Executive Assistant Interview Questions
An executive assistant is in a specialized branch of administration, is similar to an administrative assistant, and may even oversee the daily administrative tasks within a company. However, instead of working with the whole department, this position tends to serve as the point of contact between the executives of a company and internal or external clients.
An executive administrative assistant role is a position of trust. Executive administrative assistants will find they are given access to sensitive or confidential information. As such, they must be able to maintain professionalism at all times.
Executive assistant responsibilities may include:
- Acting as a liaison between executives and clients
- Generating reports, briefs, and presentations as needed
- Maintaining schedules, coordinating meetings, and briefing important officials within the company
- Developing systems to keep the company running smoothly
- Keeping executives updated on their day-to-day schedules
Executive assistants are the grease that moves the wheels of the company. They have a high level of responsibility within the company. To keep the company running smoothly, a skilled executive administrative assistant will:
- Maintain the highest degree of professionalism, both in and out of work
- Need to be able to effectively network and foster goodwill with high-level clients
- Need to be on top of current trends in the industry
- Need to maintain a strict schedule and system to stay on top of their schedule and the schedules of company executives
- Need to have an expert level of understanding about company programs and software
Executive assistant positions are not for those with entry-level qualifications. A bachelor’s degree will often be required along with at least four years of experience within an administrative assistant role at a company of similar size. Candidates will also want to have an extensive working knowledge of all programs within the Microsoft Office Suite.
If you're getting ready to interview for a position as an executive administrative assistant, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for executive assistants range between $57K and $88K with the median being $72K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an executive administrative assistant include:
- Degrees (bachelor's, master's)
- Years of Experience
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the executive you report to; number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Executive Assistant Interview Questions
Question: Describe your typical workday as an executive administrative assistant. How do you prioritize your tasks?
Explanation: This is a general question which you will likely be asked early in the interview. It sets the stage for additional questions by providing the interviewer the information they can use to explore other areas of your experience, skills, and qualifications. Keep this in mind when composing your answer. This will enable you to move the interview in a direction with which you are comfortable.
Example: “While there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ day for an executive administrative assistant, there are some common elements to my days. I start each day with a brief conference with my executive to review the day’s activities and update each other on our priorities. I then review my emails to see if any additional items need my attention. Once I have all the information I need, I schedule my day. I prioritize each task based on its strategic importance and deadline. I also allow enough time in my schedule for ‘pop-up’ tasks which always seem to come up during the day. I then go about completing the tasks at hand such as responding to correspondence, creating reports, scheduling meetings, and making travel arrangements. Before leaving the office, I review my list of tasks and either cross them off or add them to the next day’s schedule.”
Question: Can you support more than one person? If so, how would you prioritize your tasks?
Explanation: This is an operational question which is intended to explore your work habits and capabilities. The interviewer is seeking to understand how you manage the situation they are describing as well as your organizational skills. Make sure you answer this type of question honestly because it is likely that you will be asked to perform the duties they are inquiring about if you are hired.
Example: “If required, I can easily support two or more executives as I’ve done in some of my previous positions. My experience doing this has taught me that to be effective in managing multiple executives’ administrative tasks, the key is setting ground rules for how my time will be split between them. If one of the executives is senior to the other(s), then they will receive priority when there are conflicting requests for my time. If they are equal in seniority, then the understanding is that I will prioritize the most important or urgent tasks when conflicts arise. There will also be a process in place to notify each executive when I need to put their work on hold and a means for them to appeal this decision. This type of system has worked fine in my previous positions.”
Question: What kinds of reports and company communications did you work on in your previous position?
Explanation: The interviewer is asking another operational question and attempting to see if you have experience with the specific work for which they are hiring you. Depending on the nature of the company’s business and the role you are being interviewed for, you should be able to answer this with ease. Make sure your response addresses the types of reports you believe to be relevant to the role and the executive you will be supporting.
Example: “In my last role which is similar to the one I’m interviewing for, I supported the vice president of human resources. Therefore, the bulk of the reports and communications I worked on were related to HR issues. These included employee timesheets, recruiting, hiring and onboarding statistics, updates of company HR policies, and incident reports for on the job injuries or HR policy violations. I also wrote standard memos, emails, and other routine correspondence for the VP.”
Question: Recall a time you worked on a challenging project with multiple people. What was the project? What was the outcome?
Explanation: This is an example of a behavioral question. Interviewers use this type of question when they are trying to understand how you will perform or behave when faced with a specific situation that is a common occurrence for many organizations. Behavioral questions are best answered using the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This will help you organize your answer and make it easy for the interviewer to understand what you did when faced with the situation they are presenting.
Example: “In my more recent job, I was part of the team that planned and managed the company’s annual Christmas party. We were asked to organize the event while maintaining the allotted budget and minimize the chance any incident might occur which would cause an HR violation. Since I was the senior staffer on the committee, I took charge and appointed each member a task related to the event. We held weekly meetings where we reviewed the planning details and made any necessary adjustments. As a result of the team’s efforts, the party was a great success. We spent less than was budgeted, and no incidents occurred.”
Question: Your CEO has given you sensitive information about a possible merger with another company. Another executive asks you what you know about these plans. How do you handle it?
Explanation: This is another behavioral question which the interviewer is using to understand how you would react to a specific situation that may occur. As a reminder, you should use the STAR structure when answering this type of question. Refer to an incident that occurred in a previous role to illustrate how you would behave and what your rationale would be.
Example: “I’m very sensitive about maintaining confidentiality with information I have access to in my job and maintaining trust among the executives whom I support as a key element of my profession. In my last position, a similar situation occurred where I was provided information about an upcoming event that would impact the company and its stakeholders. One of the other executives asked me about this in a casual manner. I replied to him that while I respected his position and interest in the subject, I was asked to keep the information confidential and suggested he speak to my manager. His reaction was professional, and he complimented me on my ability to maintain confidentiality in company matters.”
Question: What specific software programs do you feel are essential to your day-to-day work?
Explanation: This is another operational question which the interviewer is using to determine your proficiency with common office application software. This type of question is best answered straightforwardly and simply. Again, answer truthfully because you will be expected to be able to use the software which you identify.
Example: “There are a few office applications which I consider critical to perform my duties as an administrative assistant. The first of these are Microsoft Office and Outlook. These are the primary applications I use to communicate both within and outside of the office as well as to compose correspondence, create reports, and perform analyses using Excel. Other applications I depend on are task-specific, and they include Quickbooks, Salesforce, and Grammarly.”
Question: Describe your experience with booking international and domestic travel.
Explanation: This is yet another operational question. The interviewer wants to make sure you have experience arranging travel plans and may dig deeper to find out exactly what your level of competency in this area is. If you have this experience, be prepared to provide detailed information about the vendors you use, priorities you have for arranging travel, and any other criteria you use to make sure executives travel efficiently and comfortably.
Example: “I have quite a bit of experience arranging travel for the executives I support and their staff. Depending on the complexity of the trip, I’ll often take care of this directly using online resources such as Expedia and Hotels.com. If the trip involves several different legs or destinations I’m not familiar with or other unusual issues, I’ll work with the corporate travel group. Both of these methods are effective in making sure the team has an eventless trip and the accommodations meet their requirements.”
Question: What process would you use to set up a meeting with a key executive from another organization?
Explanation: This is another operational question addressing a specific task. Here, the interviewer is exploring both your communication skills as well as your logistics expertise. They may also be interested in whether you have the persuasive skills to assist the executive in securing meetings with important decision-makers. Your answer should address each one of these topics.
Example: “I am often asked to assist the executive in scheduling meetings. This usually involves contacting the other attendees or their administrators to secure time on their calendars. It may also involve the logistics of the meeting, including scheduling the room and arranging for refreshments, materials, and equipment. On some occasions, my manager requests I take the initiative to secure a meeting with somebody to whom they would like to speak. This is a sales-related task I enjoy because of the challenge it presents and the rewarding feeling I get for securing the meeting.”
Question: Recall a time you disagreed with your colleagues about how to execute a project. How did you resolve it?
Explanation: By now, you should recognize this as a behavioral question. Again, use the STAR framework to respond to this. A successful answer to this type of question hinges on a good resolution of the issue. Many interviewers will ask about a conflict in the workplace, so you should be prepared for this in advance of every interview. Finally, make sure to use an actual situation in case the interviewer chooses to dig deeper into the issue.
Example: “It is rare, but I have occasional disagreements with my colleagues. When I do, I find the best way to resolve them is to have a frank and open conversation about the issue. I ask my colleague to present their point of view, and I make sure to listen attentively so I understand their perspective. Sometimes, that is enough, but if we’re still somewhat apart in our opinions about the subject, I then ask for the opportunity to provide them with my point of view. A good example of this was when one of my colleagues and I were asked to schedule an offsite team meeting. Initially, we disagreed on the location. After exchanging ideas and discussing the issue, she was able to convince me of the benefits of using the location she selected. Once I honestly listened to her ideas and reasons, I became convinced that it was the right way to go. The meeting was a success, and I’m glad we elected to use the location my colleague suggested.”
Question: How would you rate your ability to work with difficult personalities?
Explanation: The interviewer has chosen to ask you a general question that borders on being behavioral. After they’ve confirmed your qualifications for the position, they are interested in your ability to function within their culture. This question is meant to determine that specific aspect of your personality while also indicating how introspective you are. Always answer these questions in an honest and positive manner.
Example: “I have found that in every workplace, there are individuals who are somewhat more difficult to deal with than others. Much of the time, this is a result of people having different priorities or objectives and competing for a limited amount of resources. When I encounter a situation like this, I strive to understand what the other person is trying to achieve and how it conflicts with my goals. I then search for some common area where we can either agree or compromise so we are both able to complete our tasks or reach the objectives we’re striving for.”
Additional Executive Assistant Interview Questions
You have been given confidential information about the company. One of your managers demands to know about it. How would you handle this?
What would you do if an executive gave you an assignment without complete instructions on how to accomplish the task?
Can you describe a time when you had to deal with multiple deadlines at once? If so, what was the outcome?
How would you handle a situation where the travel plans went awry for the vice president of the company?
If you are handling travel plans for multiple people with various needs, how would you ensure everyone’s needs are met with the budget that has been provided?
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