Following in our series of blog posts concentrating on interview techniques for Assistants this is our interview questions and answers for PAs, EAs and Administrators part 2.
In the first blog post of the series, I looked at some of the common questions interviewers ask potential employees and the answers I would give if I was in the interview. The examples are personal to me and my work experience as an Executive Assistant but, hopefully, the questions and answers will help you prepare for your next Assistant interview.
Can you tell me a problem you have had to deal with?
You should refer back to your core PA/EA skills for this one. This question is asking you to demonstrate which skills you call on to resolve problems. I always use the following example
“I held a training seminar and Committee meeting on the day that the second planned terrorist attack occurred in London in 2007. Fortunately, the police managed to stop the would-be terrorists, but it did lead to chaos on the transport network. Many of the delegates were worried about getting home. For everyone that arrived for the seminar, I was able to offer them a safe and calm environment. We wheeled TVs into the catering area so that on the breaks they could keep up with events and make a judgement call if they needed to leave at any point. We also organised taxis for people to get around London and offered them free use of our restaurant if they needed to stay longer than planned. Luckily, the speaker arrived on time for the event, although a little flustered so we made sure everything was ready as soon as he arrived. The Committee meeting was one step too far, and we cancelled that for another day. It was difficult and chaotic but remaining calm, organised and took control of the situation as a team helped solve the problem which in the end was totally out of our hands.”
What have been your most significant achievements?
I like to mix a business and personal achievement together to answer this question. It is a nice question to be asked as you can reveal a bit more about yourself personally along with the chance to toot your own horn.
“I think my biggest achievement to date is completing university. My mum couldn’t afford to pay for me, so I got a job in a bank and worked 4 days a week to support myself through my studies. It was hard work but I learnt a lot and had a great job on my CV as soon as I finished my degree”.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
I’ve always found this question hard to answer in interviews because I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up! Some advise a previous manager gave to me was excellent and I have used this as my answer ever since.
“I see myself working as an Executive Assistant because I do enjoy the job but I hope to have perfected my skills and am in a position where I can use my talents but also still challenge and stretch myself. I hope to still be learning new things in 5 years time.”
Tell me what you know about this organisation?
I hate this question, it always reminds me of those awkward interviews on The Apprentice!
I think it is really obvious if you haven’t done your research and you are trying to trick your way through this question. I would strongly advise that at the very least spend some time looking at the Company’s website to gain an understanding of what they do.
I also suggest you find out the names of the interviewers and see if they have a LinkedIn profile you can view, or just Google them to see if they have a biography available online. If you have a personal connection to the Company make sure to let the interviewer know. I was lucky that my mother had worked at a company where I was also applying for a role, it was a definite bonus point when I told the interviewer.
What do you think you can contribute to this company?
This is the question that allows you to really sell yourself.
Look through the job description and pick out the key attributes required for the role, this should form your answer.
“I’m incredibly hard-working, focused and organised, so I am able to get through a lot of work quickly. I also have advanced IT skills so I can support senior members of staff with their work while also managing a range of other tasks. I am proactive so I am good at finding ways of delivering better services and anticipating any problems that might come up. I can be very flexible so happy to help others in my team. I’m also quite sociable and like to organise nights out and other team building activities.”
Random question – what three words would your friends, manager and family use to describe you?
Most interviewers will ask you a random question that is really only raised to see how you cope with the unexpected. I’ve been asked a few in my time and have normally answered with a humorous reply.
One type of question that is quite common involves asking you to describe how other people see you. So for example, in answer to the question “What three words would your friends use to describe you?” I would say something that reflects my personality but also refers back to the skills requested in the job description.
“Loyal, organised and trustworthy”
There are loads more questions that are likely to come up in an interview but hopefully, this blog will help you be slightly more prepared. If you have researched the company and thought about answers to the standard questions you should walk into the interview with a bit more confidence land your dream job!
Looking for a new job? Download our ebook now.
There is a great deal more you can read to help you prepare for your PA interview, but the questions above will give you an excellent place to start.
Once you’ve worked through this blog post, I would highly recommend you check out our eBook ‘Preparing for the perfect PA job‘ which is perfect for anyone looking for their next Personal Assistant role.