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Executive Assistant

Executive Assistant

Your Executive Assistant Interview: Questions the CEO Must Avoid Asking Support Staff

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Legal restrictions prevent CEOs from asking support staff possibly biased questions in interviews. That’s a good thing!

When interviewing support staff, avoid asking questions like these:

  • How many children do you have?
  • What church do you go to?
  • When are you planning to retire?

Some questions are better left unasked out of respect for the candidate. Avoid asking any of these questions:

  • Do you have to wear that scarf on your head?
  • Why are your clothes so dated?
  • Is that your natural hair color?

Instead, try asking open-ended questions based on work-related scenarios.

 Questions the CEO CAN ask support staff in an interview

It can seem like there are a lot of questions you can’t ask in an interview. Rather than focus on what you can’t do, try these more positive questions that reveal behavior:

  • Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?
  • This job sometimes requires working after 5 pm or on weekends. Often, tasks like making reservations or scheduling meetings can be done from anywhere. Could you commit to working like this?
  • What prior experience do you have that would be useful in a job like this one?
  • Tell about a time when a challenge prevented you from completing a critical task.

Applicants can use the STAR method for answering questions: explain the situation, task, action, result. For example:

  • SITUATION: Two days before a major holiday, our company held a quarterly board meeting at a retreat. Weather forecasters predicted severely inclement weather – the kind that could cause significant travel delays.
  • TASK: My job required that I secure travel arrangements home for board members and the C-Suite. Most of them were flying.
  • ACTION: I worked with the other executive assistants to create several backup arrangements, including car rentals and chartered grand transportation. We also secured hotel reservations, just in case. Then we made “survival bags” consisting of bottled water, snacks, and a few other necessities for each person.
  • RESULT: As it turned out, air travel was canceled for only a few hours, so everyone made it home safely. The survival bags were a big hit!

Open-ended behavioral questions allow candidates to respond in more detail, especially when using a template like STAR.

About the vaccine

Applicants are curious about vaccine requirements for work. Some candidates may find that the provision gives them peace of mind, while others may decide they cannot comply for various reasons.

No current laws prevent you from asking about someone’s vaccination status. Still, it’s better to let your HR department explain your company’s requirements. The applicant can then decide if they can agree to the condition or are better off finding work elsewhere.

Need help figuring out the questioning process? Your recruiter can help by vetting the candidates you interview. If you are the candidate, the recruiter can help you prepare for questions.

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Executive Assistant

Executive Assistants Are Vital for Growing Start-Ups

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Entrepreneurs growing a start-up find that one critical staff position is crucial to early success: the executive assistant.

Some CEOs balk at the idea of hiring an assistant right out of the gate. They want to avoid appearing too pampered, too self-centered, too corporate. Start-ups, after all, are supposed to be independent, aggressive, and robust. Why would the CEO want to delegate any responsibility to an executive assistant?

The real question is, why wouldn’t the CEO delegate to an executive assistant?

Every CEO Must Have an Executive Assistant

The most important reason to hire an executive assistant for your start-up is to give you the time to focus on the business matters that only you can handle. Your start-up is your vision, and you already devote most of your waking hours to its success.

The executive assistant is your chief of staff, the person who will take care of all the tasks you don’t have time for. If you have the financial capacity to bring one employee onboard, hire the staff position that will grow with your company and help develop your vision.

The Many Chiefs of Staff Duties

An executive assistant (EA) is invaluable to your success because of three critical skills:

  • Prioritization: An EA will prioritize workload, meetings, and who will be allowed to interrupt your work. Probably no one, including your mother-in-law, will get past your EA gatekeeper.
  • Organization: Count on your EA to know where to find everything, from your accounting documents to local zucchini lasagna that melts in your mouth. Your EA can even tell you where the latest version of your pitch deck is filed.
  • Communication: Well-known for their communication skills, EAs will initiate conversations via email, phone, and virtual meeting software. They’ll also make sure you have the words you need for expressing ideas. The EA hires copywriters and speechmakers.

You’ll find that your EA can meet demanding deadlines, handle impossible tasks with grace, and apply emotional intelligence in situations that would unnerve 5-star generals.

Eventually, your executive assistant will become your chief of staff, overseeing other assistants’ work in the workspace you created.

Hiring the Executive Assistant for Your C-Suite

Once you hire your c-suite, the executive assistant becomes your center of operations, often handling multiple roles simultaneously.

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, including start-up entrepreneurs. How you use these hours is up to you.

Hiring an executive assistant can give you the additional hours you need. With an EA onboard, you can build your business, practice work-life balance, or even catch on your sleep at night.

To make even better use of your time, turn to an executive assistant recruiter who can help you find the right person to make that happen.

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Executive Assistant Salaries Have Skyrocketed Since Pandemic

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Executive Assistant salaries are often money well spent in any company. This position supports the role of the executive, serving as the company’s senior management liaison for communication and planning.

Since COVID-19 erupted worldwide, executives have become even more reliant on the one hero or heroine that holds it all together during global panic: their executive assistant.

As a result, EA salaries have been on the increase.

Skills for the job 

EAs are experts with technology, whether they coordinate electronic meetings and calendars or keep up with messages in software apps like One Note and Telegram.

Other duties include:

  • Initiating and responding to communication
  • Taking notes
  • Conducting research
  • Planning events
  • Preparing reports, data, and meeting materials
  • Coordinating travel on the ground, in the air, and by sea
  • Training assistants and support staff
  • Maintaining office supply inventories

Since the pandemic, many EAs have redefined their roles by spearheading new initiatives. For example, executive assistant Ratna Sreerangam asked his travel industry CEO for permission to assist customers needing airline refunds. With no other travel permitted during the pandemic, a strategy like this can keep a business afloat until flying is once again permitted.

Executive assistant preparation and training

Most training takes place on the job, but an EA will have to meet foundational requirements, such as having a high-school diploma. In some fields, having a bachelor’s degree might complement the executive office needs. A law office might require that a senior EA have a law degree. Similarly, a construction firm might favor EA candidates with a degree in construction sciences.

The EA might also earn software proficiencies and have certificates verifying their competency. They may also take advantage of other professional development opportunities that will help them excel in their jobs.

Executive Assistant salaries 

With excellent job and communication skills, a versatile EA can earn a good salary.

Industry and location can play a significant role in salary. For example, the average annual EA salary is $53,199. At Walmart, EAs average $75,865, but the same job pays $101,073 at Paramount Pictures.

You may have heard that, despite the salary increases, there are fewer EA positions available. Positions are down by 4% and are expected to decrease more. Still, top-notch EAs are more in demand than ever because many senior executives share executive assistants – especially those who take the initiative and redefine their roles.

Now is the time to reach out to hire the executive assistant that will help you be more successful.

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Executive Assistant

Executive Assistant Questions That You Must Ask

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Preparing for the executive assistant interview means developing a set of key questions that will give you enough insight to make a hiring decision.  These questions will allow you to assess the candidate’s fit for the job.

Before you meet with the interviewee, take these two critical steps for a successful interview.

Preparing for the executive assistant interview

First, when developing an interview question, avoid any query that can be answered with a simple “yes”or “no”. Instead, ask open-ended questions that will require explanation. You’ll be able to see the candidate’s thought process, and you’ll have a better understanding of how your future assistant will handle challenges.

Next, section your interview questions according to the skills for which you are looking. These can be categorized in three groups: the job itself, behavior, and communication.

Job skills

Providing support for an executive requires diverse skills.

Ask:

  • How do you prioritize your day?
  • What computer experience do you have?
  • Which software programs do you use most?
  • If the executive for whom you work has simultaneous engagements, how would you handle the conflict?
  • Explain how you would make travel arrangements for an executive who needed to fly to a speaking engagement.
  • How do you handle confidential information?
  • If you had to set up a half-day meeting for executives, how would you plan it and be sure that everything would be ready?
  • What’s your most significant professional accomplishment?

Behavioral skills

The person you hire for this role should have the necessary skills and characteristics to get tasks done completely and confidently.

Ask:

  • How would you handle an emergency if you are already busy working on a project with a deadline?
  • What are your thoughts about occasionally working from home evenings, weekends and holidays?
  • Explain how you maintain flexibility in your daily schedule.
  • How do you keep your work-life balance amidst hectic schedules?
  • What do you do when things don’t go the way you planned?
  • Who has been the most challenging person to work with – and how did you handle the difficulty?

Communication skills

Also known as soft skills, these characteristics will establish a candidate’s ability to communicate with others.

Ask:

  • How do you prioritize your day?
  • Tell about a time you had to deal with a demanding visitor or caller, in person or on the phone.
  • Describe your process for writing an email for the executive to send.
  • What three words describe the perfect executive assistant?
  • Tell about a time you had to think on your feet. What was the outcome?
  • How do you handle constructive feedback?

Finally, ask the candidate you interview what questions they may have for you. Both of you should walk out of the interview knowing clearly whether the job is the right fit.

If you have other questions, don’t hesitate to contact a recruiter who knows the industry.

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How to Increase Workplace Resilience

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For many people in C-level support, work is a major source of stress. Like numerous other jobs in today’s world, jobs in executive support are fast-paced and exacting. Many employees experience burnout at some point in their career. While there is little you can do to make your work environment less demanding, there are ways you can improve your ability to endure stress and resist burnout. Below are some tips to increase workplace resilience.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves training yourself to be more aware of your emotions and state of mind in the present moment. Mindfulness tools promote workplace resilience by facilitating stress management and improving mental health. Spending a lot of time planning for future tasks or obsessing over past mistakes is mentally exhausting. By focusing on the present, you become more engaged and more resistant to negative, toxic thoughts.

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance will also help you become more resilient in the workplace. Technology has made it harder for most people to create boundaries between their work life and home life. In the past, once you left the office you were done. Now most people continue to do work-related tasks on their computer or smartphone, such as answering work emails, after they leave for the day. While it might not be possible to keep your personal and work lives separate, it is still important to allow yourself some regular time to relax and recharge. Doing so will help decrease stress and improve productivity.

Practice Reflection

Although it usually isn’t healthy to dwell on the past, reflection is an important way to develop strong emotional intelligence. The goal should be to think about emotional reactions you have had in the past to better understand what situations provoke stress, anxiety, or other strong emotional reactions. Fostering emotional intelligence will enable you become less reactive in general, and also help you avoid certain triggers that will likely cause you stress. In addition, if you know what triggers negative emotional reactions in you, you can develop coping mechanisms that will allow you to recover more quickly in instances when triggers are unable to be avoided.

Stress has become a natural part of work for most people. You might not be able to control your workload or the pace of the work environment, but you can control how you react to stress. Practicing mindfulness techniques, nurturing a healthy work-life balance, and taking steps to improve your emotional intelligence can allow you to become more resilient to stress in the workplace.

 

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4 Ways to Improve Your Email Etiquette

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Email etiquette can have a major impact on workplace communication. When colleagues and clients read emails you send, they make assumptions about your professionalism, trustworthiness, competence, and more. These tips to improve your email etiquette will help you maintain a solid reputation within the C-suite while improving your communication skills.

1. Avoid Being Too Personal or Casual

Even if you are friendly with the people you work with, it is important to remember you are representing your organization when you send emails. Keep your communication professional and formal. For example, avoid discussing your personal life and overusing exclamation marks and emoticons. Also avoid using too much industry jargon, slang, and of course don’t use curse words.

2. Keep Emails Brief

Few people enjoy reading long emails. In general, emails should not be longer than 3 short paragraphs. Recipients will start to lose focus after that. If you have more to say than can be contained in a brief email, it is usually better to have the conversation in-person or over the phone. It also helps to read through the email before you send it. Are there sentences that aren’t necessary? Do you wait too long to reach the main point of the message?

3. Tell Recipients Who You Are

Unless you’re emailing someone that you work with daily, it is a good idea to introduce yourself at the start of an email message. It doesn’t need to be long. Just provide a short sentence giving your name and role. We often figure that if we met someone before, they know who we are. But in the professional world, it is easy to forget a name if you meet new people regularly.

4. Proofread Emails

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors are some of the fastest ways to lose credibility with your recipients. We have gotten used to relying on tools like spellcheck and autocorrect. While these tools are helpful, they are imperfect. Make sure you carefully review email messages before you click send to check that they are free of errors. It might take an extra minute or two, but it is better than having to explain confusing or embarrassing typos.

The etiquette you use when you write and send emails can say a lot about who you are as a professional. It’s important for your colleagues, managers, and clients to view you as organized, credible, and well-spoken. You can improve your email etiquette by practicing writing in a professional tone, keeping messages brief and to-the-point, introducing yourself to email recipients, and proofreading all of your messages before they go out.

 

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Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

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Emotional intelligence is one of the most beneficial skills you can have as a professional in C-level support. Emotional intelligence improves self-awareness, allows you to communicate with clarity, and helps to control your emotions in challenging situations. In addition, emotional intelligence can improve your ability to collaborate and regulate stress. Here are some steps that you can take right now to strengthen your emotional intelligence.

Active Listening

Many people listen without fully processing what the other person is saying. You can foster emotional intelligence by listening carefully when others speak and making sure you clearly understand them before responding. Listening also involves observing nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures. Active listening can improve empathy and reduce misunderstandings in the workplace.

Self-Awareness

Emotional awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence. One way you can improve emotional intelligence is to regularly ask yourself how you feel in a given moment. As you become more self-aware, you gain a better understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Over time, you will learn what activities trigger happiness and which ones fill you with dread. You’ll also become aware of what stressors you should try to avoid. Likewise, you will gain insight into what types of people relax you and what personality types bring you down.

Attitudes and Habits

As you become more self-aware, you can start to cultivate a positive attitude as a habit. There are steps you can take to improve your mood, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining a regular sleep pattern, which in turn will help improve emotional intelligence. When you practice keeping a positive perspective, you will work better with others, maintain focus easier, and improve your overall motivation. Other activities such as meditation can also improve your daily mood.

Responding Instead of Reacting

Reacting to triggers is a habit that can cause a lot of tension and stress. It is important to monitor how you react to things like requests and constructive feedback. Instead of reacting impulsively, practice receiving information, taking a deep breath, and responding without emotion. For example, if someone gives you negative feedback, instead of becoming angry, receive their criticism with an open mind and thank the person for taking the time to help you improve.

In C-level support, improving emotional intelligence can make you a healthier, more productive professional. You can begin to foster emotional intelligence by practicing active listening, learning to self-reflect, making positivity a habit, and responding thoughtfully.

 

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Stronger Than Yesterday

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Resilience. It’s one of the secrets to survival, both professionally and personally. It’s what’s gotten you to where you are, and it’s what will help define who you will become. Looking back at some of the toughest situations you’ve endured, you may have felt there was no other choice. It was a natural instinct. And while it’s true that resilience can come innately, it’s also a learned skill. Instead of leaving resilience up to chance, consider strengthening those muscles by choice. How can we lead a more resilient life, and lead a more resilient team, in the year to come?

A Core of Confidence

Everyone has an inner critic. Who do you compare yourself to, and why? Although comparison can create competition, which in turn can fuel achievement, it’s a balancing act. While constructive criticism can deter certain behaviors in the short-term, positive reinforcement is generally better for shaping new and lasting behavior. It’s also at the core of creating confidence.

As a leader, recognize that criticism doesn’t increase competency. You are simply sharing what not to do, instead of what to do. Imagine a child learning how to ride a bicycle. Which environment shapes a more confident future cyclist: pointing out each time they fell down, or pointing out what they did to stay up?

Confidence increases productivity and causes you to choose more challenging tasks, which makes you stand out amongst your peers. You naturally create a more cohesive workplace environment; confident people celebrate the accomplishments of others as opposed to insecure individuals who try to steal the spotlight and criticize others in order to prove their worth. Speaking first and often (a sign of high self-esteem) makes others perceive you as a leader. In fact, over-confident people are more likely to be promoted than those who have actually accomplished more.

A Fondness for Failure

Consider failures as beginnings, rather than endings. You’ve probably learned more from failures than any other source of wisdom. Teach yourself, and your team, to focus on the data and facts. Embrace failure’s value as a teacher, get curious about the information it provides, and be open to where it leads you next. You may even find you fail less when you don’t fear it.

Failure is either redirecting or reaffirming. If failure caused you to take a different path, it’s because you saw it heading towards a dead-end. If failure caused you to get back up and keep going, it reaffirms you are committed to a goal and it’s worth fighting for.

The Power of Purpose

We have the freedom to choose our actions, our profession, our financial needs, and the path of our life. Each day is not about what we have to do. It’s about what we get to do. Strength can come from the recognition that there is a bigger purpose, a desire to make a difference, and a need to have a higher meaning behind the choices we make.

Spend time focusing on this for yourself personally, and with those you lead. Some points to ponder:

  • Who in my life do I care to impact the most? How specifically am I going to mentor and impact those individuals?
  • What are five things I would put on my bucket list, and with whom would I want to experience them?
  • What experiences am I most appreciative of in my life? How can I help others have that same experience?
  • What moment in your life are you most proud of? How can you duplicate more of those moments?
  • What, and who, am I thankful for today?

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Steps for Success

Teach the importance of:

  • Taking a deep breath.
  • Taking another.
  • Focusing on the next thing that needs to be done in order to keep going.

If you wake up suffocated by the list of things that need to get accomplished today, start with getting up and brushing your teeth. When you feel anxiety over an important deadline, make a list of things that need to be done and do just one of them. If your email inbox is exhausting, unsubscribe to a few distribution lists that you never signed up for. Stop longingly looking at pictures of other people’s photos on social media, and spend that time scrolling through your own pictures and cherished memories instead. Don’t focus on the big things. Start with the littlest and decide where to go from there. Take an action, any action. Manufacture your own momentum.

Have an appreciation for your history. What are some of the toughest things you’ve experienced? How did you get through them? You probably already know quite a bit about being resilient but haven’t stopped to admire it.

Remember: you’ve got this. The person who has gotten you through the toughest parts of your life is you.

 

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How to Set and Achieve Your Goals in the New Year

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With all of the challenges of the past year, it seems that most of us are looking forward to turning over a new leaf in 2021. Now is the time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2021. January is full of promise and opportunities as we all look to having a fresh start. Below are some tips to set and achieve your goals in the new year.

Think Carefully about Your New Year’s Resolutions

The first step is deciding what your goals for the year will be. The key is to be optimistic but not overly ambitious. If you choose a goal that requires more effort than you can or are willing to exert, you are setting yourself for certain failure. Choose a goal that is important and meaningful, otherwise you will struggle to find the motivation needed to progress towards its completion. If you have a difficult time coming up with a reasonable plan that will allow you to accomplish your goal, it may not be the right intention. The goal should be specific, realistic, and measurable.

Prioritize Your Resolutions

While many people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions because they choose unrealistic goals, others fail because they pick too many resolutions to manage. It is easier to accomplish goals if you concentrate on one goal at a time. When goal setting, think about what goal you have for yourself that means the most to you. It also helps to separate your larger, long-term goals into smaller goals. This can help ensure your plan doesn’t feel overwhelming.

Plan Ahead for Obstacles

Many people experience setbacks early on as they work towards their New Year’s resolutions, which cause them to become discouraged and give up. No matter who you are or what your goals are, you’re likely to encounter obstacles as you work to accomplish them. This is part of the process. Maintain a positive attitude when you experience setbacks and remind yourself that you can still achieve your goals in spite of hurdles. It also helps to predict what obstacles might occur so you can avoid them or have more time to prepare yourself to overcome them.

While New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to achieve, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of 2021 and accomplish your career goals for the year. As long as you choose goals that mean something to you, approach resolutions realistically, focus on one goal at a time, and plan ahead for setbacks, you can achieve your goals for the year.

 

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Why Having a Mentor Is Important

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A mentor can be an invaluable source of knowledge and guidance, but finding the right mentor isn’t always easy, especially if your career is just starting out. Here are some of the top reasons having a good mentor is important, as well as some tips on how to find one.

Mentors Speed up the Learning Process

One of the biggest advantages of having a mentor is that it improves your ability to learn new skills and retain more knowledge. A good mentor will already have been in your position, so they are excellent source of knowledge. They may also have tips on how to learn necessary skills faster. A mentor can point out your blind spots and identify areas where you need to improve, which can also speed up the learning process.

Mentors Keep You More Engaged

A good mentor will be a source of support. Mentors can assist you in goal setting and provide you with the kind of encouragement you need to stay motivated. If you feel alone, you are more likely to give up or become disengaged. Mentors can keep you more focused and give you the inspiration and guidance you need to develop your skills and progress toward your career goals.

Identify Career Objectives

If you want to find the right mentor, first you have to understand what your long-term and short-term goals are. Once you know what you want your career to look like in the future, you can start to look for professionals who have experiences you can benefit from. The best goals are clear and specific. Set goals that are easily measurable and think about the goals you have for your mentorship. What knowledge do you seek to attain and what new skills do you wish to develop? These types of questions can allow you to effectively narrow down candidates for your mentor.

Look for Someone Who Thinks Differently Than You

The best mentors aren’t necessarily people who have similar personalities as you, or even do work that is similar to yours. In some cases, you might find a mentor who works in another department. Mentors who think differently than you can challenge you and help you expand your learning and communication styles. A mentor should push you outside of your comfort zone.

Finding the perfect mentor can fast-track your career in C-level support and allow you to grow professionally in ways you wouldn’t expect. They key is to understand what you want your mentor-mentee relationship to accomplish and connect with a mentor who will provide you with support and encouragement, while also challenging you.

 

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