Outsourcing executive assistants to third party services can save companies and executives a lot of time from managing the hiring process on their own. But there are a number of different service options on the market, and before you decide on which service to use, it’s important to understand the differences between them.
This is what we’re going to discuss in this article. Specifically, we’re going to explain the pros and cons of the 3 main service options:
- Executive assistant recruiters
- Executive assistant staffing agencies
- Virtual or remote executive assistant services
Then, before we wrap up, we’ll walk through how our remote executive assistant service is different from other services on the market and share how it works.
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, 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.
Recruiters, Staffing Agencies, and Virtual Assistant Services: What You Should Know About Each
Recruiters are one of the first solutions that come to mind when a company wants to outsource hiring. But while they can relieve businesses of the time-consuming effort it takes to source candidates, using a recruiter for your executive assistant has a few distinct disadvantages. Namely:
- The way recruiters are paid causes misaligned incentives between them and their clients. Recruiters are paid a one-time fee—typically a percentage of the employee’s first year salary—and then they’re off the hook. They have no stake in whether or not that employee works out well. And while they may not intentionally pair you with a bad hire, they aren’t incentivized to ensure great long term outcomes. Rather, this payment structure incentivizes them to find someone as quickly as possible, get paid, and move on.
- Executive assistant recruiters are often the least experienced recruiters. Because recruiters are paid more to place higher salary employees, the most experienced recruiters tend to focus on filling higher paying roles such as technical roles (engineers, developers, etc.) and executive roles (C-level staff). As a result, recruiters who focus on lower paying executive or administrative assistant positions are often entry level, and therefore lack the experience and know-how to find top talent.
- Recruiters use traditional hiring processes which are ineffective at finding top talent. Specifically, they tend to rely solely on resume review and interviews when evaluating candidates. As we explained in our founding story, resumes and interviews alone produce inconsistent outcomes when hiring executive assistants because they force you to make assumptions about candidates based on relatively superficial variables. They don’t show you in concrete ways the quality of someone’s work, or their ability to perform the specific types of on-the-job responsibilities that they’ll be tasked with as your EA. And very often candidates can look great on paper and perform well in their interview but not end up being a great fit for your needs. Consistently finding great EAs takes a more thorough approach to hiring like the one we’ve developed at Persona (more on this below).
Because of these issues, we generally recommend steering clear of using recruiters for executive assistant positions.
2. Staffing Agencies
Unlike recruitment agencies, staffing agencies are typically paid on a recurring basis for as long as they’re supplying you with an assistant, so they’re incentivized to pair you with a good fit. The happier you are and the longer you work with them, the more money they make. This makes staffing agencies a better option than recruiters.
However, like recruiting agencies, staffing agencies also tend to use the broken traditional hiring process of resume review and interviews. They’re forced to make hiring decisions based on superficial variables like where candidates went to school, past years of experience in an administrative support role, or how well they perform during a half hour or hour-long interview. But as we’ve discovered over the last 4 years running our service, these factors are not good predictors of success in an executive assistant role.
The key generalist abilities that make the best executive assistants (i.e. problem solving ability, communication ability, and key character traits such as being organized, detail-oriented, etc.) simply cannot be thoroughly evaluated through these traditional means.
3. Virtual Assistant Services
Like staffing agencies, virtual assistant services have aligned incentives with their clients. The longer you use their service, the more they’re paid, so they’re incentivized to provide you with an assistant that you’re happy with.
However, like recruiters and staffing agencies, they tend not to have great systems for thoroughly vetting assistant candidates, and the consistency of talent they deliver suffers for it.
To recap, among these service options there are 3 core problems:
- Misaligned incentives (in the case of recruiters)
- A lack of sophisticated candidate evaluation (relying solely on resume review and interviews)
- A focus on criteria that don’t actually predict someone’s ability to perform well in an EA role (e.g. where someone went to school, how well they spoke in an interview, etc.)
These are the problems we set out to solve when we started Persona.
How Our Remote Executive Assistant Service Is Different: Guaranteed High-Quality Talent and Aligned Incentives
We’ve used our backgrounds in behavioral science and assessment design to develop a more thorough hiring methodology for evaluating executive assistant candidates. First and foremost, our entire process is designed around vetting candidates on key qualities we’ve found are actually predictive of success in an EA role.
- 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, organized, detail-oriented, etc.?
- Communication Ability: How well do they write and communicate? 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.)
And rather than rely on resumes and interviews alone to evaluate candidates on these qualities, we use an individually tailored mix of the following in our evaluation process:
- 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.
Every step of our process is customized on a candidate-by-candidate basis—depending on how individuals perform as they progress through each step.
By deploying quantitative assessments, work sample projects, and communication exercises (in addition to resume review, interviews, and reference checks), we’re able to see the quality of candidates’ work before they’re ever hired. We don’t hire based on assumptions. We hire based on concrete evidence that candidates can execute the exact types of work they’ll be expected to perform on the job.
As a result of this thorough hiring methodology, our virtual executive assistants are capable of performing a wider range of responsibilities (at a higher level) than what most services on the market can offer. For example, our EAs currently manage customized combinations of the following for our clients:
- Communications: Facilitate email management, communicate on an executive’s behalf and alongside them with company staff members and key stakeholders, sit in on phone calls, etc.
- Scheduling and calendar management: Manage an executive’s calendar, schedule internal and external meetings and appointments, resolve scheduling issues, track follow-up, etc.
- 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 standard operating procedures. Assist with bookkeeping, data entry, expense reporting, and other relevant administrative tasks.
- Digital marketing and social media management: Create and schedule social media posts on top platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, 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 web design, video editing, designing PowerPoint presentations, event planning, workflow design, building data sets, account management, and more.
- Personal assistant tasks: Help make online orders, reservations, travel arrangements, and other accommodations for executives’ personal lives.
A Better Alternative: Outsource Your Executive Assistant with Persona
If you’re a startup founder, entrepreneur, small business owner, Fortune 500 executive, or senior executive of any kind, you can try one of our remote assistants for a month or two and see how you like it—no long-term commitments required.
Note: We don’t currently offer part-time assistants. We only offer full-time, fully dedicated assistants that can work with executives in any time zone.
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).