Chapter seven

Recruiting your replacement and saying goodbye graciously

You’ve landed your new dream role! What to do now? We cover the steps Assistants need to take before they start their new role.

So you’ve landed the perfect role, and you are ready to move on to your next adventure. Congratulations!

Here are the steps Assistants need to take when saying goodbye to their Executive and leaving graciously. We will cover: 

5 things Assistants should consider before accepting a new role

So you’ve aced your interview and you’ve been offered the job. How exciting! There are, however, a few things you should consider before accepting a new role. Here are my top 5 considerations…

1. On a scale of 1-10 how excited are you really?

I asked this question because you can get easily swept up in the all of the excitement that comes with a new role. Your new employer may have done a fantastic job selling the role and the organisation to you, the new job may have come with a huge pay increase and you’ve started spending the money in your head already, or you may hate your current role so much anything to get out of there is worth taking.

But wait… Stop… Take a moment to reflect on your true feelings. Is the role perfect? If not, weigh up the pros and cons and make sure you really are making the right choice. The excitement only lasts so long!

2. The culture

This is really important, you must consider the culture of the organisation. If you didn’t ask this question during the interview process, you can always ask to speak to your potential employer again to get a view of the culture. Once you get some details do take the time to think about how this reflects your personality.

Is the office a crazy mad start up with lots of Millenials running round make snap decisions – is that really your work style? Is it a quiet law firm with strict regulations and procedures that must be followed – would that stifle your creativity? Whatever the culture is, make sure you are happy to work within it.

3. The future of your role and the company

Again, this is a subject that you should raise during the interview process. What is the future of your role within the organisation and what are the overall objectives of the organisation? Your potential employer should happily give you an overview of where they see your role going and hopefully suggest there is lots of room for you to grow.

The organisation should, firstly, have objectives and, secondly, they should give you confidence in the security of your job. If your employer doesn’t really answer these questions it should give you pause for thought before accepting the role.

4. The relationship between you and your Executive

As an Assistant you have to work very closely with your Executive(s). It is really important that you get on and can work well together. Obviously, this is a little difficult to tell during the interview process, but if you ask the right questions you should get an insight into their personality.

Before accepting the job do consider if you can work closely with this person. If you are not sure, it might not be the best role for you.

5. Salary and reward

I put salary and reward last because although it is important (it made my top 5 after all!) it is not as important as some other considerations. At the end of the day, we all work to pay our bills and have a roof over our head. This goes without saying.

But, once you get past the salary you need to live comfortably there are other considerations because it can be hard to stay in a role you hate despite the pay being good. Reward packages are slightly different. I think it is important to consider the benefits offered by the employer because that reflects how they treat their staff.

Make sure you have a good look through your benefit package and consider what impact it has on your life. If the rewards and salary do make a big difference, but the role isn’t great, make sure you can cope with the pressure that can come from not particularly enjoying your job.

Actions to take when you resign from your Assistant role

The first thing to remember is that this happens all the time. Leaving an organisation for a new role is common, and most people change positions a few times in their career. It is tough for Assistants to resign because we work so closely with our Executives, and we do form a solid team. But, when you are ready to move on, you have to have that awkward conversation. Here are a few things to consider when you resign.

Say thank you
Even when you hated the job. There isn’t any point burning bridges. Be gracious, say thanks for the opportunity and the new skills you learned while working there.

Think about the explanation you are going to give
Why are you leaving? You are going to get asked this question so prepare an answer that will come some way to explaining your reasons. Be honest but don’t go into too much detail.

Offer to help with the transition and recruiting your replacement
We will cover this in greater detail later in the chapter. But, do offer to assist with the change and make sure everything is organised when you leave.

Work your notice
Before you hand in your resignation, if you don’t know, check the length of your notice period. If it is a minimum of two weeks great, but it might be three months, and you will have to plan accordingly. If you would like your notice period to be shorter than the time stated in your contract you can negotiate this. Speak to your Executive and your HR department.

Prepare a resignation letter
Stating your intentions to leave, a brief explanation of why you are moving, a note of thanks for the opportunities and a date that you would like to leave the organisation.

Recruiting your replacement – where do you start?

When I started researching this topic, I found a whole load of articles on why businesses should never, and I mean NEVER, let the incumbent member of staff recruit their replacement. There were a whole load of reasons that I kinda agreed with, but from experience, this is something that a lot of Assistants have done in their career and will do in the future. I’ve had to recruit my replacement twice.

Once when I was promoted and hired a replacement Administrator who I line managed and secondly when I was leaving the role to move to a different business. I have also been interviewed a handful of times by an EA who was leaving the position.

To give you an example of why you shouldn’t probably recruit your replacement, I was once told by an EA interviewing me ‘you seem nice, please don’t take this role it is awful!’ I left the interview pretty quickly!

So while it might not be the best idea for your organisation to ask you to recruit your replacement, it is something that you might get asked to do before you leave for pastures new.

There are some benefits to the process for you. Here are a few:

  • You get to leave your old position knowing that you have handed the role over to someone capable
  • You know that you’ve left your Executive in good hands, which means you can ask for that amazing reference in the future
  • You haven’t burnt any bridges. You’ve left on a positive note which is always an excellent way to leave your old employer
  • You are part of the recruitment process, which is a great skill to add to your toolkit.

So, if you have been asked to recruit your replacement and you haven’t hired a new member of staff before. Where do you start? Here are a few tips.

  • Meet with HR straight away so that they are part of the process. You will need to work with them on the recruitment, interview and offer stages.
  • Arrange a meeting with your Executive about the replacement and ask the following questions:
    • What are the objectives or this new recruitment?
    • Is it a like for like replacement or do you want to recruit a new Assistant who has different skills?
  • Is the job description still relevant for this new role? Can you update it so that the new Assistant has more clarity around the tasks and responsibilities?
  • Can you recommend any recruitment agencies that you have worked with in the past that understand the Assistant role? You can put these forward to your HR team so that they don’t just rely on their standard recruitment practices.
  • Are you going to promote the role on LinkedIn or other social media? What can you say on your profile that will help promote the job?
  • Can you recruit internally? Is there anyone you know who would be perfect for replacing you or has the potential to grow into the role?
  • Once you start receiving applications make sure you take the time to review each one thoroughly, these are people looking for a new role which could be life changing, so do give them your time and attention. Look for the obvious skills and requirements but try to get a sense if their personality will fit well with your Executive. It might be easier to gain this sort of level of detail by looking at their LinkedIn profile.

The Interview Process

Once you have selected your candidates, you will need to interview them. Depending on the level of the role the candidates might have to go through a series of interviews, but you should interview the candidate with your HR colleague (this is important if you haven’t conducted an interview before) and then do a second round of interviews with your Executive. There are loads of great resources out there to help you hold your interview but here are a few tips that I found useful:

  • Be prepared. It is your role, so you will know everything there is to know about the position but plan out how you want to portray it to someone coming into the organisation for the first time.
  • Everyone will be nervous; you will be if it is your first time conducting an interview and of course the candidate will be too, so make sure you put the candidate at ease as soon as you can so that you can start to relax. Although you are there to interview the person, they are a fellow Assistant so you should have their back and make them feel comfortable.
  • Make sure you listen more than you speak. You might love the role and want them to know everything about the office, the culture, your boss but it is their interview so make sure you let them do most of the talking!
  • The ideal candidate might not be who you expect from the applications you received so try to remain flexible and give everyone an opportunity to shine. You might end up selecting the candidate who has potential over someone who has all the skills upfront.

Onboarding your replacement

Once you have hired your replacement, it is likely that you will have to onboard them so do make sure that you have a look over the onboarding process and add any additional details that you think will set the new Assistant off on the right foot. Think back to your onboarding experience and try to write down all of the answers to the questions that you had when you started. This will mean that the new Assistant will hit the ground running and you can leave knowing that you have done an excellent job recruiting your replacement.

Thank you for reading our guide! 

We hope you find the guide useful and that it helps you on your journey to finding a new Assistant role. The sky is the limit! 

This guide will always be free for Assistants.

We also have free content on the Practically Perfect PA blog. and we a have a Career Development Online Course, which is full of great sessions on how to develop your personal and professional life while working as a Personal or Executive Assistant.