Secretaries, PAs, EAs and professional administrators are, for many businesses, the true unsung heroes. Without support staff to manage diaries, coordinate business travel, and generally keep everyone organised – many businesses would fall into disarray within hours. Their tasks are more often than not completed under extreme pressure, juggled with various other responsibilities and prioritised to tight deadlines.
The majority of candidates we meet on a daily basis have incredibly challenging roles.
Fewer have the skills to meet these challenges.
Fewer still can communicate these attributes in an interview scenario.
But when these traits are key to securing a fantastic role, you’d probably agree that it’s helpful to know which are the most sought after, and how you might communicate them to prospective employers. If you have a little work to do, just speak to us about training: upskilling shows initiative and will be favourably regarded by prospective employers!
1. Calm under pressure
The EAs, PAs and secretaries we see who are at the top of their game all have this in common. Supporting senior management means no day is ever the same. Demands are made of you (sometimes seemingly ridiculous), but you know that even the toughest problems have solutions. Remaining calm under pressure will also likely mean you’re a creative thinker who can think on your feet.
Interview tip: As you describe previous roles and responsibilities, don’t forget to weave in examples of the ways in which you might have been performing under pressure, giving details of deadlines and responsibility.
It’s 10am on a Tuesday, you have to get these meeting minutes typed up but a client has unexpectedly turned up while your boss is in a meeting. Their partner has also just called you with a home emergency. How do you manage, all the while with the phone ringing and email requests flooding the inbox? You do, because you can multi-task.
Interview tip: Unprompted, describe a typical day in the office, ensuring you outline the breadth of the tasks you’re responsible for and the timeframes in which you complete them.
3. Eye for detail
This one goes without saying, but really consider how you normally approach your work: Do you double check and triple check diary invites, email addresses, and meeting agendas before they’re finalised? It may sound ludicrous, but realistically your role requires attention to detail because you’re working with highly senior executives who demand nothing less than perfect.
Interview tip: If faced with a behavioural-based question, describe in detail the planning and preparation you’d take on before completing a task.
4. (Another level) organised
With conflicting priorities to manage, an ever-growing to-do list to stay on top of, and three inboxes to maintain, your organisational skills are on another level. Every single minute of your working day is productive – even the walk between meetings. That might mean compartmentalising, it could involve delegation or it’s possibly just your own zany way that no one else understands but works for you.
Interview tip: You could show off your organisational expertise by describing it. But frankly, it will be evident to anyone by being ten minutes early for your interviews, by your calm demeanour, and by producing a clean notepad and pen as you take a seat.
5. Technical prowess
You’re the boss of Word shortcuts, PowerPoint graphics and Excel formulas. No one knows Outlook like you do, and you can even draw on a bit of shorthand when need be. You enjoy learning new features of the MS office suite because you know that it’s the best way to be most efficient in your role. It makes you an invaluable person to have around, not to mention the go-to person in a crisis.
Interview tip: Keep your skills testing results up-to-date, upskilling if needed, and offer to share the results with your interviewer.