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Interview questions for an administrative assistant

Ask the right questions when interviewing candidates.Ask the right questions when interviewing candidates.

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Based on the level of work they perform and the type of information they have access to, interviewing an executive assistant requires questions that explore work habits, commitment, confidentiality and tact. Aside from being able to format memos, schedule appointments and calculate expense reports, many executive assistants have nearly as much influence the executives they support have. Using tough interview questions can help identify the candidates who have the skills, qualifications and professional characteristics an executive assistant needs.

Organizational Skills

Executive assistants must have organizational skills and the ability to prioritize work. Tough interview questions that assess their strengths in this area include "How you prioritize urgent responsibilities when you have little time left in the day to complete your tasks?" and "One of your co-workers has offered to help you on one of your busiest days; however, you believe your skills are far superior to hers. How would you respond to her offer when you really do need help?" The candidate's answer to the second question also sheds light on her ability to tactfully refuse or accept help from co-workers.

Business Principles

Executive officers entrust their assistants with confidential business information, and some executives even confide in their assistants on personal matters that have little to do with business. In some cases, executive assistants are not only the gatekeepers for executive leadership, but they also are confidantes. A tough interview question that probes the interviewee's business principles and ethics includes, "Suppose you are the assistant to the CEO of one of the most profitable companies in the world. Your boss lets it slip that she's been wrangling for the acquisition and control of a competitor. Another executive asks what you know about your boss's scheme. What do you say?"


Asking a candidate to name the qualifications he thinks are necessary for someone who provides assistance to executive-level leadership gives you an idea of the competencies and strengths he has. Questions such as, "What are the five most important job competencies successful executive assistants have?" and "Core competencies include verbal and written communication skills, analytical thinking skills, and conflict resolution skills. If you had to select only two of those competencies, which two are most helpful to an executive assistant?"


"Identify two types of technology that are essential to your job function" and "Name one software program you feel is impossible to do without in the performance of your job duties" are difficult questions for some executive assistants to answer. These team members frequently use several programs, applications and technology solutions to accomplish their daily tasks. It's challenging to select one or two most important and justify why they're essential.


When an organization hires an executive assistant, usually they hope she will commit to the company for three to five years or at least through the CEO's tenure. Two tough questions for those interviewing include, "What would you do if a competitor offered you the same level position for a considerably higher salary and remarkable perks, and how would you explain your decision to your boss?" and "How long do you see yourself in this executive assistant role and where do you hope your next career move takes you?"

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