How To Find and Hire a Rock Star Executive Assistant
As a CEO or founder, you need a highly skilled and trustworthy person to help you manage your day-to-day operations and scale your business. But searching for an Executive Assistant (EA) or Engagement Manager (EM) can be daunting.
With the right knowledge and resources, however, you can find the perfect person to save you time, provide a mental lift, and help you take your business to the next level. We’re here to help.
This article covers what you need to look for in an EA or EM, the 5 inherent and hard skill qualities to look for, and how to make the hiring process easier. We’ll also explore the 4 myths that can derail you with Mindmaven’s time-tested, proven solutions to hiring a rock star EA/EM. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand the qualities to look for and the steps to take to find the perfect Executive Assistant+ for you and your business.
In this helpful video (less than 2 mins), Mindmaven’s Head of EM Recruitment, Chalyse, shares three top things you can look for in a great Executive Assistant.
The Most Important Search of Your Career?
It’s a new day at your company. The energy is palpable as the cap table excitedly discusses the next hire—something that desperately needs to happen to keep up with your velocity.
Biz dev wants a salesperson. Your COO wants a talented engineer; she’s already pushing her next ambitious product deadline. Both would be incredible assets for your growing business.
But as the founder/CEO, you’re beginning to realize that you’ll need to scale your own capabilities as fast as your company, and you will need more than just those proposed hires to offer you leverage. You need an effective way to get more done in less time.
Without leverage, you know you’ll quickly burn out, and the focus and energy you need to take your company to the next level will fade along with the joy you once found in work.
Itching at the back of your mind is the idea of a highly skilled and trustworthy Executive Assistant (EA).
You may dream of someone with the desire, skill, and ability to go beyond the traditional EA title to become a sounding board, even a strategic partner. We at Mindmaven call this an EM or Engagement Manager, and they really can help you and your business immensely!
But how do you find and hire the perfect Executive Assistant or Engagement Manager? How can you ensure it’s worth the time and money it takes to hire and train them? This article will show you exactly how.
What Difference Can an Executive Assistant Make?
A rock star EA/EM provides cognitive lift to the CEO while proactively managing communication. They skillfully protect—not just manage—your calendar. With some of Mindmaven’s training techniques, such as boosting productivity with dictation, an EA/EM can help you invest in your most important asset, your relationships, to keep you top of mind with those who can send you the best opportunities.
Often the EA role is seen as a luxury, something a growing business might not be able to justify or afford. However, because of the power and increased velocity an EM can provide—for a relatively affordable price—it’s a position you simply can’t afford to leave open.
Essential Executive Assistant skills include prioritization, communication, and organization skills. Executive Assistant roles and responsibilities may include administrative support, project management, data analysis, meeting coordination, event planning, effective email management, and document management.
At Mindmaven, we take this one step further with our Engagement Managers (EM), a hybrid between an EA and a Chief of Staff. An EM is someone who can provide a massive lift to the office of the CEO, potentially saving you up to 10+ hours a week.
What would you do with an extra day each week to invest in the things that matter most?
While we have spent years developing this process, it is crucial to remember that a great fit can be elusive, no matter how skilled you are in recruiting.
Being intentional in your search, focused in your interviews, and clear on the qualities and skills you are looking for can ensure that the EA/EM you hire is the best person for you and your team.
How To Hire a Rock Star Executive Assistant or Engagement Manager
There is a well known saying in Silicon Valley about the #1 Leadership Secret that states:
“To scale your business as a successful leader—hire the right people and get out of their way.”
The executives we work with often ask us how to best find and hire an EA. This article provides an easy-to-follow time-tested process for finding a rock star EA, which you can elevate to become a real game-changing Engagement Manager (EM).
5 Inherent Qualities Your Executive Assistant Should Have
1. Attitude and Mindset: For an Executive Assistant to have the potential to grow into the role, they need to have a set of inherent and intangible qualities. The most important is the ability to adapt. This sounds simple, but it requires an open mind, a love of learning, and humility that not everyone has.
2. Genuine desire to help: A genuine love of helping others. They should be the type of person who smiles when handed a new challenge to solve for the benefit of others. Empathy, and the ability to put oneself in other shoes, are also imperative in this role.
3. Attention to detail: An EA/EM needs to be the type of person who enjoys managing the micro. Someone naturally inclined to nitpick and follow up on even the most mundane details.
4. Love of learning: A great EA or EM will be required to learn a variety of new skills and modalities of operating. Someone who is set in their ways will not thrive in a role like this, especially in a startup environment where the boundaries and limitations of the role will be flexible and often changing.
5. Grit and resilience: Anyone looking to grow into the role of an EM must have the grit and determination it takes to tackle new challenges while accepting and incorporating lots of feedback and calibration. It’s a process, not an overnight transformation, and you want someone who will stick it out for the long haul.
If you can find someone with the unique combination of skills and inherent traits above, make them your EM. With the proper training and systems, they will become an indispensable member of your team and one of the best hires you could ever make.
The Learned Qualities of Your Executive Assistant/Engagement Manager
Experience and Skill
We have found that most skills required to make an exceptional EM are super trainable with the right desire and attitude. But there are a few things that help the process along.
It’s helpful if the candidate has at least two years of experience in a high-velocity company, and we look for someone who has around 2-4 years of direct EA experience. But even without direct EA experience, other roles would provide some baseline skills you’ll want.
Non-negotiable EM skills:
- Working on a team and juggling a complex workload of shifting priorities. EMs are often required to be the voice of the CEO when communicating with other departments.
- A refined ability to communicate using empathy and tact. An EM needs to be able to skillfully navigate complex situations, sometimes involving competing egos and interests.
- Competence with new technologies. They will likely have to learn several new software programs to be successful.
Beyond these, your EA/EM candidate should have a certain level of “hard skills” as well. Qualified candidates need to be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of the following tools and skills.
5 Top Hard Skills for an Executive Assistant
- Proficiency in some form of a task or email management system.
- Complex calendar and scheduling management.
- Working knowledge of email programs and how to get a response to an email.
- Ability to go above and beyond just typing quickly and accurately to become a valued partner.
- Demonstrated time management skills.
Are You Looking for the Perfect Executive Assistant + More?
Where do you start once you decide to hire Executive Assistants with the potential to become Engagement Managers?
Mindmaven has worked with hundreds of EAs, recruiting and training them to become highly successful EMs. Over the last decade, we’ve refined exactly what it takes to find the best people for the job.
Working with EAs and EMs worldwide, we’ve become intimately familiar with the pitfalls and questions that haunt CEOs and founders looking to hire one.
If you’ve decided to take on this search for yourself, we’ll help you avoid the sometimes surprising mistakes execs make when searching in the dark for their first EA/EM.
4 Myths That Can Derail You
There are four myths that cause most mistakes, and we’ll share the four simple solutions to overcome these and hire an excellent Executive Assistant.
1. The Myth of the “Queen Bee”
When looking for their first EA, an exec often looks for someone who has been a career EA and already has set ways of doing things. Unfortunately for them, especially in a startup, these candidates are often less willing to learn new skills and adapt to new ways of doing things. They can also be costly, making them a hard sell for those early stages of funding.
We find that those with similar high-volume experiences (but potentially in other roles, like teachers, for example) are far more open to adopting new ways of working and are better able to keep up with the speed at which things change in a young startup company.
2. The Myth of the Black Hole
It is common for people embarking on this search for the first time to feel like it could be easier. It can feel like a black hole of time and energy—like maybe it’s not worth it.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, finding the right EA/EM will absolutely be worth it. This person will provide the mental lift and support you need to operate at the level your growing company demands.
Secondly, there are several ways to make the search easier. Not least is using an experienced service to help you make your hire (more on this below).
3. The Myth of the Unicorn
This myth tells you there is going to be one individual out there who already has the perfect combination of hard skills and inherent qualities and will be able to “do it all.” The fact is that no matter who you hire, there is going to be a learning curve and some calibration/work required for them to grow into the role. An EA’s position is based on absolute trust with their exec, which takes time and patience to build.
The reality is that there are probably a lot of people who could get to this point, you just must be willing to work with them and understand that no one person is going to have everything you desire at first. Skills, knowledge, and talents grow and develop with time.
4. The Myth of Location
Many execs we’ve worked with began under the assumption that to find a great EA, they need to find someone who can work in person, in their office, daily.
Not only does this limit the talent pool you can pull from, but it increases the likelihood that someone—with so many remote options in our modern world—might not stay around as long. If you’re willing to cast a wider net, you’ll open yourself up to great talent and likely land a better candidate.
Mindmaven has been completely remote since its inception more than a decade ago, and the last few years have proven what’s possible to get done in a remote work environment. We at Mindmaven also know how to find someone fantastic anywhere in the world, which brings us to the search, and how to best find your perfect match.
We’re Here to Help
As an executive coaching organization that helps leaders unlock their superpowers and reach their fullest potential, Mindmaven also helps solve one of the most common problems that afflict our clients: How to find an outstanding assistant to help them along their journey.
We want to share what we’ve learned in the last decade of working with many of Silicon Valley’s top tech unicorns as well as startup companies in a variety of industries all over the world. We’ve refined exactly what it takes to find and hire an Executive Assistant to support business leaders.
Our recruiting service provides a highly vetted and qualified talent pool of candidates dedicated to growing beyond the traditional EA role to become amazing EMs. Over the last decade, we’ve worked with hundreds of Executive Assistants, recruiting and training them to become highly successful Engagement Managers.
In fact, we test and vet our candidates so heavily that one client joked that getting into our talent pool is harder than getting into Harvard! That is, out of 500 candidates, only five will make it fully vetted to get an introduction to one of our clients.
If you want to reach your fullest potential as a founder or CEO, let’s chat about how we can help. We can find the best match to bring you massive leverage to become the leader your company deserves.
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Get in touch now and experience for yourself the difference this can make in your life and business.