So you’ve secured an interview for your dream job. All you need to do now is smash that interview and leave them in no doubt you’re the right person for the job!
I can’t stress this enough – preparation is key to making a good impression. A potential employer will expect you to do your research, know a little bit about the company and to confidently talk about yourself and what you can offer.
I’ve interviewed people – and been interviewed – many times. Below is a series of interview questions I have used to interview prospective PAs and Administrators. Try answering them to help you prepare. I’ve also included some example answers – clearly you’ll need to personalise these to suit you. Good luck!!
Head over to our Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/ExecAngelsNetwork and let us know how you get on! You’ll also find heaps of encouragement here from fellow members.
How candidates see themselves:
- Tell us about yourself and your background.
This is an opportunity to provide a brief summary of your employment history and what you’ve got to offer.
For example: I have 20 years experience working as a high level Administrator. I began my career working as PA at the University of Leeds, where I was fortunate to work across a number of different departments and learn a wide range of office skills. From there I was promoted to a Committee Secretary, looking after 8 Committees, and I supported the PA to the director, whilst studying for my degree in Business Management. I was targeted to join the Rugby Football League as an Executive Assistant to their Chairman, specialising in running the various Committee forums and minute-taking. I’ve enjoyed an exciting career here working in the sports and media industry, communicating with everyone from customers to government agencies, and I’ve also worked as EA to the company’s CEO and the CEO of the Rugby League World Cup.
- What can you bring to this role?
What are they specifically looking for in the job description (i.e. do they list any “essential/specialist skills” required)? If they do, how do you match them? What can you offer that puts you over and above the other candidates?
- Skills: I have experience in XX, but I have also undertaken additional courses in YY to further my professional development and I am keen to bring these skills to my new role.
- Personal: I have a naturally warm personality / engage easily with people from all walks of life / always remain calm under pressure in stressful circumstances / I’m confident I could make a difference.
- What sort of personality are you?
- Extremely hard-working and reliable (give an example – in my previous role I worked extra hours / commuted for 2 hours each day and never let my employers down / never missed a deadline for XYZ).
- Motivated (initiated a particular project / showed enthusiasm to take on XYZ).
- Team spirited (give an example of a positive team experience)
- Diligent (attention to detail / meticulous in everything I produce)
- Organised (initiated excellent diary management / co-ordinated a project / run the office smoothly / planned complex travel)
- Good with people (who have you liaised with – what feedback to you get from them that you could share?).
- What are you good at? What are your strengths?
Again, search the job description for clues as to what they are looking for. Give an example for every strength you list, e.g.
- Ability to relate to a wide range of people;
- Reliable and excellent work ethic;
- Ability to use initiative;
- Ability to multi-task and work under pressure;
- Attention to detail;
- Excellent customer service skills.
- What 3 major qualities do you possess? How will they help in this job?
This links to the previous question and you could include any of your examples above. You may also consider things such as:
- ambitious/keen to learn (give examples of professional development);
- strong organisation skills (give example of anything you’ve coordinated and how it benefitted your workplace);
- positive personality and “can do” attitude.
- What are your weaknesses?
This demonstrates your ability to be self-honest. There might be an area of work where you’re less knowledgeable and would like to undertake some further training to improve.
- How have you been effective in your work?
Give an example of where you’ve done something to specifically help your workplace or an incident where you have gone above and beyond to help.
- How do you behave in a crisis/when under pressure?
Executive Assistants have a very stressful role and are generally calm under pressure and used to working in challenging environments – give an example of when you’ve had to do this.
- What motivates you?
Why do you do this role – a desire to build a rewarding career, to work in a specific industry, to create order out of chaos?!
- Tell me about a time when you demonstrated your leadership style?
Can you give an example of where you had to take charge of a project or situation – be specific in any decisions you had to make and how you went about doing this?
How Candidates Interact with Others
- What sort of people do you most like working/associating with?
Talk a couple of your colleagues, customers or even bosses – why did they appeal to you and what did you enjoy about working them? Were they fun, collaborative, motivating, challenging?
- When have you had to do something that was difficult or unpopular?
Here you could use an example such as when you’ve had to rearrange diaries last minute, deal with events running behind schedule, manage aggrieved customers. How did you handle it (e.g. remain calm / seek assistance / find a solution to appease them)?
- How have you handled a difficult person?
Similar to the question above, this is an opportunity to say how you’ve diffused a situation with a difficult customer, or a difficult and stressed-out boss even! How were you supportive?
- How well do you fit into a group/team situation? Do you prefer working in a team or alone?
You could say your workmates would describe you as XXX (e.g. good humoured, patient, flexible). You work within a team every day to carry out XXX tasks and your contribution to the team was XXXX. You could also add that you enjoy the collaborative nature of working in a team, but sometimes appreciate having your own project to work on and make your own.
- What do/did you like most about your time in your last job/company?
Was there something that your particular workplace offered – team, industry, work environment? But make it known that you’re looking for a change of direction and are ready to take on a new challenge.
- What was the most interesting or rewarding job or assignment you have ever tackled?
Was there a particular project you enjoyed or somewhere you feel you’ve made an impact?
- What do you find most difficult or like least in your work?
There might have been something you’re not as keen on (for me, expenses!) however you understood it to be a key element of the job and you are always willing to undertake whatever is required and do it do the best of your ability.
- What was the biggest problem you have ever had to overcome / the toughest decision you have had to make?
What was particularly challenging recently and how did you handle it? How did you manage the best interests of your workplace?
- How do you handle criticism/rejection?
It’s important to show that you aren’t too defensive and that you welcome and take on board on constructive criticism and useful feedback. You may have worked somewhere that has experienced criticism, perhaps unfairly – I certainly have been on the receiving end of disgruntled sports fans. State that you rise above negative comments, continue to focus on the job and provide customers with the best service possible.
- How ambitious are you? Or how interested are you in promotion?
It’s important to strike a balance between being willing to develop, but not leave your prospective employers in the lurch if a better job comes up in 6 months’ time. You could state that you are hoping to learn as much as possible from your new employers and you’re keen to take on any professional development and further your career if opportunities arise in the next few years. You may also wish to state what your longer-term career aims would ultimately be, if you have decided this yet.
Research and Fitting In
Your employers will expect you to do your research on them and their industry in general. Have you gone through their website, researched any newsworthy articles on them, or checked out their LinkedIn posts and social media? You should expect the following questions – and have an answer ready.
- What do you know about (the company)?
- Why do you wish to work for (the company)? Or what attracted you to apply to (the company)?
- What interests you in the job?
- What are your salary expectations?
- How do you stay up to date on the latest industry trends?
Personal Development & Leisure Time
You should also be prepared to answer questions about yourself, what you like to do and what you have learned, so prepare an answer to the following:
- What recent qualifications/courses/professional development have you taken?
- What did you learn from your last role?
- What do you do in your leisure time?
Questions you can ask them
In turn, you need to be sure that this is the right job and workplace for you. Come prepared with a couple of questions on the company and the position. For example you could consider the following:
- What are the biggest opportunities facing the company/department right now?
- Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
- Can you tell me a bit about the culture of the company?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- If I am lucky enough to get the job, when should I expect to hear from you?