4 Soft Skills Your Executive Assistant NeedsSamantha Cordero
A few years ago, I spent several relaxing days at a resort in northeast Wisconsin. In the main lobby, there was a framed magazine article about the current resort owners and all the renovations they had done on the historic property. It also mentioned the current operations and future plans. I loved the owner’s quote from the interview: “I hire people who are friendly and willing to learn. I can train employees to perform any role here, but I can’t teach nice.”
That phrase stood out to me and has stuck with me over the years. I realize more than ever that it rings true in multiple industries. If you’re looking to hire an executive assistant, they’ll likely arrive with an impressive resume of skills they’ve learned over the years. You’ll never see “nice” as a skill on a resume. However, being nice and other soft skills are really some of the most important qualities of an executive assistant. A trained assistant will be able to catch onto your specific office processes and software in a matter of time. However, what will really make your assistant stand out is their good character and a teachable attitude. Let’s dive into some of those soft skills you’ll want to be sure your executive assistant has.
Much of an executive assistant’s job description could be summed up with effective communication. Writing emails, meeting with team members, reaching out to clients, and much more – all of these involve someone who is capable of speaking clearly, listening effectively, and writing professionally.
When you’re going through the job search process, you’ll see some of their communication skills show through. Look for a resume and cover letter that are done in a professional manner, with good spelling and grammar. Observe their nonverbal skills when interviewing in person or over video chat. Anticipate that they will send a thank you note, via email or mail, and evaluate if they use professional language. If they are using skillful communication when looking for a job, you can anticipate that this will carry over into their role on your team, and vice versa.
Something that goes alongside communication is interpersonal skills. You’ll want to have someone on your team that is willing and able to build strong relationships with clients and colleagues. If you interview them in a group setting, watch for how they interact with everyone in the environment. You will also want to ask their references for their thoughts on how they interact with others in and out of the workplace.
Sometimes, we may assume that for someone to have good interpersonal skills that they will be an extrovert, and that’s not always the case. While extroverts typically feed off others and can often be the most dynamic in a group setting, the introverts are often able to establish the stronger connections that are needed in a business. Both types of personalities can work well in the executive assistant role, and you can benefit from their strengths in various ways.
The longer I work, the more I see this being one of the biggest ways an executive assistant is an asset, especially in how we handle the little things that pop up. A capable assistant will strive to solve situations and answer questions without requesting help from their executive first. This can-do attitude is something we strive for at Auxo Business Services, and it’s something I’ve been especially working on over the past year. I’m starting to ask myself if I need to involve someone else first, or is this something I can handle on my own. It’s not a matter of pride, but confidence, and a willingness to serve instead of asking for the answer on a silver platter.
There are a myriad other ways that problem solving comes into play in the executive assistant role. Sometimes problem solving looks like reaching out to a client and figuring out why their payment didn’t go through this month (which also involves the interpersonal and communication skills mentioned earlier). Sometimes it may be more in depth and involve compiling and analyzing data for a business owner. Other times it’s as simple as looking at a calendar, noticing a double booking, and rearranging something so the executive doesn’t have to.
While organization is something that can be learned over time, it’s also a skill that some people seem to have more naturally than others. You’ll want someone who can keep track of important documents, events, meetings, etc., and maintain accurate records for future reference. I recently logged into an account’s filing system that was very scattered, and it slowed my efficiency down when I couldn’t quickly and easily navigate the files to find what I was looking for. Proper organization there would have saved me much time and effort.
You will also be expecting your executive assistant to manage multiple tasks at once and stay on top of deadlines. This is especially important if they will be working for more than one client, like we often do at Auxo. One way to test out a potential team member’s ability to stay organized is to not send any reminders about their interview after confirming it. Are they organized enough to write down the appointment the first time and not need further reminders? You’ll want someone that you don’t have to micromanage but that you can trust to stay diligent about their tasks regularly.
Soft skills like effective communication, interpersonal abilities, problem-solving, and organization are crucial for any executive assistant. While technical skills are necessary and can be taught, these innate qualities significantly influence an assistant’s effectiveness and the overall smooth functioning of a workplace. When you’re hiring, don’t just look at a candidate’s resume; consider their character, attitude, and potential for growth. Remember, you’re not just hiring a role, but a person who will become an integral part of your team. If you’re seeking an executive assistant with these soft skills, our team at Auxo Business Services would love to connect with you. Contact us today to discuss how we can meet your business needs.