Over the last few years I’ve changed employers a number of times and so have had to face quite a few interviews. After finishing university in 2003 I was lucky because there were plenty of jobs available in London. I went for one interview at a global accountancy firm and had a full-time permanent role as a team administrator straight away. However, this just isn’t the case anymore. I decided to leave my previous employee in June 2010 but was job hunting for 6 months and when I did get the role I am in currently I had to complete a detailed application form, attend three interviews and sit two psychometric tests (for language and numerical skills).

These days’ employers are inundated with job applications therefore you have to be prepared to sell yourself and stand out from the crowd.  So what happens when you do land that all important first interview?

I’ve always found the best way to prepare for an interview is to think about the subjects you will cover. Let’s face it, there are always going to be a set of standard questions you will be asked, so you should prepare the answer before you go in to the interview. I don’t think you should come across as false but I do think you should be rehearsed.

Over the next two blogs I will look at some of the common questions interviewers ask and the answers I would give if I had an interview, the examples are personal to me but hopefully will help you think about how you structure your answers.

  1. Tell me about yourself?

When this question comes up, which it always does, I keep the answer specific to my career and very succinct (if you don’t know your career history know one will!)

 “After leaving University in 2003 I accepted my first full-time role at Deloitte and spent a year and a half there as a team administrator. During this time, I came to realise that I loved working in the support staff team and moved from there to my next role as Personal Assistant and Administrator at the ICAEW. I worked at the ICAEW for 3 and a half years and in that time was promoted to an Account Manager where I looked after 12 Committees and supervised one administrator. Unfortunately, I was made redundant but successfully moved on to my next role as a PA to the Business Assurance Director at Lloyd’s Register. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this role and learnt a great deal but was fortunate to be targeted for my next role at BMS where I am currently Executive Assistant to the COO, CFO and Company Secretary”

  1. Why do you want to leave your current job?

Unless you have been made redundant, which is a common answer these days unfortunately, this question can result in quite a negative answer. There is the temptation to have a bit of a moan about your current /previous employee but I really recommend you try to find a positive answer to this. Having conducted interviews in the past there is nothing worse than hearing someone complain about their last job, it just sounds unprofessional.

“For a long time I really enjoyed working for my current employee and I have felt that I learnt a lot from the role and also from my manager. However, the job is limited and doesn’t provide me with much room to grow (you can expand this for what ever reason fits your circumstances). I feel that this position will give me the opportunity to expand my skill set and also move forward in my career.”

  1. What are your strengths?

You should refer back to your core PA/ EA skills for this one.  Also think about the environment you will be working in, if it is a fast paced commercial company mention that you are not easily flustered, if it is a traditional company with methodical and precise working methods state that you are organised and have a real eye for detail. During my most recent interview for an Insurance company, I said:

 “I’m very organised, I don’t get stressed out easily and can deal with most situations. I’m also very intuitive and can juggle lots of different tasks”.

  1. What are your weaknesses?

This is a tricky question because you should try to sell yourself in an interview not dwell on your bad points. I always try to turn this question from a negative answer into a positive, note that you have a flaw but tell the interviewers what you have done to overcome it.

“In my previous role I had to work with a lot of strong-minded and opinionated consultants and found that I lacked the ability to be assertive with them and sometimes I felt they were able to get me to do work that I was uncomfortable with. After discussing this with my Manager I attended an assertiveness course and gain the training I needed to deal with them. I find it hard to say no. It is a work in progress but I am getting there”.

  1. What are the most satisfying and the most frustrating aspects of your present job?

Again try to remain diplomatic with this question. For the “satisfying” part of the question refers back to aspects of your role that will benefit your potential employee and for the “frustrating” part think about the new role and how it will improve your career and working environment. Don’t make the frustrating aspect personal to anyone, make it about the company environment.

“The most satisfying aspect of my role is being able to help the executives make informed decisions that affect the rest of the Company. I enjoy working with and supporting successful people at the top-level of their career. The most frustrating aspect is the slow pace in the office and it can be difficult to get things done on occasions.”

Have you had questions like this come up before in interviews, if so, how did you answer them? In my next blog I will look at a few more standard questions and share my thoughts on answering them.

Interview Q&A Blogs

Interview Questions and Answers for PAs, EAs and Admins Part 6

In my last blog I wrote about interview questions regarding career development and a few example answers.

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Interview questions and answers for assistants part 5

Interview questions and answers for assistants part 5

I’ve written four blog posts on interview questions specific to PAs, EAs and Administrative Assistants and they are all extremely popular so […]

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What questions should assistants ask at an interview?

So you’ve bagged a job interview, you’ve picked your outfit, you’ve researched the company and planned a few answers. You’ve […]

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Interview Questions and Answers for PAs, EAs and Admins Part 4

Following on from Monday’s blog here are another five interview question and answers specifically for assistants.

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Interview Questions and Answers for PAs, EAs and Administrators Part 3

I’ve written two blog posts on interview questions specific to PAs, EAs and admin assistants and they have both proved […]

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Interview Questions and Answers for PAs, EAs and Administrators Part 2

In my previous blog I looked at some of the  common questions interviewers ask and the answers I would give […]

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  • Randy Pena December 5, 2011   Reply →

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  • Mehwish December 6, 2011   Reply →

    Your blog n questions are very helpful; I had my lasr interview with Welch Allyn, same typical questions about work but unfortunately my answer about leaving my present job dint satisfied them bcuz I resigned from pool after my position became redundant; I have been on small asignments but with pathetic treatment…well better luck next tym….thnx newy keep on posting

  • Hi, Thanks so much for this blog, this blog is going to be helpful for people like me that did not have much experience on PA job. Please l need more advice and assistant on been as Executive Assistant/Personal Assistant, kindly assist with some good information and advice for this position. Thanks.

  • family vacation spots December 14, 2011   Reply →

    You got a really useful blog. I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.
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  • Wing April 18, 2013   Reply →

    I love your blog! Many thanks for sharing your experience and a lot of tips.

  • Hoda May 20, 2013   Reply →

    Thank you thats realy helpful a loooot.

  • ogo val January 30, 2014   Reply →

    Wonderful piece. very helpful.

  • Personal Blog June 5, 2014   Reply →

    Personal Assistant Interview Answers

    […] count Manager where I looked after 12 Committees and supervised one administrato […]

  • tessy September 7, 2014   Reply →

    I do have an interview tomorrow and I think you have helped me a great deal.thank you so much and I look forward to more article. You penned your word in an understanding manner,easy to comprehend. It sank in so well.

  • Jo March 27, 2015   Reply →

    What a great website, whilst I sadly didn’t get the last job I applied for your website has really made me aware of where I need to improve and has offered some great pointers, many thanks!

  • Faatiegha Valentine April 15, 2015   Reply →

    Hi there.

    I am an Extremely good PA/Administrator but I find it really difficult when I goo for interviews.

    My main problem is I freeze and then toggle up the wrong answers this is really frustrating.

    When I’m on the job I never disappoint but I suppose I’m always just waiting for the opportunity to proof myself.

    How do I fix this.

  • Anonymous June 22, 2015   Reply →

    Thank you very much for these great tips and advice!!!

  • Sumedha June 22, 2015   Reply →

    Thank you very much for these great tips and advice!!

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