There are many smart, ambitious professionals currently in the market for executive assistant (EA) positions. But if you want to attract great candidates, you need to sell prospective EAs on why they should apply to your company over others—and that starts with crafting a unique and compelling job description (JD).
However, it’s common for busy hiring managers and executives to overlook and underestimate the importance of writing a unique JD.
Often, they’ll find boilerplate job descriptions online, make a few small tweaks, and paste them into their job posting. And as a result, their job posts fail to attract great candidates because the best applicants are looking for unique, dynamic positions that stand out from other opportunities.
Over the last 4 years running our executive assistant service, we’ve assessed tens of thousands of executive assistant candidates, and we’ve learned that job descriptions are an integral first step in the hiring process—if you want to attract top talent.
In this article, we’re going to share a template that will help you create a job description that will appeal to great candidates. Then, we’re going to share 3 mistakes to avoid (based on our own learnings) that will improve your chances of making a great hire.
In total, we’ll cover:
- Our Executive Assistant Job Description Template
- 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring an Executive Assistant
- How to Shortcut the Hiring Process and Get a World-Class EA
Note: Our unique hiring methodology enables us to find world-class executive assistants for our clients. We hire roughly 1 out of every 1,000 candidates. If you’ve been wanting an assistant but haven’t had the time to hire one, or you want to shortcut the hiring process, click here to get started. You can try an assistant for a month or two and see how you like it. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.
A Template for Creating a Compelling Executive Administrative Assistant Job Description
Most of the EA job description templates available online use generic language and lists of responsibilities that fail to make the position or company sound exciting to applicants. But as we mentioned above, the job description is your first opportunity to capture the attention and interest of great candidates.
In our experience, we’ve learned that the best way to do that is to create a customized JD that communicates why applicants should care about what your company does, and why they should be excited about the opportunity to work with you.
This can take a number of different forms, such as opportunities for growth, an inspiring company mission, or a unique company culture, to name a few examples.
So, to help you create a compelling JD that will appeal to great applicants, we’ve created a different style of template. Specifically, instead of providing a boilerplate list of tasks and responsibilities, we’ve created a series of prompts that will help you create a JD that stands out on job boards.
The template, which you can make a copy of here, is broken down into the following sections:
- Company Background: Most of the time, when candidates apply to assistant jobs, they’ve never heard of the companies they’re applying to. So introducing them to what your company does and what it stands for is important for catching their interest and providing them with context about who they’d be working for.
- Description of the Role: This section lists the executive assistant’s responsibilities and paints a picture of what the job will look like and require on a day-to-day basis. This helps candidates determine if it’s a job that they want to do, as well as whether or not they would be a good fit for the role.
- Desired Abilities and Traits: This section describes the abilities and traits that candidates will need to be successful in the role. We tend to focus on generalist abilities like problem solving and communication skills versus specific virtual assistant skills (more on this below).
- Role Logistics: Including a section on practical logistics of the role—things like the timezone your EA will be working in, any special equipment they may need, or the software programs they’ll use—is often overlooked. But this is actually an important section to include because it provides further context to help candidates understand if they’re a good fit to apply.
- Final Big Picture Details: This section concludes your JD by zooming out, tying everything together, and inspiring great candidates to apply.
We’ve written previously about the rationale behind each of these sections, as well as mistakes to avoid and how to get them right. Check out our article on executive assistant job descriptions for further detail on each section.
Now, writing a compelling job description is just a first step to finding and hiring a great EA. In the next section, we’re going to discuss 3 mistakes we see companies make in other parts of the hiring process. Avoiding these will play a key role in finding the right EA for you.
3 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring an Executive Assistant
1. Avoid the Use of “Administrative” or “Secretary” in Your Job Title
We sometimes see companies post job descriptions for “executive administrative assistants” or “executive secretaries.” However, by pinning “administrative” or “secretary” to your job title, you signal to applicants that the role of your assistant will be confined to administrative work only. And this can work against you in several ways.
First, many executives would love to have assistants that can go beyond admin work to help with more complex tasks. By defining the role as an “administrative assistant,” you set an expectation that they’ll only be responsible for administrative tasks.
Second, the most talented and ambitious candidates are actively looking for opportunities that involve more than just admin work. So, by using “administrative” or “secretary” in your title, you’re likely to turn these people away before they even read your job description.
And lastly, we’ve seen that less common and longer job titles like “Executive Administrative Assistant” attract fewer applicants on job boards.
To avoid all of these potential issues, we recommend sticking to “Executive Assistant” as your position title.
2. Avoid Making Assumptions About Candidates Based on Superficial Variables
The #1 biggest mistake we see companies make when hiring executive assistants is that they place too much weight on relatively superficial variables, and they fail to evaluate the qualities that predict success in an EA role.
For example, consider the following criteria that hiring managers and human resource departments often look for when reviewing resumes of EA applicants:
- Past years of experience in an assistant role.
- Whether or not they attended a top university.
- How long they were at their previous jobs.
Hiring managers assume that these criteria are indicative of certain applicant qualities and skills. For example:
- “If they’ve been an assistant before, they’ll probably be pretty familiar with the basic responsibilities and workflows.”
- “If they received their bachelor’s degree from a top university, they’re probably a pretty smart and competent individual.”
- “If their resume is neatly formatted, they probably have pretty good organizational skills and attention to detail.”
- “If they showed up for their interview on time, they probably have pretty good time management skills.”
Now, it’s understandable why companies look for these criteria because they often don’t have much else to go off of (as we’ll discuss more below). But these factors do not reliably predict how well a candidate will perform in the role.
In fact, they turn out to be false as often as they are true—and in some cases, these criteria actually cause companies to miss out on the best candidates. For example, if you prioritize candidates with past assistant experience, you can often rule out really smart people who’ve just graduated or are looking to make a career change.
In our experience, what predicts success in an EA role are the following key qualities:
- Problem-Solving Ability: How smart are they? Can they figure things out in new and complex situations?
- Key Character and Behavioral Traits: Are they highly motivated, resilient, detail-oriented, a good team player? Do they tend to get work done in a timely manner, work well under pressure, etc.?
- Communication Ability: How well do they write and communicate? How are their verbal communication skills? Can they communicate on your behalf or alongside you with key stakeholders (executive team members, board members, investors, etc.)?
- Tech-Savviness: How comfortable are they with learning new technologies and software? How quickly can they pick up and learn the programs that modern companies use to run their businesses? (e.g. Notion, Asana, Slack, Superhuman, Airtable, Excel, Zoom, etc.)
If a candidate is strong in each of these areas, they’re likely to make a great EA. If they’re weak in one or more of these areas, they likely won’t work out well.
By focusing on these criteria when assessing candidates—not the superficial factors mentioned above (past work experience as an assistant, where they went to school, etc.)—you significantly improve your chances of making a great hire. We’ve based our entire hiring methodology around assessing these qualities in candidates, and it allows us to find highly competent and effective EAs for our clients.
However, focusing on assessing the right qualities is only half the battle. Actually evaluating the extent to which candidates possess these qualities is the hardest part, which brings us to our final mistake.
3. Avoid Relying Solely on Resume Review and Interviews When Assessing Candidates
When companies hire for specialized or technical roles, it’s common practice to have applicants complete various tests and assessments to prove their abilities. This allows companies to be sure that each candidate has what it takes to do the work required of them on the job.
In contrast, tests and assessments are not traditionally used when hiring for administrative roles like executive assistants. Companies tend to rely solely on resume review and interviews when assessing candidates.
The problem with this is that it’s very difficult for companies to gauge the qualities we mentioned above (problem solving ability, communication skills, key character traits) through resumes and interviews alone.
While interviews can help you gain insight into a candidate’s interpersonal skills, for example, they’re not particularly effective for understanding a candidate’s problem solving ability, how organized or reliable they are, or how strong their written communication skills are—and all of these are essential qualities for an EA to be successful on the job.
The result of this is that companies end up hiring EAs without ever seeing the quality of their work first. And this leads to inconsistent hiring results.
To effectively evaluate candidates, you need to use more than just resumes and interviews. For example, when hiring assistants for our service, we use a tailored combination of the following when assessing candidates:
- Quantitative assessments: Tests that allow us to evaluate candidates accurately on key generalist abilities.
- Structured interviews: A strategic interview process to cross-compare candidates on the qualities and abilities that matter.
- Work sample projects: Mock projects to see the quality of their work, based on the types of tasks they’re likely to do in a virtual EA role.
- Communication exercises: Exercises to evaluate candidates on key communication skills such as email etiquette.
- Reference and background checks: A structured approach to interviewing candidates’ references.
By using additional assessments, exercises, and work sample projects, we’re able to see the quality of candidates’ work—the exact types of work they’ll be responsible for managing on the job—before they’re hired. While this is a time-consuming process, it allows us to get concrete evidence of candidates’ abilities and ensure they have what it takes to succeed in the role.
We’ve written previously about communication exercises, work sample tests, interview questions, and reference check questions that you can use. Here are two past articles to check out if you’d like to learn more about executing these additional steps:
- How to Interview an Executive Assistant (And What It Takes to Find Top Talent)
- How to Hire a Virtual Assistant Who Actually Works Out
As we’ve demonstrated throughout this post, there’s a lot that goes into finding a great EA beyond writing a compelling job description. And this is why we created our executive assistant service, which we’ll discuss next.
How to Shortcut the Hiring Process and Get a World-Class Executive Assistant
We’ve gone to extreme lengths to create what we think is one of the best executive assistant services on the market. Presently, we hire roughly 1 in every 1,000 candidates that we assess. And the rigor of our hiring methodology enables us to offer assistants whose services go beyond basic administrative support.
For example, our assistants manage customized combinations of the following for our clients:
- Communications and email management: Act as the executive’s main point of contact, communicating on their behalf and alongside them with key stakeholders (company executive team, board of directors, partners, etc.). Sit in on phone calls, draft memos for company-wide communications, etc.
- Scheduling and calendar management: Manage an executive’s calendar, schedule meetings and appointments, resolve scheduling issues, balance personal appointments with work meetings.
- Project management: Manage the CEO’s to-dos, ensure they stay up to date and on track with their key projects.
- Business operations: Help create, organize, and improve on internal business processes and digital filing systems. Assist with bookkeeping, expense reports, data entry, and other relevant administrative tasks.
- Marketing and social media management: Create and schedule social media posts, keep social media accounts up to date, monitor engagement metrics, respond to comments, help grow an overall online presence.
- People operations: Manage employee onboarding, assist in the employee recruitment process (e.g. reviewing resumes and cover letters for certain criteria), manage payroll, etc.
- Strategic planning: Work with the company leaders to define and come up with plans for new products, initiatives, and services. Project manage some or all of these new company programs.
- Client services: Handle important interactions with clients. Provide ideas and feedback about how to improve systems and processes.
- Special projects: Manage a wide variety of unique projects depending on what your executive needs. For example, our EAs have worked on things like graphic design, video editing, performing market research, designing Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentations, event planning, workflow design, building or compiling spreadsheet data sets, and more.
- Personal assistant tasks: Help make online orders, reservations, travel arrangements and itineraries, and other accommodations for executives’ personal lives.
If you’re a startup founder, entrepreneur, small business owner, or senior executive interested in trying out one of our EAs, you can try one for a month or two and see how you like it. We require no long-term commitments.
Here’s how to get started with us:
- Step 1: Complete our form to let us know your needs.
- Step 2: If you’re a good fit, we’ll set up a call to discuss our service with you.
- Step 3: Our team will hand pick an assistant who we think will be a great fit for you based on your needs.
- Step 4: Our talent team will guide you through the onboarding process over 2-3 weeks.
- Step 5: For a flat monthly rate, you get a world-class assistant that equates to a full-time employee (40 hours of remote work per week, with no long-term commitment needed).
Note: Our executive assistants are 100% remote. If you’re looking for an in-person EA to assist with office management, unfortunately we won’t be able to help you.