Preparing for an interview, I have no exec. assistant experience

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Liz in Garden Grove, California

71 months ago

I am a college grad, with experience in both sales and customer service. I recently applied to an executive assistant position, and they want me to come in and interview. I believe they are interviewing me b/c my salary requirements are not as high as an exec assistant w/ experience. Now I'm not sure what to expect, or what to say. Should I just be completely honest and let them know that I don't have exec assist. experience? Does anyone have suggestions on how to spin it positively? What are some typical questions they ask? Also, what are some typical questions I should ask? In other interviews I usually ask about promotion from within and what not, but this being an executive assistant position would I even ask about that? As you can see I could use any possible advice! Thanks!

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Maxwell in New York, New York

71 months ago

I would highlight any aspect of your experience that can be related to executive assistant duties. For example, if you've ever helped an executive level worker with a project, you can use that as an example of providing executive support. You can also demonstrate how your customer service experience is essential for an executive assistant position because the EA usually has to communicate with a variety of people at different levels of the company, and serve as a "gatekeeper" or liaison between their boss and others.

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Kim in Frisco, Texas

71 months ago

I have been an exec. assistant for over 15 years. Just take your day to day activities and spin them. i.e. (answering incoming/outgoing calls, Accts. Payable (you do this when you pay bills, right?)Sort outgoing/incoming mails, etc. Electronically maintain calendar, emails, etc. Have you ever made any copies or did any print jobs? You apparently know how to use the internet. I'm sure you have scheduled travel for yourself. You can even spin the "personal assistant" duties, occasionally. (i.e. taking exec's clothes to dry cleaning, etc.) You can say anything as long as you can do it.

One of the key questions I always ask is this. Do you have an issue with the idea of asking others in the office if they need any assistance? Just spin the whole "teamwork" attitude and they will love it. Good Luck!!

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Kim in Frisco, Texas

71 months ago

If the employer did not mention errands will be one of your responsibilities...don't sweat it. Usually there will be another admin that can drive you at lunch, etc. I would probably take it even further and state that you really don't want to use your gas on company business right now. FYI: They probably have a mileage reimbursement policy....but I would just pass for right now. I would tell them that you need the gas now....not $$ later in the future when they do payables. I really don't think it is a big deal.

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Jax in Hardwick, Vermont

70 months ago

Hi!
I am going to an executive assistant interview tomorrow.
I owned my own business and hired and trained people for 2 years,
as well as have been working on computers for the past 8.
I dont have executive assistant experience, but I have alot of the experience they want.
What do they usually ask you at these interviews?

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Kim in Frisco, Texas

70 months ago

An executive Assistant position is usually a supportive role...not a manager role. The types of questions will really depend on the position that you are applying for. They will probably want to try to distinguish if you are a "team player." The following are some general types of questions that I have been asked on interviews. It really depends on what your resume says. They will focus on each area of your resume. Why did you leave? What did you like/not like about the job? What are your strengths/weaknesses? What are you looking for in a company and/or supervisor? Describe an uncomfortable situation that you were in that you handled appropriately and with success. They will probably ask for 1 or 2 examples of your finest moments. Something that you did to really shine and make the company and yourself proud.
The other types of questions will be about the specific job you are applying to.
This is all I can think of right now. I hope it helps.

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Jax in Hardwick, Vermont

70 months ago

Thank you so much for answering,
that helps me alot.
The job description does say that I would be responsible for a small team of people, and need lots of computer skills.
Which I have.
Thank you for the advice!

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Adminonthego in Austin, Texas

70 months ago

I have a question. How many executives does an admin usually support? I just interviewed for a position where I would be supporting two executives. In addition I will also be helping the office. I am beggining to think it is a bit much. Is this normal? Any thoughts?

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Kim in Frisco, Texas

70 months ago

No. That is pretty normal. An EA will typically support 2-3. I have supported up to 8!! It really depends on how experienced the other AAs or EAs are in the company. That is complettely normal and I'm sure you can do it. Most executives these days are pretty self-sufficient and computer savvy. They probably won't need too much support...they just like the fact that they have an Admin :-)

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Veronica in Stockton, California

69 months ago

Hi, I want to apply for an Executive Assistant position, and I basically can do all the duties, but I have no experience with preparing expense reports for a business. I have done it in a college course twice but that was two years ago and I cant remember the main points. What is it exactly? I am great with budgeting and I do that a lot with my own personal finances, but could someone give me an example of how to prepare and "run" an expense report for a CEO of the company? He used the term "run" so I dont know what that means.

Second, project manangement...what is an example of the common projects that an EA would assist with. I want to get a basic idea of the types of projects done in a finance (insurance) firm . Ive never heard the term project used. Just assignments. CAn someone help me please with this. Thanks so much!!!!

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Kim in Richmond, Virginia

69 months ago

Running an expense report will usually be pretty easy. You gather and collect all the expense receipts. The company will probably have its own Expense Form template so you would only have to enter the information. You will probably get an AmEx statement of charges (or something similar) and you will have to match the receipts with the expense. There will be seperate line items for cash reimbursements, etc. Most of the time you will have to determine if the charges are at a restaurant were they for business or personal. If business, you will usually have to have the name, title and company of the attendees.

A project could mean a number of different things. For example, you might have to do some power point presentations or spreadsheet data collection for an offering or funding project. Basically, in this case you would probably be given the documents that you need to make copies of and probably bind them or put them together with tabs, etc. It would really depend on how they want to represent the project.

Hope this helps.

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Veronica in Stockton, California

69 months ago

Thank you Kim!!!!it does help very much.

Also, I like to stay busy, and hate down time at work. SO, one of the things listed as a qualification for the EA position is to be independent and to strongly take initiative. To initiate...work?Projects? etc?, so does this mean as an EA, I should ask if there is anything else to be done and offer help? What are some ways I could take initiative at work as an EA? What is an example of taking initiative so I have a clear understanding of how to be initiative at work.

THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!!

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Kim in Richmond, Virginia

69 months ago

I would first ask about the priorities of the position. If you are caught up at work and need something to do I would just ask the other Admins or personnel in the office. One good interview question for you to ask is this. Do you mind if I am caught up at work if I ask other people if there is something I can help them with? Sometimes if you do this, they will pile more work on you because they think that they are not keeping you busy enough. Just play it by ear.

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Veronica in Stockton, California

69 months ago

THANK YOU!!!!

That's genius! I will do that! Thank you for your help. Oh, wait, I just remembered one more question. Sorry...ummm... have EA's or have you in your 15 yrs been asked to do project management? I've seen that listed on some of the employment ads here. Is that something simple or easy to learn? What is it exactly? Is it just overseeing that the project gets done, delegating, controlling the entire project yourself and managing a team to get the project done? If so, is there a special Project management technique that a company wants you to use, or can you use whatever technique works for you. Sorry...it is my last question. I really want to be an Executive Assistant. Ive only been in college and worked afew years at the back of an office and as a new single mother, I need the extra income and an EA can do that for me, now that I have to depend on one income...mine.THanks for your help KIM!!!!

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Veronica in Stockton, California

69 months ago

Oh, ONE MORE THING... travel arrangements? I make them for my self and family members...is it the same thing? or do they want the EA to use the travel agent for this or are they okay with me using the internet sites like expedia...

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Kim in Frisco, Texas

69 months ago

Your Welcome!! Project Management can mean a couple of different things. It really depends on the project. If you can prioritize...you can manage a project. Normally, you will have step by step instructions on what they want done. You may be working with another Admin or Receptionist. Just remember, always ask if you are unsure. Execs don't mind. And another thing that is important is if you have a question of any sort always start the conversation with. When you have a moment free I would like to ask you a question. It took me years to figure that one out. If they are in the middle of something they don't want to be bothered or caught off track.

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Kim in Frisco, Texas

69 months ago

It depends on the company. Sometimes they have a designated travel agent...other times they don't. You will need to specifically ask. Travel arrangements can be easy or hard. It depends. Most of the time they do not use the internet sites because it is hard to get a refund or make changes. If you have to use the internet I would recommend you use the actual airlines. It is important to remember to ask if they have a travel profile. This will show all of their reward membership numbers, credit card to use, special requests like isle or window, business or coach, refundable or non-refundable preferred. Which hotels they like to use. Which rental cars they use if they need one. It's important to find a hotel close to the airport or the venue that they are travelling. Sometimes I print a map quest if they are travelling to a city where they are not familiar. Maybe from the airport to the hotel. Also, remember to always get an itinerary from the hotel and flight companies. You can even make one yourself so he/she doesn't have too many papers to look through. Simple is better when they are travelling. If they are travelling to another country is their passport up to date? Do they need a Visa? When do they expire? That sort of thing. It really is simple. Sorry for the long message.

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Veronica in Thornton, California

69 months ago

Thank you again. You should write a book for us beginners. Do you mind if I ask you for some more pointers later if questions should arise? I dont like to bother people and I have already asked to many questions, so with your permission of course, can i bother you if I need some more answers. I may be interviewing for a position in a few weeks so....you might just hear from me again. :)

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Kim in Richmond, Virginia

69 months ago

I don't mind at all. Your welcome!

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dovey in Saint Louis, Missouri

69 months ago

Kim in Richmond, Virginia said: I would first ask about the priorities of the position. If you are caught up at work and need something to do I would just ask the other Admins or personnel in the office. One good interview question for you to ask is this. Do you mind if I am caught up at work if I ask other people if there is something I can help them with? Sometimes if you do this, they will pile more work on you because they think that they are not keeping you busy enough. Just play it by ear.

I am caught up on my work quite frequently...the company I work for does not allow "sharing" work between Assistants. If the other Assistants get caught up too...they won't want to give you any work...they will keep the work for themselves, it makes them look like they can't "handle it." So, playing it by ear is very good advice.

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Anne in Yonkers, New York

69 months ago

I agree with all the advice given here - I've been an EA for almost 20 years YIKES LOL and and willing to give any advice you guys need :)

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Anne in San Juan Capistrano, California

67 months ago

EA in Seattle, Washington said: Veronica, from your many questions about basic responsibilities of an EA, I have to say that you are not ready to perform those duties at this time. It is one thing to ask someone to 'prime' you for the answers to interview questions (which I personally view as 'cheating'), but it is another to perform the job. Get an AA job and build up some experience. You're not going to get an EA job without that experience anyway.

Liz, I can't understand how you got an interview for a job in which you have no experience. Go figure. Your question regarding whether you should be honest and forthcoming about your experience is disturbing.

Good luck everyone.

I am starting to see your posts and you are one of the lucky ones to have kept your EA job and salary. I think companies now want the younger ones because they are impressionable and have a high level of energy... and will take a lower salary to get their foot in the door for the "potential". I don't think Liz is interviewing for an EA job at the same level/size of company/corporation you have. It would be nice to find a company that still values experience and maturity.

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EA in Seattle, Washington

67 months ago

You would be surprised, it seems. All of the top-paying EA positions DO value experience and maturity. These are not entry level positions.

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Evelynh in Sydney, Australia

66 months ago

Veronica in Stockton, California said: Hi, I want to apply for an Executive Assistant position, and I basically can do all the duties, but I have no experience with preparing expense reports for a business. I have done it in a college course twice but that was two years ago and I cant remember the main points. What is it exactly? I am great with budgeting and I do that a lot with my own personal finances, but could someone give me an example of how to prepare and "run" an expense report for a CEO of the company? He used the term "run" so I dont know what that means.

Second, project manangement...what is an example of the common projects that an EA would assist with. I want to get a basic idea of the types of projects done in a finance (insurance) firm . Ive never heard the term project used. Just assignments. CAn someone help me please with this. Thanks so much!!!!


Hi Veronica, expense reports are a breeze. The company I work for uses a system called PeopleSoft financials 8. We enter all expense forms (corporate amex statements) into this system with details such as type of expense i.e. accommodation, travel, entertainment, personal expenses etc. Other info required is the amount of the expense and to specify what project/deal the expense is pertaining to. If the company does not use this type of accounting system then there would probably be a standard template expense form in Excel where all you have to do is type in the expense type, amount etc. and this would be automatically totaled. You collate all receipts, attach it to your expense form and send it off to the accounts dep.

The type of projects you work on highly depends on the team or executive you support. I sometimes do work on excel with revenue/capital forecasting; a lot of PowerPoint preso’s for the team; researching issues & gathering information for the executives; assistance with bid submissions; and preparing reports. The aforementioned are all considered project work but as I

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Evelynh in Sydney, Australia

66 months ago

as I said, it all depends on your executives – what type of role they play in the company etc.

Don’t worry Veronica. I was very much in your position a couple of years ago. I entered the industry with very minimal experience with a retail background. Try and gain as much experience as you can i.e. temporary or contract roles… It’s a great way for you to build on your experience but at the same time it allows you to get an insight of what type of sector you would like to work for. Good luck and show them that you can do the job – that you can deliver!

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JPC in Troy, Michigan

66 months ago

Adminonthego in Austin, Texas said: I have a question. How many executives does an admin usually support? I just interviewed for a position where I would be supporting two executives. In addition I will also be helping the office. I am beggining to think it is a bit much. Is this normal? Any thoughts?

Your attitude should be it doesn't matter. I supported an Regional Sr. VP with 14 VP's under him. That catapulted me to be able to support a CEO and CFO. If you have a can do attitude and don't try to tell your boss how you're going to run his/her ship you'll be fine. Servant's heart should be brought up in your interview.

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mzfitz in San Francisco, California

66 months ago

If you don't have experience as an administrative assistant/exec admin - then you don't qualify. You should be looking for independent contributor positions like product marketing or financial analyst. It really sucks when those who are not cut out for the job take the job (secretarial) to get a foot in the door. it has been proven over and over again that a college degree does not make a good admin - good admins are born.

Liz in Garden Grove, California said: I am a college grad, with experience in both sales and customer service. I recently applied to an executive assistant position, and they want me to come in and interview. I believe they are interviewing me b/c my salary requirements are not as high as an exec assistant w/ experience. Now I'm not sure what to expect, or what to say. Should I just be completely honest and let them know that I don't have exec assist. experience? Does anyone have suggestions on how to spin it positively? What are some typical questions they ask? Also, what are some typical questions I should ask? In other interviews I usually ask about promotion from within and what not, but this being an executive assistant position would I even ask about that? As you can see I could use any possible advice! Thanks!

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Karen S, in NYC (Brooklyn resident) in Brooklyn, New York

66 months ago

"Servant's heart should be brought up in your interview."

What on earth does this mean? I cannot imagine.

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C-level executive assistant in Castro Valley, California

58 months ago

I have been an EA for twelve years. The most important attributes are a positive attitude, the ability to relate to all levels of the organization, and good follow through, not to mention top-notch powerpoint, excel, word and outlook skills.

I couldn't agree more that good admins are born, and not qualified by a four-year degree. In today's economy where jobs are scarce, it's really disheartening to be competing against individual contributors who present themselves as legitimate EA candidates. Being an EA is not an easy job and requires not only a high level of mental agility, but a willingness to do whatever it takes - even when everyone else has left the office at 5pm.

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Baffled in Wayne, New Jersey

38 months ago

EA in Seattle Washington - you seem very negative....surprised your still an admin

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Beth in Astoria, New York

32 months ago

Anne in Yonkers, New York said: I agree with all the advice given here - I've been an EA for almost 20 years YIKES LOL and and willing to give any advice you guys need :)

Hi Anne,

I would like to know the difference between C-level executives, and VP, or other levels. How is the job different in each case?

Thanks!
Beth

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onthecusp in Gilbert, Arizona

26 months ago

Baffled in Wayne, New Jersey said: EA in Seattle Washington - you seem very negative....surprised your still an admin

I do not believe the EA in Seattle, WA is being negative - only realistic and honest. Isn't that what you want? Or would you rather it be sugar-coated. And it's "you're still an admin", as opposed to "your". Being able to speak and write basic grammar properly is a basic requirement of AAs, let alone EAs.

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Assistants Tell All in New York, New York

25 months ago

Feel free to visit our web site - we feature the behind the scenes strategies of assistants, for assistants.

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Gloria in Wallingford, Connecticut

22 months ago

There were some GREAT answers here. Thanks to all who gave their advice.

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Liza Jane in Salt Lake City, Utah

8 months ago

Thank you so much to all of you here for your input, insights, advice, and expertise. It is SO helpful and valuable!

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eagertofly in Belfast, United Kingdom

8 months ago

I have hired and even trained a few EA's and find them to be invaluable. The tips here are fantastic, part of my background is HR and one thing I would say about EA's or whatever title one is given is be prepared to multi task and stay busy. Look for on line classes you can take even certificates in office management type classes. As pointed out play up your strengths and tailor them to the job you are applying for. Once hired be prepared to stay busy. Also if you are caught up at work think ahead, what maybe coming down the pike and do some organizing. One EA I knew kept her desk so organized and tidy and I asked her how she did that. She said every time she had extra moments she would organize and tidy all the drawers and keep it all fixed up. She would also think ahead of what might be required as in thinking ahead ten steps and anticipating. For ex even reading the papers seems pointless, but what if their is something in the papers an employer needs to know say prices of a competition as an example only, read them and be prepared. Studying about the field/products/customers that one is dealing with. Those are ways to stay fresh and sharp. Anyway good luck :).

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