Five tips to make the best first impression in interviews
Interviews can be daunting, but it is important to remember the client has chosen to meet with you because they believe you have the necessary skills and experience, and might…
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 PA 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?”.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
Having a greater insight into the other PAs’ personality traits and 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While asking the prospective employer questions is extremely important, remember that there are also questions you should never ask in interview! Lastly, we have come across a number of weird interview questions in our time, so ensure you’re prepped for those too!
To learn more about what it takes to be a personal assistant, read our ultimate guide to becoming a PA.
If you’ve not already submitted your CV, you can do so here.
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