Personal assistants, ask the employer these questions in your next interview

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Why asking your interviewer questions is important

Interviews can often be a dreaded part of the recruitment process. Regardless of whether they’re a panel interview, video interview or phone interview however, they’re integral to your understanding of the PA job and the prospective employer. And, asking your interviewer well-researched and considered questions presents an opportunity to emphasise your enthusiasm for the open vacancy.

It’s likely that a well-prepped interviewer will set out the agenda for the meeting at the beginning, advising whether they’d welcome questions throughout the interview or at the end (be aware, there may be interviewers who are ill-prepared!). If this isn’t mentioned, however, we generally advise to try and keep the conversation as two-way as possible.

Every question you ask the employer affords you an opportunity to highlight your own skills too! By framing your questions appropriately, you can convey your strengths and examples of previous performance in an interactive and proactive way. For example, when asking about process improvement, you could say, “At my last organisation, I set up a committee for all the PAs to meet once a month so that we could share tips and improve processes. Do you have anything similar in place here?”.

How long does a PA interview last?

A typical PA interview will last about an hour and we would normally expect you to have seen a copy of the full job description beforehand.  There will usually be two or three stages to a PA interview process – but we have seen this take a lot longer depending on the company and seniority of the position.

Example questions PAs can ask their employer in interview

1. How many PAs are working in the company at the moment and how do you allocate executives to PAs?

This question will help you to better understand the make-up of the PA team, as well as how the management team view the business support function. Do they recognise its importance or do they, for the most part, try to push senior execs to do the admin for themselves? It might also shed some light on your support network once you’re working for the company (moral and professional!).

2. What are the key goals you’d like to see me achieving in the first three months?

Having a better understanding of the key objectives will give you better clarity around what is important to them. It might be that they want you to focus on getting your head around the different time zones you’ll be working with, in which case you’ll know that that’s the key priority.

3. Can you tell me more about the personalities of the people I’d be assisting?

As you know, personal assistant jobs are so much more than what’s listed in the job description. Having a better understanding of their personalities is likely to give you a better insight into whether or not you’d be comfortable working for them. If the fit doesn’t feel right, you might need to weigh up the pros and cons of the other aspects of the role.

4. What traits do the most successful PAs in the company have?

Having a greater insight into the other PAs’ perceived successes affords you a glimpse of what they deem to be positive. If you’re very lucky, their successes will be things that you already do and know back-to-front!

5. What technology do the PAs and EAs typically use in the company?

This will give you a better understanding of any knowledge gaps you might have, or an opportunity to let them know you have experience in what they’re using! Knowing their use of tech also gives you a sneak peek into how innovative the business is, in that regard.

6. Aside from the people I’m supporting as a PA, who will be my main stakeholders?

Some PAs only spend a few minutes each day with their executives. Knowing who else you spend time with will play an important part in your enjoyment of the position!

7. What do you feel are the main challenges of this PA opportunity?

Having an understanding of the perceived challenges affords you greater insight into the obstacles you might need to overcome. This will hopefully give you an opportunity to get a fuller understanding of the cons as well as the pros.

8. Tell me about your working style and how you like to work with your PA?

This question is obviously directed towards the executive you’d be supporting, rather than an HR representative. Having a sense of their preferred working style gives an awareness of how closely you’ll be working together, how involved you’ll be with their projects and the day-to-day detail of their requirements.

9. Will I have access to your inbox and will I be responding to emails on your behalf?

Email management has the potential to take a significant chunk of time in a personal assistant’s job. Depending on whether this is something you enjoy, it’s always best to know ahead of time if this is something you’ll be doing.

10. Are there any additional areas of responsibility that I can take on, such as committee work or events management, in other areas of the business?

This question should be phrased carefully, to ensure that there are no misconceptions about your enthusiasm for the role at hand. That said, asking about ways you can add value elsewhere in the business will be well-received in the right context.

11. Do you have any initiatives in place to train and develop your PAs?

The question on many PAs’ minds, when interviewing, surrounds career progression and learning and development (L&D) opportunities. Does the company support advancement and how will they support your professional growth? Instead of asking specifically about career progression before you’ve secured the role, knowing how they structure their L&D will give you a glimpse of the ways in which they can support your growth.

12. Do any events or forums exist for PAs within the business in which they can come together and share ideas?

This demonstrates a consideration of bigger-picture continuous improvement and an ability to look outside of your own role. The advantages of collaboration and team building are also significant.

If you’ve not already submitted your CV, you can do so here.

Author Zahra Clark Tiger Recruitment Team

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