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What skills should you test for in an administrative assistant?

Executive assistants, while generally flying under the radar, are responsible for making organizations run smoothly. By effectively supporting their boss, they make sure that communication is streamlined, calendars are organized and work isn’t interrupted for avoidable reasons. Executive assistants are responsible for being the right-hand person to a CEO or senior employee, according to Glassdoor. This means they should be personable, with impeccable attention to detail and high-level organizational skills. That makes hiring a good executive assistant crucial.

Hiring isn’t just a stressful situation for applicants but is also time-consuming and potentially overwhelming for HR staff. Hiring the right candidate on the first try can avoid wasted time and costs. Enlisting the use of pre-employment testing can prevent short-lived new employees, and help secure a productive executive assistant.

Before posting a job description online and searching for applicants, there are some things to determine beforehand to make the hiring process as painless and efficient as possible.

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Typing tests can determine how quickly and accurately a person can enter information.

How to attract the right applicants

When creating job descriptions for the role of an executive assistant, it’s important to include a scope of the wide variety of tasks they’ll be responsible for — especially if it involves a packed schedule. Make sure to include whether the executive assistant will be working for one executive or several managers, Inc. suggests. While the specifics range for executive assistant jobs, the general outlook is that they should have good people skills, a variety of office-skills and are able to multi-task. While those should all be highlighted in the job description, it is also key to add that the assistant is expected to fulfill other duties when assigned, as tasks can vary. 


Be sure to include minimum qualifications, like preferred education and professional background. This can narrow the applicant pool to be more specifically tailored to your needs. You can also include behavioral traits that work well within your office culture, as it can vary between fields. An executive assistant working in the entertainment industry may have different expectations than one working in a law firm.

What to do if a candidate fails a pre-employment test

There may be an instance where you’re hiring, and a candidate looks great on paper. However, the results come back from your pre-employment test and it appears that one of your favorite candidates has less-than-stellar marks. According to ERE Recruiting, including a job fit score can make it easier to screen out high-risk candidates and save you time. However, it should be viewed as a valuable part of the process, not the be-all, end-all of hiring.

Often, candidates who pass through the entire process — a resume check, a recruiter’s screen, a face-to-face interview, and the pre-employment test — have potential as a successful candidate.

If there is a candidate who has not passed the pre-employment test but has potential elsewhere, they should not be written off completely. Working with the tool of the pre-employment test is beneficial, but sometimes trusting your gut can be useful, as well! The score may tell us how well the employee will work when compared to employees in similar roles, but it is key to remember that the world is malleable and things change. Read the report or summary of the tests after you’ve received the results, and make a well-rounded judgment. You may receive valuable insights into potential challenges an employee will have to overcome, and you can determine a plan to work with them.

Deciding to write off a candidate who has failed the pre-employment test might save you time, as EmployTest works with professionals in their fields, and follows the U.S. Department of Labor's Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection — but ultimately, it is a decision to make on an individual level. 

Telling a candidate about an interview test in advance

If a candidate is going to be taking an interview test in person, whether separately or on the same day as their in-person interview, they should definitely be prepared. The test will take extra time, and they may need to make sure they have the space allotted in their schedule. You want your candidates to succeed, and surprise tests may inhibit their best work.

If a candidate is taking a pre-employment test online, make sure that it is clearly communicated ahead of time what the expectations are — how long the test will take, and when they are available to complete it. This’ll allow a time frame for both the hiring manager and the applicant and will fit into both schedules. 

Questions to include in an executive assistant interview test

This is your chance to see what the applicant knows, so the questions are vital to determine if they will succeed in your work environment. Some possibilities from Indeed include:

  1. If a CEO, or manager, gave you confidential information, what would you do if another top-level executive asked you about it? A good answer will touch on the importance of maintaining confidentiality and discretion. You can determine whether they understand the gravity of confidentiality in the workplace, as well as if they’re comfortable with sensitive information.
  2. What software programs have you used in the past, and how familiar are you with them? Executive assistants are responsible for arranging meetings and keeping a lot of moving parts organized. They should be able to showcase their proficiency with top programs, computer literacy, and their ability to learn quickly.
  3. How do you deal with someone demanding to speak to a busy, or unavailable executive? This can showcase a candidate’s strengths to work under pressure, but also their customer service capabilities. The executive assistant is reflecting their boss, so they should remain cool and collected — but they also can’t be a pushover. Options include to take a message, give the customer an alternate contact to reach, or confirm that the executive will be in contact as soon as they’re available.

Determining the job description, communicating expectations with candidates, and brainstorming valuable questions are all steps in the hiring process. Using EmployTest can provide confidence when moving forward on executive assistant applicants.

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