Executive Assistant Search Firms: Which One Is Best for You?

Executive assistant search firms can be a huge time and resource saver for founders and executives who are in need of administrative support but don’t have the bandwidth to spend the weeks or months necessary to find and hire a great executive assistant.

However, when you look around online, you’ll find that there are many recruiting and staffing firms that offer executive assistant placement services. And it’s often difficult to tell which service you should choose. For example:

  • Should you choose a recruiting agency or a staffing agency?
  • What’s the difference between the two?
  • Which service will provide the best assistant?
  • Which will deliver the best value for your money?

Choosing the right service for you (and your business) requires answering these questions. In this article, we’re going to walk through what you should know about these two types of services.

Specifically, we’ll explain the key differences between staffing and recruiting services, and why choosing a service with a staffing model (versus a recruiting model) is the best option for most businesses.

Then we’ll discuss the other key determinant of whether a service will deliver you a great assistant: How effectively does their hiring process evaluate executive assistant candidates?

Finally, we’ll wrap up by sharing some information about our remote executive assistant service, what makes it different from other staffing services, and how you can get started with us should you decide you’d like to try it out.

Table of Contents

  • ‍Executive Assistant Recruiters vs. Executive Assistant Staffing: Key Differences to Understand‍‍

    ▹ 1. Recruiters Use One-Time Fees That Disincentivize Great Long Term Outcomes‍

    ▹ 2. Recruiters Are Incentivized to Find the Most Expensive Assistants‍

    ▹ 3. Executive Assistant Recruiters Are Typically the Least Experienced Recruiters
  • Another Key Factor to Consider: Does the Staffing Firm Have a Rigorous Hiring Process for Finding Top Administrative Talent?
  • The Hiring Methodology We’ve Developed to Offer World-Class Executive Assistants to Our Clients

Note: Our unique hiring methodology enables us to find top tier 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.

Executive Assistant Recruiters vs. Executive Assistant Staffing: The Key Differences to Understand

As we’ve explained in previous articles, there are three fundamental differences between the recruiting business model and the staffing business model that make staffing services a better choice for most businesses.

Let’s look at each one.

Difference #1: Recruiters Charge One-Time Fees That Disincentivize Great Long Term Outcomes

First off, recruiting firms typically charge a one-time fee for their services. And because the engagement isn’t ongoing, there’s less incentive for recruiters to ensure they find you an assistant that works out well over the long term.

These agencies typically offer a 60 to 90 day grace period to find you a different candidate if the initial person doesn’t work out, but it often takes at least that long to get acclimated working with a new assistant. So in the event that you get a few months into the engagement and figure out that the assistant isn’t a good fit for you—which is very common—it’s too late to get a replacement. The recruiter has been paid, and you can no longer get your money back.

In contrast, staffing agencies use an on-going (typically month to month) payment model, so they’re incentivized to deliver you an assistant that works out great over the long term, because this is how they can continue generating revenue from your engagement.

Difference #2: Recruiters Are Incentivized to Find the Most Expensive Assistants

The second key structural issue with using recruiters is that they’re paid a percentage of your assistant’s first year salary (typically 15% to 30%), so they’re naturally incentivized to find you an assistant at the top of your price range—because the more your assistant costs, the more money they make. It’s even common for them to coach their clients on how to get the highest salary possible.

In contrast, staffing agencies charge a set fee on a recurring basis. And since they aren’t paid based on a percentage of the assistant’s salary, this same incentive does not exist when you work with a staffing service. Instead, their payment structure incentivizes them to make it affordable for your business because this helps them keep you as a client over the long term.

Difference #3: Executive Assistant Recruiters Are Typically the Least Experienced Recruiters

Lastly, because recruiters make more money by filling higher paying roles such as technical positions (developers, engineers, etc.) or executive positions (CEOs, CFOs, etc.), the most experienced recruiters don’t tend to focus on hiring executive assistants. And therefore, executive assistant recruiters are generally entry level, have the least experience, and are the least skilled at finding top talent.

For all of these reasons, we strongly recommend choosing a staffing service over a recruiting service. But with that said, the question still remains: Of all the staffing agencies out there, which should you choose?

The short answer: Choose one that has a rigorous hiring methodology and a track record of finding top tier executive assistants for their clients.

Another Key Factor to Consider: Does the Staffing Firm Have a Rigorous Hiring Process for Finding Top Administrative Talent?

We’ve observed that most staffing agencies tend to use the traditional two-step hiring process of resume review and interviews when hiring for administrative roles. However, in our experience, resume review and interviews alone are simply insufficient for predicting a candidate’s success in an executive assistant position.

There’s only so much you can tell about a candidate based on their resume and a series of 30 minute or hour-long conversations. And in particular, you’re severely limited in your ability to directly measure the traits and abilities that are necessary to be successful in the executive assistant role:

  1. Problem Solving Ability: How smart are they? Can they figure things out in new and complex situations?
  2. Key Character and Behavioral Traits: Are they organized, reliable, trustworthy, detail-oriented, etc.?
  3. Communication Ability: How well do they write and communicate? Can they play the role of gatekeeper, communicating on your behalf or alongside you with key stakeholders (executive team members, board members, investors, etc.)?
  4. 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?

Measuring candidates’ communication and problem solving ability, or how much they possess nuanced character traits such as detail-orientedness and reliability, takes more than looking at their resume and asking them questions on a Zoom call.

These are the abilities and attributes that predict success in an executive assistant job, and yet, most staffing services do not rigorously measure these. Those that do, however, are the agencies that are likely to provide you with the best assistant.

So, when evaluating staffing services, be sure to ask them:

  • Do they directly measure these attributes during their hiring process?
  • How do they measure these attributes? What specifically do they do?
  • And how thorough are they in the measurement of candidates’ key traits and abilities?

At Persona, we’ve designed our entire service around using a more rigorous hiring methodology that allows us to find top talent assistants, which we’ll discuss next.

The Hiring Methodology We’ve Developed to Offer World-Class Executive Assistants to Our Clients

We’ve used our backgrounds in behavioral science and assessment design to create a hiring methodology that directly and thoroughly measures candidates on the key attributes discussed above: problem solving, communication, character traits that are essential in executive assistant roles, and tech-savviness.

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 project-based or administrative tasks they’re likely to do in an 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.

Through deploying additional forms of assessment such as work sample projects and communication exercises, we’re able to directly measure how candidates perform the exact types of tasks that they’ll be responsible for on the job. We aren’t guessing or making assumptions based on their resumes or how well they answer questions during their interviews. We have concrete evidence that they have what it takes to be successful in the role before we hire them.

As a result, we’re able to consistently deliver top talent assistants to our clients—the types of assistants that are on track to become future chiefs of staff.

Currently, our assistants manage some combination of the following for our clients (much of which goes beyond the purview of the average executive assistant job description):

  • Communications: Manage email, communicate on an executive’s behalf and alongside them with key team members and stakeholders.
  • Scheduling and time management: Manage an executive’s calendar, schedule meetings and phone calls, 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 standard operating procedures. Help with recurring administrative assistant tasks such as data entry.
  • 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 overall online presence.
  • People operations: Support human resources efforts to manage employee onboarding, assist in employee recruitment (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 (e.g. customer support, invoicing, etc.). 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 light graphic design in Canva, workflow design, transcription, lead generation, CRM management, Amazon eCommerce management, and more.
  • Personal assistant tasks: Help make online orders, reservations, travel arrangements, and other accommodations for executives’ personal lives.

Try a Persona Executive Assistant

We provide world-class executive support for all types of industries, including tech startups, non-profits, real estate, professional services, financial services, and more. We serve c-level executives across the U.S.—in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Miami, Washington D.C., and New York—and internationally.

If you’re a founder or senior executive interested in trying out one of our top caliber executive assistants, 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 the best executive assistant for you based on your needs.
  • Step 4: Our talent team will guide you through the onboarding process.
  • Step 5: For a flat monthly rate, you get a full-time, world-class executive assistant.

If you’re ready to try an executive assistant that can be truly transformative for your business, click here to get started. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.

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