Friday, September 9, 2011

Answering Reader Mail: What questions should I ask an interviewer when applying for an Executive Assistant position?

"I'm an avid reader. Your blog is fabulous! I hope more posts are on the way!

What questions should I ask an interviewer when applying for an Executive Assistant position? I do come prepared with questions. However, sometimes during an interview, the interviewer answers all of my questions during the conversation without me even asking. Then at the end of the interview, I'm stumped on what else to ask regarding the Executive Assistant position or their company. I feel as though if I don't ask, I'm not showing interest!"

Dear T,

Thank you for being an avid reader and for submitting a question! :) I hope my blogs have been helpful to you! Please also feel free to ask more questions and suggest topics. If you are on Twitter, I would love to follow you there as well!

The easy way to answer this question is to have you Google interview questions online. You can find a trove of them.

However, one of the best ways to approach forming questions is to ask yourself, "Is this the best fit for me?" Does the role align with your career goals, work/life balance needs, and your values? Not all roles are created equal and it's your job to approach each opportunity to vet them yourself. Your goal is to find out as much information as possible so there are few surprises and to have a sense of what the role is before you take it. Some good questions to ask might be:

-What is the breakdown of the role? Is it 50% event planning, 10% personal assistant work, and 40% executive assistant/admin work?

-Is this a position that I can receive more responsibilities after a year or two or get promoted within the department?

-With my background, what are some challenges I might face?

When you start brainstorming, you can also ask questions to help showcase your talents and skills better too. On the other hand, you can also lead into talking about projects or programs you may want to learn more about and get more experience with. An approach I use is to ask the question and then explain why I asked it. This way it becomes a dialogue instead of just and Q and A session. Here are two examples.

-Is the executive tech savvy? How tech savvy is the executive?
(They answer.)
The reason why I ask is because I’ve worked for a couple of older executives who were not as tech savvy. Some didn’t know how to type, some liked to write out their speeches by hand which I had to type, etc. So I’m open to “handholding” and understand how each executive works differently.

-Will I be using Excel a lot?
(They answer.)
The reason why I ask is because I am proficient in Word and Powerpoint, but I have the most experience with Excel and really enjoy doing spreadsheets and formulas.

-Are there any industry-specific programs I will need to learn?
(They answer.)
I’m always very eager to learn a new skill or become an expert in the programs I already know.

Finally, ask peripheral questions that are nonetheless important - about training, culture, and challenges with adapting. Since you should be taking notes during an interview, any new information you learn, you can ask questions for clarification or a more in-depth answer.

One type of question you may have overlooked are the “closer” questions.

-What is your hiring timeline?
-What are the next steps?
-May I have your business card before I go?

When I interview, I have a set of 15-20 questions ready, knowing I won’t get to them all or some of them may be answered along the way. I always bring a copy of the actual job description with me. I highlight certain things I didn’t understand or compare it to what they are telling me versus what HR wrote up. I bring notes of research I did on the company from wikipedia, current news, and visiting their website. I look for upcoming projects, their senior management org chart, industry news, and I research what sort of company culture they have. On average, it takes me about 2 hours to prepare for an interview.

Always remember to end the interview on a positive note by asking why they enjoy working at the company and to send a thank you card!

T, I hope this helps and thank you for being a loyal reader! :)

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