Identifying and hiring the best qualified staff-level executive assistant is not something that most employers should do on their own. Rather, the process should be facilitated by an executive search firm, preferably one that specializes in hiring candidates who best meet the specified criteria.
Smart Business spoke with Andra Staggs, a customer development manager at Delta Dallas Staffing, about the value of a staff-level executive assistant to a company, why the selection of that person should not be left to chance and how an executive search firm can help in the process.
What should be considered when hiring an executive assistant for senior staff?
Tenure, experience and skill sets are all important factors to consider in the search process.
Hands-on experience supporting the same or higher-level executive helps provide the knowledge that would be difficult for an inexperienced assistant to possess. Most executive assistants at this level have advanced skills in office programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and typing. Testing these skills and checking references provided by applicants are mandatory. A credit check should be done as well.
Those types of tasks are second nature to executive search consultants, whereas they might not be for employers.
What are some standard character traits sought in staff-level executive assistants?
Client relations skills are very important. Many executive assistants at this level have heavy contact with external clients, internal employees and community organization leaders.
Staff-level executive assistants often compose complex correspondence. For this reason, they should have strong writing skills.
Another important consideration is mastery of industry-specific skill set requirements. Most standard responsibilities involve heavy calendar management, meeting coordination, event planning and travel coordination.
Strong proficiency in technology such as trouble-shooting computer issues and working with mobile devices are important considerations.
Possibly the most important criterion is the need for confidentiality, since executive assistants may be entrusted with trade secrets, critical financial data and other classified information.
How do clients benefit from retaining executive search firms in hiring these positions?
One of the main objectives with any new hire is to have the relationship start off on the right foot. Executive recruiters help ensure a good start because they are responsible for the due diligence and negotiations that involve areas of sensitivity for both the company and the candidate.
Pre-screening of candidates is obviously big, because only the top two to three candidates have to be interviewed by the executive. All should have the experience, skill and personality that match the company’s and executive’s needs.
Another advantage of using executive recruiters is that they have access to candidates who are employed and who do not have their résumés posted on the Internet.
Another important benefit is that most good executive recruiters guarantee the skills and qualifications of the candidates they identify and present.
Is every search for a staff-level executive assistant treated as a new search?
Each search should be geared specifically toward a particular individual who is best suited for the client’s unique corporate culture. Ideally, the executive search consultant meets in person with each client to find out what is important to them. This meeting allows the consultant to take the specifics of the job and get an idea of intangible qualities that are also important in the search, such as personality traits.
What criteria should a company apply when retaining an executive search firm?
Companies should look for a search firm with a track record of success in identifying and placing the best qualified candidates. Ask for references.
Good recruiters will request a face-to-face meeting. Recruiters are able to make much better matches when they have met the executive and seen the environment. Have someone visit the recruiter’s office to verify the level of professionalism necessary to attract the type of individual you need.
Choosing the right executive search firm is as important as choosing the right person for the position.
ANDRA STAGGS is a customer development manager specializing in executive administrative assistant placement with Delta Dallas Staffing. Reach her at email@example.com or (972) 788-2300.