The seven traits of a successful executive assistant

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Having an EA job is no walk in the park! As a first step, you must be extremely efficient and be thinking ten steps ahead of your boss. Acting as a second brain for your principals, much of the time you’ll adapt your working style to match theirs. Some may wish you to organize aspects of their personal life, asking you to complete such tasks as paying bills and organizing family vacations, while others may only require professional support.

Whatever the situation and Principal, you must be prepared for all circumstances and ready to pre-empt the next move! Having recruited EAs since 2001, we generally expect our best EAs to:

Be communicative

Communication is absolutely crucial as an EA, but your boss may only like a certain form of communication – email, text, phone call or face-to-face. No matter their preference, ensure that you’re relaying all information back to them. Some bosses like their EAs to attend all meetings with them. If this is the case, it’s crucial to make thorough notes to discuss post-meeting. You’ll then be able to pull them apart and prioritize action points. If it’s a virtual meeting, the advantage is that you’ll be able to record it to refer back to afterwards.

If you do not go to meetings with your boss, suggest sitting down together afterwards to discuss everything that had been touched on. This way, you’ll be constantly in the loop with a good understanding of the situation.

Be resilient

A resilient EA will quickly become an invaluable support to your team. Most of us, at one time or another in our careers, will occasionally be presented with the challenge of dealing with tricky situations and people. These might be clients, managers, time-sensitive projects or make-or-break presentations. EAs, however, see all these regularly – up front and center!

Not taking things personally is a given trait of a great EA, quite simply because they’re so frequently in high-pressure situations and more often than not (rightly or wrongly), on the receiving end of a frustrated individual or team.

Be efficient

It goes without saying that a great EA must be organized! Implement organizational structures into your work and stick to them. By keeping your work life neat and tidy, it will keep your mind clear and ready for all situations. You do not want to get to the point in your day where you urgently need to find documentation and you are struggling to find it in your messy inbox!

Try to organize all of your emails into set folders. Break them down by sender or task and store all correspondence in each folder. Alternatively, there are apps to help automate inbox and diary management, ensuring that all emails are on hand when you need them.

It’s also essential to keep a to-do list. Every time you have a new task come up, think about its priority within your workload, then place it accordingly in your list. This reduces your chances of forgetting something and will help with your time management.

Take on your most difficult and time-consuming tasks at the beginning of the day to minimize stress levels and maximize your standard of work.

Remember, your boss’s efficiency should also be considered. Before asking your boss questions, think about whether you could find the answers another way. By raising unnecessary queries that you could figure out for yourself, you are essentially wasting both yours and your boss’s time. Take a second to think before you speak!

Be proactive

If nothing else, an EA must be proactive. It’s vital that you can stay ahead of your boss, regardless of the situation. On a Monday, review the meetings your boss has this week, ensuring that all requirements, such as notes and rooms, are considered ahead of time. Your first thought should always be ‘what is my boss going to need?’.

There may be a time when they are out of the office or away on vacation, leaving you to manage their affairs. As the first point of contact for clients and contacts, you’ll need to maintain high levels of professionalism to ensure that you are acting exactly as they would do in each situation.

Keep a positive attitude

When recruiting for an executive assistant, we always look for calm and collected individuals who work well under pressure. Not only can the EA role be incredibly stressful at times, but a busy team will look to their EA as a constant. So, a successful EA must be able to approach every situation with a smile, working logically through each problem to find a solution. By keeping calm and staying upbeat, you will be able to complete tasks to a higher standard.

An EA is often required to represent their boss and company either on the telephone, via email or face to face. Therefore, you need to be comfortable engaging in small talk and networking. Whatever the situation, always be polite and courteous! Your boss will expect you to stay positive and have that can-do attitude at all times, as this will also play a huge part in staff morale.

Be self-motivated

When working as an executive assistant, you cannot expect praise every time you complete a task on your to-do list. Self-motivation is key to being able to get on with your workload, so set yourself goals within your working day. Aim to complete a certain number of tasks on your to-do list before you get your next cup of coffee. Working hard may look like it is going unrecognized when your boss is extremely busy, but it is always noticed.

Be discrete

Discretion is one of the all-time top behaviours our clients look for in potential candidates, particularly private PAs. You’ll be exposed to a myriad of personal and professional confidences as an EA, and this unique characteristic will see the best candidates go far in their careers. A gossip might find their credibility is tarnished early on, while those who understand confidentiality will shortly prove themselves to be indispensable.


The rewards are significant for those EAs who earn their stripes. You’ll strengthen relationships with business leaders, teams and peers whilst simultaneously earning great credibility in professional circles. Our most valued EA candidates, in addition to the financial rewards, will experience great adventures, meet incredible people and even travel the world. While it might take time and experience to reach those milestones, a successful EA will get there.

Looking for an EA job? Tiger Recruitment can help. Submit your details or see our available jobs now.

Looking to hire an EA? Read our guide to hiring an EA, and get in touch with your requirements.

Author Alexandra-Dana Gusita Tiger Recruitment Team

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