8 tips for hiring better administrative assistants

What do you think of when you think about the perfect administrative assistant? If you’ve worked at a few companies I imagine you’re thinking about a specific person you’ve worked with before rather than some list of qualities. For me, it was Candace. Candace started managing our front desk and went up the ranks of the company quickly, moving into the manager of all of the executive assistants. She’s brilliant but like the person you’re thinking of, she’s not available for hire every moment you need to hire an executive assistant. 

That hiring moment is happening a lot more frequently, especially in the United States. According to the BLS reports, there were more than 2 million admini.... And unfortunately, while Candace isn’t around, we all have a list twice as long of administrative assistants you would never hire again. So how do you screen those people out before they become a liability?

Well, you’re in luck. Using my very own bullshit meter, I started thinking about how I would’ve tried to screen those people out (I say tried because some people are really good at blowing smoke). Here are the eight ways I’d suggest for pressure testing your admins to make better hires.

  1. Ask the hard questions (but keep it legal). Now, if you work in HR, you know way more about this than I do. But I’m not talking about the super personal questions. I think it’s more important to gauge if your candidate can keep pace and stay organized in a way that you can handle. It’s almost like online dating. Start thinking “how much are your habits going to annoy me? How are you going to handle it when I tell you I’m pissed?” I don’t think it’s unprofessional to ask questions like that. Of course, you can always put the question in a “Tell me about the time” question if you need to avoid ‘ bad words’ like pissed. 
  2. Test their technical skills. Make them use an iPad to check-in for the interview. Ask what kind of cell phone they have or if they use a tablet at home. A great administrative assistant should be your ultimate utility player – technology master, schedule sensai and more. 
  3. Ask them to tell you what they think a day in the life will look like. Every set of eyes looks at something completely differently and you need to make sure your candidate understands what the day-to-day is going to look like in this role. Ask them to give you a 2-minute synopsis of the tasks they think will be most important to success in the role. You’ll quickly see what they want the job to look like and if it’s in line with your perception.
  4. Figure out the experience level you need. If you’re a small company, you probably can’t afford a former executive assistant from Microsoft. I know you want her but it’s just not very likely. Try interviewing college students with great management skills (which you can gauge from the questions above). Yes, you may have a hungover administrative assistant every once in awhile but I’m sure you didn’t get to the C Suite without having a little fun, too. 
  5. On the party note, be sure to do a little social media stalking. If they’re smart, it will be walled. If they aren’t… you shouldn’t hire them. Can we leave it at that? 
  6. Put them in front of a panel. If you’re going to work for an executive, you need to be able to take a little heat. There will be people asking for meetings and pressuring you to solve their issues. Your panel should include the frequent flyers by the boss’s desk. 
  7. Wait for the follow up. They should call or write you to say thank you. You have to hire an executive assistant who has that kind of attention to detail. They could be responsible for writing your thank you cards soon enough.
  8. Onboard them! I’ve been in too many companies where the administrative assistant isn’t included in onboarding because they “aren’t working” with the departments. False. A great administrator works with everyone in the company and, like I mentioned in #2, should be your utility player and problem solver. 

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