7 Deadly Sins of Hiring an EA
An Executive Assistant (EA) is a fantastic addition to any busy professional’s team. From answering your calls to managing your inbox, booking travel, basic bookkeeping, procurement and so much more, their ultimate job is to support you so you can do your job better.
EAs can come from any number of backgrounds, but a great EA becomes an extension of you – pre-empting what you want or need before you even ask for it. And when you work together so closely for so long, it can be painful to find a replacement when your current one decides it’s time to move on.
If you’re facing the prospect of hiring an EA – be it your first or a replacement – it pays to approach the process with care and candour.
No two EAs will ever be the same, but to find the perfect EA you need to manage your expectations and theirs… so you find a gem you can really depend on.
Here are 7 deadly sins to avoid when hiring your next EA
If you lust after the “perfect EA” – be it your idea of perfection, or a carbon copy of yourself or another EA – you could find the process near impossible.
Instead, look for someone with great foundational skills: someone with excellent organisation, administrative and computer skills, and a great communicator who presents well. Your EA represents you, so presentation and polish is important, particularly in highly corporate environments.
The same applies to someone more laid back in their communication style and presentation. They could be an exceptional EA but perhaps won’t suit your highly corporate environment. Consider your workplace culture and look for an EA that will operate well in that environment – don’t expect or ask them to change for you.
Ideally, you want someone you can shape and develop who is also looking to develop their experience and career.
2. Gluttony (Selfishness)
Why would an EA want to work for you? What’s in it for them?
Studies show younger generations care less about money, and more about finding meaningful work. They don’t like to be micromanaged, and they need to understand why they’re being asked to do the work they do.
Don’t see the hiring process as a gift to your potential new EA. Think about what’s in it for them, and look for someone who is seeking what you’re ready to offer. If the role won’t challenge them in any way or offer opportunities to expand their skills and networks, they’re likely to get bored and leave quickly.
Greed goes both ways. You can’t expect your EA to work 12 hours a day for a small salary, but your EA shouldn’t have unrealistic salary expectations (i.e. they can’t expect to be on 120k in a support position). The nature of the role also means they shouldn’t expect to be able to work 2 days a week, unless it’s a job share position.
Keep in mind that you’re unlikely to find a quality candidate interested in a really short term contract. Great candidates seek commitment from their employers, who also expect the same in return.
4. Sloth (Laziness)
You’re super busy, investing time in the recruitment process to find a quality EA may not be the highest item on your agenda even though you’re struggling without one.
However, if you don’t make time to do it well, you may find yourself having to go through the process again very quickly. Investing in the recruitment process will save you lots of time and anguish down the track.
If you don’t have the time, hire a recruiter who will take time to understand what you’re looking for, give you an idea of who may be the best fit, and then use their networks to find them.
5. Wrath (Anger)
Canberra is a small place, and employees and employers need to work to get and keep a good reputation.
Don’t catch the wrath of the employment market by building a reputation as someone who is hard to work with, inflexible, or ultra high-maintenance. EAs often have strong networks, so your reputation could follow you.
EAs should be equally aware of their own reputation. Make a point to call your EAs referees personally to find out how they were in their previous role. An EA who bounces from one job to the next, doesn’t play well with others, and doesn’t support their manager could be the same with you.
At the core, an EA is not a hierarchical role; it’s a support role. If your EA envies you and your position, they may be difficult to work with.
Rather, seek someone you can mentor and look for ways to utilise their skills effectively. The more time you can invest in onboarding a new employee and developing the mentor/mentee relationship, the longer they’re likely to stay and the stronger your relationship will be.
First impressions last and an EA who doesn’t present well in an interview could be the same (if not worse) on the job.
Your EA is your face when you’re not around. They are a reflection of you, so seek someone who exhibits the same pride in how they present themselves as you do – both in an interview and in their CV.
For help with finding your new EA or to chat about the market, please don’t hesitate to give myself or my colleague Tom Haskell a call!