering the video conferencing tool you’re using prior to the interview. This will ensure that you’re on time and limit technical difficulties that may occur. They also suggest doing a speed test to ensure that your connection is okay. If you experience connection issues, this will give you time to plan an alternative solution – such as moving spaces or enabling your data.
“88% of recruiters told us that their number one pet peeve during an interview is an internet lag, as it breaks the flow of the conversation.”
Show up prepared.
Be prepared for your interview and have notes, questions, and answers all in one place in Fellow streams.
3 Practice before the interview
Practice makes perfect! Now don’t roll your eyes because, in all seriousness, this corny saying is true. According to the same Harvard Business Review article,
“When candidates were nervous, they spoke faster (upwards of 140 wpm), meaning recruiters became irritable, and 38% of the time, interrupted candidates by asking them to slow down.”
Thus, practicing a mock interview with a friend will help you show up confident and ready. Or, if you are unable to practice with another person, try recording yourself on your computer camera and watching it back to evaluate how you can improve.
4 Spark conversation (& avoid preparing a monologue)
Laker, Godley, Kudret, and Trehan also suggest keeping the conversation flowing by avoiding monologues and sounding robot-like.
“Eighty-nine percent of the successful candidates in our study conversed with their recruiters in a natural, candid way.”
50 Executive Assistant interview questions
- General questions
- Questions about soft skills
- Questions about hard skills
- Questions about experience
- Behavioural questions
1 General questions
Rather than starting off with challenging, thought-provoking questions, break the ice and make both parties feel less nervous with general questions. General questions also allow interviewees to get a feel for the type of questions they will answer.
Here are 10 general sample questions:
- Tell me about yourself
- What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
- What type of environment do you succeed best in?
- What made you interested in working with [company name]?
- What made you interested in becoming an executive assistant?
- How did you find this position?
- What from the job ad stood out to you the most?
- Which previous position/s gave you valuable experience that you can use in this job?
- What makes you stand out from other candidates?
- How would you describe the role of an executive assistant?
2 Questions about soft skills
Soft skills are the skills relating to your personality and work ethic. These skills are vital because they give the interviewer an idea of the kind of person and worker you are.
Here are 10 sample questions about soft skills:
- In group projects, are you more of a leader or a follower?
- Do you prefer independent work or group work?
- What is your method for prioritization as an executive assistant?
- How do you deal with stressful situations?
- How do you foster clear communication with other team members?
- How do you deal with challenging personalities in the workplace?
- How do you stay organized while managing multiple tasks and schedules?
- Can you describe a time when you fixed an issue promptly and effectively?
- Do you value deadlines or quality of work more?
- How do you ensure that deadlines are met?
3 Questions about hard skills
As an executive assistant, there are specific hard skills that you will be required to know. These skills relate to more technical abilities such as software skills and administrative skills.
Here are 10 sample questions about hard skills:
- How proficient are you on the computer?
- What software do you have experience with?
- How comfortable are you speaking on the phone? And how much experience do you have with this?
- Approximately how long does it take you to learn new software?
- What would you say is the most valuable skill that an executive assistant should possess?
- Can you list 3 skills that make you a great candidate for this position?
- Is there any software that makes your job as an executive assistant easier?
- Can you describe an average day as an executive assistant?
- What is your process for keeping digital files organized?
- Do you have any experience with spreadsheets? If so, on what platform/software?
4 Questions about experience
Different jobs require different experiences. While understanding an employee’s experience is essential, it is also important to remember everyone starts somewhere. Thus, you should decide whether skills or experience are more valuable for your desired candidate.
Here are 10 sample questions about an employees experience:
- What past experiences have given you the skills to be an executive assistant?
- Which past job did you learn the most from?
- What has been your most senior position (ex, supervisor, manager, executive, etc.)?
- What was one of your biggest takeaways from school? (soft skills or hard skills)
- What do you hope to accomplish as an executive assistant?
- Do you have any experience working with confidential information?
- How would you deal with confidential information online?
- How would you deal with confidential physical information?
- Do you have experience working collaboratively with a team?
- Can you explain how you would handle conflicting ideas in a team?
5 Behavioural questions
How an employee behaves at the workplace is very important. To foster a healthy work environment, you want an employee that aligns with your company’s values.
Here are 10 sample questions about an employees behaviour:
- How would you handle an unhappy customer/client?
- What values do you stand for?
- Here are our company’s values [list values]. How do you demonstrate these values?
- Can you tell me about a time when you showed initiative and did something without being asked?
- How do you balance work and your personal life during busier times?
- If something isn’t going as it should, how would you correct it?
- How would you solve a disagreement between two coworkers?
- How would you react if the executive gives you too much work?
- How would you respond if the executive doesn’t give you enough work?
- What is most important to you as an executive assistant?
5 Executive Assistant sample responses
According to John Lees, Career Strategist, interviewees should approach general questions like an audition,
“Imagine your interviewers running a movie in their heads where you are sitting working with their team, presenting to their boss, talking to customers or shareholders.”
Thus, when you are asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, use this opportunity to make an excellent first impression rather than reiterating the stuff on your resume and LinkedIn page. This will give the interviewer an idea of the type of person you are off-paper.
For example, when asked, “Tell me about yourself”, say something like:
“As somebody with X years of experience as an executive assistant [or another job that helped you learn the skills to become an executive assistant], I understand the values of [list a few skills that you believe are valuable]. My [list skills – for example, determination] results from [an example/experience that made you learn determination, for example].”
Soft skills are skills that likely already appear on your resume. Thus, it’s your job to expand on the simple one-word answer that the interviewer can read off a piece of paper and showcase these skills.
For example, when asked, “In group projects, are you more of a leader or a follower?”, say something like:
“In a group setting, I can be both a leader and a follower. Depending on the situation, I decide which role benefits the company and me most and then take it upon myself to excel in this role. [Then provide an example from a time when you were a leader and another time when you were a follower, and how it helped].”
Like soft skills, hard skills will also likely be on your resume. However, these skills are fundamental because they are the skills that allow you to do the job of an executive assistant and stand out among other applicants.
For example, when asked, “How proficient are you on the computer?”, say something like:
“On a scale from 1-10, I would rate my computer proficiency a [rating from 1-10]. On the computer, I can [list computer skills] and use [list softwares]. I also have X years of experience using this software. Additionally, I am a fast learner and pick up on new computer skills and software quickly.”
Talking about your experiences requires expanding upon what is already on your resume. Your resume will likely list any important experiences that you want the employer to know about, so use this opportunity to expand on what you have learned from these experiences.
For example, when asked, “What past experiences have given you the skills to be an executive assistant?”, say something like:
“As a [job title that gave you the skills to be an executive assistant], I learned [list specific skills] that will help/helped me become an executive assistant. These skills helped/will help me because [explain why].”
Behaviour skills are not typically on your resume, so questions about these skills are essential. This is your opportunity to showcase the type of personality you have and how you would react in different situations.
For example, when asked, “How would you handle an unhappy customer/client?”, say something like:
“If a customer/client were unhappy, I would do everything in my power to remedy the situation. This may be [provide examples of what you would do to resolve the situation]. For example, [provide an example of a time when you resolved an issue at work promptly and effectively].”
Remember that it is completely normal to have pre-interview jitters and butterflies in your stomach. If you practice these questions and rehearse your responses, you will be prepared! Pro-tip, try recording yourself and watching it back to see how you sound from another perspective.
Practice answering the above 50 questions while keeping in mind our advice, and you will do great. Good luck!