I’ve written four blog posts on interview questions specific to PAs, EAs and Administrative Assistants and they are all extremely popular so I thought I’d add another ten questions that I have been asked at various interviews over the years and my answers. This time I will focus on two specific interview questions – career development and scenario based questions. Firstly lets look at career development questions:
1. What are you looking for in your career development?
This question is always difficult for assistants to answer because firstly you don’t want to answer in a way that suggests you are using the job as a stepping stone to something better and secondly that you are lacking ambition. Your answer wants to land somewhere in the middle of ‘just an assistant’ territory and world domination. I like this answer:
“I want to progressively earn more responsibility and participate in more projects and activities over time. I would like to manage a team at some point and lead projects. I would like my career development to reflect the new challenges I am setting myself. So ideally I’d like to attend courses or have some time for self-study so that I can learn new skills which will progress my career and benefit the organisation as a whole.”
2. What professional development activities have you completed in previous roles and what do you do outside of work to further your career?
If you have completed any courses at a previous employer then here is your time to shine. Let the employer know what you have achieved and do take pride in what your career development, it will make you look like you really care about your career and take it seriously. If you are new to the profession or haven’t had the chance then I would emphasis the skills I already have by saying:
“I am constantly looking to improve my skills. My IT skills have improved greatly and are now very strong and over the years my interpersonal skills have grown as I work with different people at all levels of the company. I haven’t had the opportunity to complete any formal training but I do keep up to date with the industry by reading lots of articles on LinkedIn and other publications for assistants (like Practically Perfect PA!). I am very open to additional training and would love the opportunity to develop myself further.”
3. What has been your biggest professional disappointment?
Oh, this is a horrible question! It is, however, fairly common so don’t let this question get the better of you. Don’t whatever you do give an example of something that was completely your fault and caused a lot of problems – like that time you forgot to organise your manager’s VISA to Russia and they ended up in prison. Yes it is a funny story but not one to share with your new employer! Instead, describe something that was not in your control, that had an impact on you personally, how you got over it and what positive outcomes you have taken from the experience.
4. Do you consider yourself to be successful?
Yes should be the only answer to this question but a little humour will help you answer without sounding like an egomaniac. Think of an example that shows you achieving more than your role required, such as that great event you managed or the extremely complex trip you organised for your Executive. With any example that you use demonstrate that you set yourself objective and goals, which you worked really hard to achieve and that you are proud of your successes. If you are applying for your first assistant role refer back to your studies, this would be my example:
“During University I worked part time while completing my course. I had to balance my studies with a part time role that ultimately paid for my education. I learnt very quickly how to manage my time so that I didn’t neglect my job or my studies. I am proud that I managed to achieve my results while gaining work experiences that will help me in my chosen career. I feel like my time at university has given me the confidence to be successful in the future.”
5. Give me an example of a goal that you set yourself and how you went about achieving it?
The example could be something personal like completing your first marathon or it could be work related – either way make sure you pick something that really gives you a chance to shine. If you do decide to use an example from your career, make sure you mention the impact on your career development and what you have learnt as a result. I would say something like:
“After a few years working as a Personal Assistant I really wanted to take the next step and move up to an Executive Assistant working with board level directors. I felt this was the best way for me to move forward in my career so I set myself a challenge to achieve the promotion within two years. Firstly I made sure that I was getting all of the basic functions of my role right and that I was able to complete every fundamental task easily and quickly. Once I had procedures in place to deal with my administrative tasks I started to ask for more challenging tasks. My manager knew that I was capable of taking on more work so asked me to help out on various business-wide projects. I worked really hard to ensure that on each of these projects people knew who I was, what I was capable of and that I was willing to work really hard. Just after a year and a half I was headhunted by a board level director to work as their Executive Assistant. I was really pleased with my success. Setting that goal not only meant I received a promotion but I picked up many new skills along the way.”
In my next blog I will look at those dreaded scenario based questions.