The whole process may be daunting if you haven’t looked for a new role in a while. Firstly, you will probably have to apply to an agency first through an online application. You then have to cross your fingers, hoping that your CV passes through whatever keyword algorithm they have that matches your CV with your potential employer’s job spec.
This in itself can put anyone off applying for a new role.
But! Don’t let the keyword algorithm scare you! Get that CV out, dust off the cobwebs, and ensure you have the right keywords to land your perfect PA role. Starting building a brilliant CV for Personal and Executive Assistants!
So many searches can be performed when trying to find that perfect candidate.
The requirements vary depending on what the employer is looking for, and there are pros and cons of doing extensive searches and more narrow searches.
When looking for an experienced Assistant for a more ‘traditional’ supporting role, recruiters often begin their search with the following:
(‘Executive Assistant’ or ‘EA’ or ‘Business Assistant’ or ‘PA’ or ‘Personal Assistant’) AND (‘Founder’ or ‘CEO’ or ‘Chairman’)
Depending on whether the opportunity is business or personal, recruiters may search the following:
(‘PA’ or ‘Private Assistant’ or ‘Household Assistant’) AND (‘Celebrity’ or ‘HNWI’ or ‘UHNIW’)
It is always a good idea when writing a CV that you state the position of the Executive that you supported and the industry. In addition to the above, recruiters will search for specific industries too:
(‘PA’ or ‘Personal Assistant’) AND (‘advertising agency’ or ‘Media Agency’)
Recruiters can add as many industry variations here in these brackets.
Similarly, they will also search for specific computer packages or languages or anything else that is a prerequisite for the position:
(PA or ‘Personal Assistant’) and ‘PowerPoint’ / (‘PA’ or ‘Personal Assistant’) AND (‘Spanish’)
Recruiters find that more and more clients with roles supporting at that very senior level ask for experienced EAs from top universities. So we need to search for academics as well as experience.
To search for candidates with strong academics, recruiters go about this two ways – searching for top educational institutions or searching for candidates for post-graduate qualifications.
When searching for candidates who have studied at the top educational institutions, we would search as below. This is an example search looking for candidates from the top universities across the UK and Europe:
(‘PA’ or ‘personal assistant’ or ‘EA’ or ‘Executive Assistant’) AND (‘The University of Oxford’ or ‘University of Cambridge’ or ‘Imperial College London’ or ‘University College London’)
When searching for candidates with top university degrees, recruiters might restrict the search further and look for candidates with first-class degree qualifications. Candidates will write this one of two ways on their CV: First class or 1st class. So the search would look something like this:
(‘PA’ or ‘personal assistant’ or ‘EA’ or ‘executive assistant’) AND (‘University of Oxford’ or ‘University of Cambridge’ or ‘Imperial College London’ or ‘University College London’ or ‘Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich’ or ‘Heidelberg University’ or ‘University of Edinburgh’) AND (‘first-class’ or ‘1st class’ or ‘first-class’)
This search does not necessarily produce the desired results every time, as there will be candidates who have perhaps worked at one of these institutions or have used the words “first-class” when discussing a particular skill set.
Advice to Assistants would be to write it as “1st class” as this seems to be the most common way of displaying this qualification result. Using “first-class” (with the hyphen) potentially is too uncommon for all recruiters to include this in their search.
If, for instance, recruiters want Assistants with post-graduate qualifications, we would search for either “masters” or the specific abbreviation for a master qualification. There are many, but we would perhaps look for the most relevant ones: MA OR MSc OR MBA.
I would suggest candidates with post-graduate qualifications use the word Masters – perhaps in their profile when discussing their level of qualification – and the specific abbreviation for their type of Masters in their educational history.
They could also go one step further and use “post-graduate” in their CV.
A search for this would look something like this:
(‘PA’ or ‘personal assistant’ or ‘EA’ or ‘executive assistant’) AND (‘post-graduate’ or ‘post-graduate’ or ‘MA’ or ‘MSc’ or ‘MBA’ or ‘masters’)
(‘PA’ or ‘personal assistant’ or ‘EA’ or ‘executive assistant’) AND (‘academics’ or ‘principal’ or ‘professor’ or ‘educational’)
Alternatively, recruiters may look to pick the top institutions in a specific location, such as:
(‘PA’ or ‘personal assistant’ or ‘EA’ or ‘executive assistant’) AND (‘London School of Economics’ or ‘Imperial College London’)
The difficulty for recruiters with these searches is that they risk finding many candidates who have just studied at these locations.
So, if Assistants can make themselves stand out by using multiple keywords for their chosen industry, they have the opportunity to make themselves more visible.
The key for candidates is to try and include as many relevant keyword searches in their CV.
Job boards will often filter candidates by the most relevant first. It will either be done by this or filtered by the date you last logged in or registered.
The relevancy is based on a keyword search from the CV.
So, if an Assistant is seeking work in a particular industry – in this case, academics – they should try to include as many keywords in their profile as possible (such as ‘academics’ or ‘educational’ or ‘educational establishment’).
It’s key to make it clear in the profile that you are seeking work in your relevant industry (if that is the case), and that is one of the best areas of your CV to include these keywords.
Your second opportunity is within your Career History. For instance, rather than calling yourself an EA or PA, consider putting who you support (if this is industry-relevant), for instance, ‘PA to Professor’.