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In a fast-paced business environment, Executive Assistants (EAs) play a critical role in ensuring the smooth operations of an organization. They act as trusted confidantes, strategic partners and organizational lifesavers for busy executives.

Because an EA and their executive work so closely together, finding the right match is crucial. To learn more about hiring and finding the right ‘fit’ for an EA, we spoke with Senior Recruitment Consultant Patti Babyn, who has extensive experience placing Executive Assistants in Edmonton, Vancouver and across Canada.

Finding a Job as an EA

The projected labour market conditions for Executive Assistants over the next ten years indicate that  labour demand and supply are expected to be broadly in line (i.e. job openings and job seekers are projected to be fairly balanced).

Executive Assistants come from many different work backgrounds,” shares Patti. “EAs often tell me they didn’t plan to become an EA, but grew into the role over the course of their career.”

Education for EAs

EAs come a variety of educational backgrounds, and while there is no one educational path to becoming an EA, many do have some education in administration or business. There are even some programs designed specifically for EAs, including the Executive Assistant Diploma program at Red Deer Polytechnic and continuing education programs such as the Executive and Administrative Support Programs through UBC Sauder School of Business in Vancouver and the Executive Assistant certificate at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

EA Job Search Tips

Looking to land your dream role as an EA? Here are some job search tips:

  • Have a Current LinkedIn Profile: Maintain an up-to-date LinkedIn profile with comprehensive information about your experience and a professional photo. This is often the first impression you make on potential employers. In today’s technology-driven business world, EAs are expected to be tech-savvy. A non-existent or outdated LinkedIn profile is a missed opportunity to showcase your digital proficiency to potential employers.
  • Attention to Detail is Key: Attention to detail is a crucial skill for EAs, so craft a resume and cover letter that are polished and meticulously proofread.
  • Explore the Hidden Job Market: Some organizations may choose not to publicly post jobs for EAs on the usual job boards and instead rely on referrals, networks and recruitment firms. Applying through a recruitment agency like The Headhunters can give you access to this ‘hidden job market.’
  • Prepare Well for Interviews: Take the time to prepare for every interview. Research the company and the executive you’d be supporting, have a mental portfolio of your accomplishments, bring extra copies of your resume, dress professionally and be punctual.
  • Be Yourself, Be Genuine:Personality match is paramount between an EA and the executive they support,” reminds Patti, “so let your personality shine during interviews!”
  • Prepare Insightful Questions: Executives are often very interested in the types of questions you ask during an interview, so prepare thoughtful questions that demonstrate your interest in the role. You can ask about their expectations for an EA, which tasks or projects they’d want tackled right away, what success looks like in the role or what they would have changed about EA support they’ve had in the past.
  • Meet the Executive: Before accepting any role as an EA, ensure you meet the executive you’ll be supporting (i.e. not just the recruiter, HR professional or other hiring manager). This will help you assess if it’s a good fit for both parties.

EA Skills

Patti also shared the following key skills that employers are often seeking in an Executive Assistant:

  • General business acumen
  • Experience handling confidential information with discretion and integrity
  • Exceptional organizational and time management skills
  • Ability to effectively ‘manage up’ and take a proactive approach to guide and support an executive
  • Ability to act as the ‘gatekeeper’, filtering information and access to the executive
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Critical thinking
  • Service oriented
  • Self-motivated and able to work independently
  • Tech-savvy and able to assist executives and other staff with basic applications

Hiring the Perfect Executive Assistant

For employers, finding the right EA goes beyond technical skills and experience. Here are some key considerations to ensure a successful search:

  • Beyond the Resume – Personality & Workstyle: Skills and experience are important, but a strong personality and workstyle match between the EA and the executive is crucial for a harmonious and productive working relationship. The Headhunters’ Workstyle and Performance Profile is a valuable tool for assessing candidate fit, and works best when the executive takes the assessment as well.
  • Emotional Intelligence Matters: Successful EAs possess a high degree of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This allows them to navigate sensitive situations, manage relationships effectively and anticipate the needs of the executive.
  • Executive Involvement is Key: Don’t delegate the entire hiring process. Active involvement from the executive(s) who this EA will support is essential to ensure a strong match.
  • Employer Brand Impacts Hiring: This should go without saying, but treat your employees well! Beyond being the right thing to do, remember that EAs are often well-networked. A negative experience can damage your employer brand and make it harder to attract top talent in the future.
  • Maintain Confidentiality: Respect the privacy of candidates by ensuring confidentiality throughout the hiring process. Remember they often haven’t told their current employer that they’re seeking new employment, so you could do a lot of damage by telling other executives in your network that a particular candidate has applied to be your new EA.
  • Partner with a Recruiting Expert: Leverage the expertise of a recruiter (like Patti!) to find the best fit for your team and to gain access to ‘passive candidates’ —those who may not be actively applying for jobs but would consider a change for the right opportunity.

Success & Retention

Here are some tips to work together successfully with your new EA and to retain them for the long term:

Onboarding Sets the Stage

A well-defined onboarding program is crucial for a smooth transition and a successful relationship. If you need assistance, our free Onboarding Guide can help!

Communication is Key

  • Set Clear Expectations & Provide Feedback: Set clear expectations for your EA, outlining both their duties and the ‘unspoken’ needs of the role. It is also important to specify what you do not want your EA to do on your behalf—for example, if you prefer to manage your own calendar or book your own flights. Then, provide ongoing constructive feedback to ensure you continue to work effectively together.
  • Meet with Your EA Regularly: Keep your EA in the loop on your activities and meet with them often. Set a recurring meeting and make that time a priority in your schedule. The better you communicate with your EA, the more effectively they can support you.
  • Explain the ‘Why’: Explain the ‘why’ behind your decisions so your EA can gain a clearer understanding of the big picture and what you are trying to accomplish. This empowers them to make decisions, become a proactive problem-solver and anticipate your needs.

Recognition and Appreciation

Patti emphasizes the importance of genuine and sincere recognition: “A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way! Executives who take the time to appreciate their EAs contribute to a positive work environment and increased retention.”

Recruiting Trends in the EA Market

The EA job market is constantly evolving. Here are some recent trends highlighted Patti has noticed:

The Pandemic Impacted the Job

  • The role of many EAs changed starting in 2020. Many teams went fully remote, and while some have returned to the office, others have stayed remote or hybrid, permanently changing the way those EAs communicate with and support their executives.
  • The world also saw changes in corporate travel, which impacted EAs who had travel coordination as a large component of their role.

EA Salaries

  • Salaries for EAs can vary significantly depending on the province. Job seekers considering relocation or remote work may need to adjust their expectations accordingly.
  • The inflated salaries of the 2021-2022 labour shortage have begun to stabilize in many regions, however candidate salary expectations haven’t entirely adjusted. This can cause a mismatch between what employers are paying and what job seekers are asking for.

Reshuffling

  • During the recent candidate shortage, some companies hired EAs who weren’t the ideal fit.
  • As the market adjusts, we are likely to see some ‘reshuffling’ as employers seek a better match for their executives and EAs look for jobs and companies that better fit their work style and career goals.

The Headhunters: Experts at Finding and Matching Top EA Candidates

The Headhunters Recruitment is a leader in placing top-tier Executive Assistants across Canada. Here’s how we can help you achieve success:

  • The Power of the WPP: Our Workstyle and Performance Profile is a valuable tool for assessing compatibility between EAs and executives. By understanding both sides, we can create a more targeted and efficient search process.
  • Language Proficiency Testing: Effective communication is crucial for EAs. We offer English language proficiency testing to ensure candidates meet the necessary communication standards.
  • Extensive Network and Reputation: Since our founding in 2009, we’ve built a strong network of experienced EAs. Many satisfied clients and candidates return to us for their EA hiring or job search needs.
  • Specialized Recruiters: All of our Recruitment Consultants specialize in a particular area. Patti Babyn is a seasoned recruiter with a deep understanding of the EA landscape. Her experience and commitment to building relationships lead to successful placements and long-term client satisfaction.
  • Commitment to Due Diligence: We take the time to understand your specific needs and company culture before commencing the search. This ensures we present you with only the most qualified candidates.
  • Access to the Hidden Job Market: Many talented EAs might be passively looking for new opportunities but not actively applying to job postings. Our extensive network and headhunting expertise allow us to identify these candidates and connect them with your company.

By partnering with The Headhunters Recruitment, you gain access to a wider pool of qualified candidates, a streamlined hiring process and the expertise to find the perfect fit for your executive team. Contact us to discuss your EA hiring needs!

Looking for an EA job?

Browse our job board and apply online for open positions. Your resume will be uploaded into our system and a copy will go directly to the Recruitment Consultant who is working on that role. We understand that confidentiality is of utmost importance—your resume will never be presented to an employer without your knowledge and consent.