Ultimate Guide: How To Hire an Executive Assistant

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In a world of increasingly sophisticated technology that threatens to replace them, executive assistants are standing strong. In fact, the EA role is thriving, present within more industries and organizations than ever before. While AI bots and virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri flaunt their latest functions, they remain incapable of delivering the human touch of a great EA partnership.

The key to this resilience is the adaptability of the role. Whatever the needs and working style of a manager, business owner or private individual, an EA role can be tailored to provide bespoke support.

But this very adaptability can make the EA hiring process complex. What responsibilities should a EA job description outline? What does their career progression look like? What skills and experience should you look for? How can the hiring process unpick the necessary character traits to support the specific demands of an individual or team?

In this guide we will delve into each of these questions in detail. Intended for anyone wondering how to hire an EA for either a business or private function, we hope to provide you with the basic frameworks from which to build out a bespoke hiring process – from job descriptions and interviews to employee onboarding and development programs.


What Is an Executive Assistant?

Before hiring an executive assistant, you should be clear in your understanding of a what an EA role entails, and whether it is the right call for you to hire one. It is a significant investment, so having a firm grasp on the different types of EA, what they can and can’t do for you, and the costs involved, will all help to streamline the process.

An executive assistant (EA) is someone employed to provide support to a senior manager, business owner, or private individual. They can be tasked with both business and personal administrative duties, and are found in every size of organization, from startups to SMEs and large corporations.

What Does an Executive Assistant Do?

Due to its bespoke nature, no two EA roles are the same. Depending on the needs and preferences of a manager, the responsibilities of a EA can include:

Executive assistants possess a wide range of skills to accomplish their diverse tasks, but there are several responsibilities outside of their remit. Both a manager and EA should be aware of these.

Why Hire an Executive Assistant?

Hiring an EA may not be the right decision for every business or individual, but if you are finding yourself overwhelmed by your workload, EAs can provide many benefits that justify the expense.

Effective Time Management

With an EA handling your business, travel, and calendar administration, you will free up time to devote to more critical work. This in turn will improve your productivity and the results of your work.

Increased Organization

EAs will take on the filing and retrieval of your physical and digital documents and correspondence, reducing the risk of losing an important report, email, or tickets for travel and accommodation.

Efficient Communication

Having an assistant dedicated to monitoring all your correspondence can streamline your communications with clients and colleagues. An EA will ensure that all emails, phone calls, and letters are responded to within an allotted timeframe.

Personal Support

The demands of work can often mean your personal responsibilities take a backseat. EAs can help you stay on top of this side of life too, where appropriate. This could mean booking a restaurant, purchasing a gift, or arranging childcare.

Types of Assistant

With this knowledge of typical EA responsibilities, you can start matching them to your requirements and build a picture of your ideal EA.

As well as determining the EA’s responsibilities, you should also consider the industry the EA will be working in, and the role of their Principal within the organization. While they may have a similar skill set, prospective EAs will have a different working knowledge and expertise, so finding one with experience matching your sector and position will be crucial for success.

There are several different types of assistant, including:

Corporate EAs

Corporate EAs work at the senior management levels of businesses. They have a strong understanding of the inner workings and dynamics of complex organizations.

Team Assistants (TAs)

TAs specialize in providing admin support for multiple members of staff. Depending on the size of the business, this could be the full workforce, or one department-specific team.

Private personal assistants

Private PAs are employed directly by individuals to assist in their personal and/or business affairs. They are adept at supporting the needs of HNWI, business owners, celebrities, private families, and other high-profile individuals.

Business assistants

Business assistants support business owners, chief executives, or other staff in the most senior positions in an organization. This is a more senior assistant role that typically requires several years of experience.

Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants (VAs) offer remote administrative support to senior managers, teams, or private individuals. They are often freelancers, and may work part-time for several employers.

How To Hire an Executive Assistant

Once you have a clear idea of the type of executive assistant best suited to your needs, you can begin the search. Whether or not you are working with a recruitment agency, there are some hiring best practices that should inform your hiring process.

Personality fit

As you will work more closely with your EA than with any other colleague, finding someone with a complementary personality to yours should play a role in the decision-making. The best EAs will quickly synchronize with their manager’s work rhythms and communication style, and could grow into a great partner for brainstorming ideas.

Consider prior experience

An EA’s personality fit should be balanced with an appraisal of their work history. Experience in the same industry or for an employer in a similar position are good indicators that a candidate will gel with the wider team and type of business.

Trust Your Recruiter

EA recruitment agencies are experts when it comes to balancing skills, experience, and personality fit in the search for candidates. When you’re presented with a recruiter’s shortlist, it’s important to trust in their expertise and consider their selection. Sometimes, a candidate may not appear to be a good fit on paper, but if an experienced consultant believes they could thrive, it is probably worth a meeting.

Manage Expectations and Be Responsive

When recruiting prospective EAs, remember to keep them informed about how many stages are involved, their current application status, and when they can expect to hear your decision. Following their interview with you – whether they’re successful or not – they will appreciate transparent feedback that helps them to improve next time. Your communication will go a long way to demonstrating the authenticity of your employer brand, which in turn contributes to future candidate referrals and credibility.

Skills To Look For In an EA

While EA roles can vary widely in terms of responsibilities, there are a number of core EA skills and character traits that the best assistants share. Keep these in mind when considering candidates for your EA position:


In order to juggle many varied tasks, regular deadlines, and constant change, EAs must have excellent organizational and time management skills.


As the gatekeeper for their Principal, EAs must be excellent written and verbal communicators, confident dealing with clients and colleagues of all seniorities.


With senior managers often unavailable due to meetings and travel, EAs must be able to take the initiative without direction.


EAs are party to much private and sensitive information. They must be trustworthy and meticulously discrete.

Computer literacy

EAs will conduct a large portion of their work on computers so need to have a strong grasp of several key programs. This includes email software, word processors, spreadsheet software, and organizational tools like calendars and project planners.


EAs work in a high-pressure, fast-moving environment, requiring a thick skin and ability to remain professional in challenging situations.

Writing an Executive Assistant Job Description

With your criteria and hiring process now in place, you will need to create a detailed and bespoke job description for candidates. The more specific, the better, as it will help filter out inappropriate applicants, and target those with the right experience, and a genuine interest in the role.

The below is a general EA job description template, which can be adapted to your needs.

Executive Assistant Job Description Template

Key responsibilities:

Essential requirements:

Personality profile:


You should also consider the typical EA salaries when building your job description.

Tips For Interviewing an EA

Getting your interview questions, style and structure right are key when considering how to hire an executive assistant. The interview stage is the chance to dig deeper and find the candidate who ticks all the right boxes to be your ideal executive assistant. It’s best practice to combine both broad and specific EA interview questions, as this will build a full, detailed picture of the candidate.

Your questions should be designed to tease out insights into their work background, achievements, communication, problem-solving skills, industry knowledge, personality, and interests.

General interview questions

Experience-related interview questions

Onboarding and integration

With a successful interview process behind you and a new executive assistant raring to go, it’s vital not to let things stall. By having a robust EA onboarding process in place, you can ensure the partnership with your new EA lives up to, and exceeds, its potential.

Set expectations

At the first opportunity, you should clarify the roles and responsibilities detailed in the job description. Both parties need to agree on what is within the EA’s remit.

Create a schedule

You should ensure you both understand the days and hours of regular work, and expectations on communication and work outside of those times.

Use the latest technology

There are many tools for EAs available. Apps and online services are now available to streamline many EA tasks, including calendars, budgeting software, project planning programs, and many communications channels.

Set KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you and your EA track their achievements and areas for improvement, ensuring the working relationship goes from strength to strength.

Set up a support base

Partnering your EA with a work mentor and introducing them to other assistants in the business will help them settle in and feel more confident in their work.

Learning & Development for EAs

As much thought and effort should be put into retaining a great executive assistant as is put into hiring one. Having a long-term EA can provide many business benefits, from improving efficiency, to maintaining strong client relationships, training new staff, and fostering camaraderie among the wider team.

While welcoming a new EA into the role during the onboarding phase, you should also show them how they can grow in the business. This could be through internal promotion, learning and development programs, or external courses.

By actively investing in your EA’s professional growth, you can improve the quality of their work while also nurturing loyalty. Holding onto a member of staff who is both qualified and has a deep working knowledge of the business is crucial for success.

Organizations can offer both internal and external learning and development opportunities as part of their employee benefits package. Mentoring by more senior administration staff is one of the most effective ways to upskill existing executive assistants, and some businesses offer the chance for staff to diversify their skills with training run by other departments.

In terms of external training and qualifications, several organizations offer courses geared towards business and administration careers. Our pick of the best EA courses include:

American Society of Administrative Professionals

One of the most accessible and effective courses is ASAP’s Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE). This online course can be taken year-round at a date of the student’s choosing, and includes modules covering communication, project management, and computer and technology skills.

Institute of Executive Assistant & Administrators

The IEAA run executive assistant training programs featuring accredited tutors, both online and in-person. Their courses run from junior level to more senior EA training, with the opportunity to gain a certificate or diploma.

International Association of Administrative Professionals

The IAAP offer a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) credential, as well as the Certified Administrative Professional in progress (CAP ip) for more junior administrative assistants. This qualification is a clear marker that an EA has up-to-date skills and knowledge to take on whatever is thrown at them in the modern EA role.

EA career progression

Having a thorough understanding of an executive assistant’s career path in different organizations will help you advise your EA on their potential internal progression. A typical path from entry-level to senior could look like:

EA Career Progression in SMEs

EA Career Progression in medium-sized businesses


EA Career Progression in Large Businesses

Looking To Hire a EA?

Now that you understand how to hire an executive assistant, it’s time to get the ball rolling! Let us know your requirements and a consultant will be in touch.

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to hire an EA?

In Tiger’s latest salary and benefits review, we found that EAs in the US can expect to earn $50,000-$80,000 p.a. in the creative, educational, and charity industries, and $60,000-£90,000 in the financial industry. A private PA typically earns a higher salary, on average $80,000-$300,000.

Can a normal person hire an executive assistant?

Anyone can hire an EA to provide business or personal assistance (within reason). However, there are significant costs involved, and anyone wondering how to hire an executive assistant should factor the typical salary and expenses into their calculations.

How do people find executive assistants?

Businesses and individuals can work with executive assistant recruitment companies to find an EA that suits their needs.  An EA recruiter can assist in creating a job description, job advert, candidate shortlist, and interview questions.

How do I find an EA?

If you are struggling to understand how to hire an executive assistant, working with a recruitment agency is the best solution. Tiger’s consultants can advise on hiring both EAs and private PAs. Get in touch with us today to find out more.

What does a private PA do?

A private PA works with an individual or family to give administrative support in both personal and business affairs. They will often work closely with domestic support staff and family office staff.

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

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