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Interviewing a Personal Assistant (PA) A Guide

It is always best to have a plan! Plans can of course (and usually are!) be amended, but at least a basic plan gives you a starting point to focus on and a structured approach to your interviews. It is all too easy to get side-tracked and ‘off topic’ and before you know it, it’s too late to ask that all important question as they’ve already left!

So, here is a simple guide with tips and advice to get the absolute best out of your time with each Candidate you interview:

  • First and foremost, start by introducing yourself. (This may sound obvious, but I’m sure we all remember sitting through an interview and wondering who on earth we are talking to!). You should then clearly communicate and explain the purpose of the interview. For example, tell the Candidate that you are looking to hire a Personal Assistant and that you want to assess their qualifications and suitability for the role with you.


  • Next you can start asking the Candidate about their background and the work experience that makes them suitable for the role. Inquire specifically about their previous positions as a Personal Assistant (and other relevant roles they have held) and start to build a detailed picture of their work history: what type of work they undertook on a daily/weekly basis, what sort of tasks they performed, who they interacted with, how busy and demanding was their role and what was their level of responsibility.


  • It is essential to assess the Candidate’s organisational skills and very importantly, their attention to detail. Ask them about any systems or strategies they employ or have used in previous roles in order to stay organised and on top of the workload. Request specific examples of projects or tasks they have completed successfully and pay particular attention to examples of their ability to manage multiple priorities simultaneously.


  • As the interview evolves, evaluate the Candidate’s communication and interpersonal skills. As a Personal Assistant, strong communication skills are of course crucial when interacting with you, your clients, colleagues and other contacts in your business. A good opportunity for them to prove themselves is to ask them to describe a challenging situation they have faced in their previous roles and how they were able to resolve it with effective communication.


  • Inquire about the Candidate’s problem-solving abilities. As a Personal Assistant, they will inevitably encounter unexpected challenges and obstacles on a regular basis. Encourage them to provide examples of how they have addressed and resolved problems or difficult situations.


  • Discuss their technical skills/software proficiency and define what will be required for the role. You will need to determine and be satisfied that the Candidate is comfortable with all the technology systems you use: software, presentation software, calendar management systems and any other tools that may be relevant to your specific needs.


  • It is essential to assess the Candidate’s ability to maintain and preserve confidentiality and handle sensitive information appropriately. You will need to be convinced that your Personal Assistant is able to respect the privacy and confidentiality of your work & business. In order to do this, discuss any past experiences where the Candidate has handled sensitive information and ask for their approach to maintaining confidentiality.


  • Evaluating the Candidate’s adaptability and flexibility is important for your peace of mind – you need to know that you will be employing the right person with the right attitude. Personal Assistants will very often need to ‘turn on a sixpence’ and be able to adapt to the ever-changing priorities of a dynamic environment. Again, ask the Candidate to describe situations where they have had to adjust and juggle plans and respond to sudden, unexpected changes.


  • Make sure you assess a Candidate’s levels of initiative and proactiveness. An effective Personal Assistant should be constantly proactive and happy to use their initiative, anticipating their employer’s needs without constant direction. Ask them about times when they have gone above and beyond their role to provide exceptional support and assistance.


  • Once you are satisfied the Candidate has answered all your questions, you can discuss important details such as their availability and make them aware of your schedule and imminent travel plans should they be successful in being offered the role. This will ensure that their availability aligns with your needs and that they are comfortable with any necessary commitments.


  • Finally, you will need to give the Candidate an opportunity to ask any questions they may have regarding the role, your business or your expectations as an employer.


  • At the end, be sure to thank the Candidate for their time and also be clear about the next steps in the interview process. For example, whether there will be additional interviews, how many other candidates you are potentially interviewing and your decision-making timeline.


It is also worth mentioning that it is good practice to take detailed notes during every interview as this will save you a lot of time later trying to remember all the details! Your interview notes will then assist you with your decision-making process. Try and be disciplined in taking the time after each interview to evaluate each Candidate and determine which individual best meets your needs and expectations for a Personal Assistant.

Good luck!

November 17, 2023

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