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What to Look For in an Executive Assistant

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Most CEOs and senior executives are concerned with making sure their direct reports work as hard and efficiently as possible. According to some estimates, top executives spend as much as 33 percent of their time managing their employees, so the effort goes far beyond simply telling a business leader that “you’re going to spend more time managing your employees than you do in the office.”

Executives like it that way, in fact. When you have the kind of turnover you do, you have to remember that an executive assistant is your only real resource to help keep up with the pace and quality of work required of your organisation. The right executive assistant will drive a lot of productivity into your organisation, so while hiring an assistant is a high risk venture, it’s also a big reward, as you’ll reap the benefits that come with senior executive staffing for the next few years.

Take the time to decide which type of assistant will best serve you. For instance, some CEOs have staff that are mainly dedicated to information collection, drafting and reviewing. That kind of direct-to-executive assistant staff is easy to find. But that kind of staff has its disadvantages, too. Such assistants typically won’t be able to solve your company’s toughest problems, or hire staff that might take longer to build.

Senior executives tend to have managers with stronger knowledge and experience, but are rarely charged with giving input into every decision that comes up in the organisation. Such staff could become your executive assistant, but likely would require some training, too. Such an assistant could help you if you’re faced with hiring your first employees, or evaluating a new technology solution, but is unlikely to be as effective at managing your staff as a knowledgeable executive assistant.

You can easily track executive assistants’ productivity and well-being by assessing their availability and how much they interact with others. You can evaluate how many emails they receive and whether or not they respond to the bulk of them. You can also try to see how many times they email each executive in your organisation, as well as what percentage of their daily workflow involves communicating with individuals. Most importantly, you can try to monitor how many of your staff members fail to meet your expectations.

Research executive assistants in your industry or hire an executive assistant who has specialised skills. For instance, if you are working with an information technology company and need help managing your finances, you might hire an assistant with experience managing a financial firm. But if you’re working with a hospitality company, hire someone who knows all about operations. Of course, the best assistant is the one who has expertise in all areas of your business.

When you choose to hire an executive assistant, the best way to find the right one is to employ some sort of rigorous vetting process, which might be best approached by making use of the services of specialist executive assistant headhunters. Take the time to determine your exact requirements for the person. Also ask for as much information as you can about the assistant’s strengths and weaknesses. With the proper information, you can make an accurate assessment of who might be the most effective assistant for your organisation.

Here are some questions to ask:

Does the assistant have the knowledge of the organisation and its mission that you need? Does the assistant understand how your organisation works?

Does the assistant have a strong understanding of your industry?

Does the assistant have good people skills and can effectively communicate your message to others?

Does the assistant have the resources, skill and knowledge that you need for your current tasks?

Do you and the assistant both have the skills and experience to work effectively as part of a team?

Do the assistant and executive take the same salary or compensation?

Does the assistant have the same professional goals as you?

Joe Stewart
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