Virtual Assistants

What Does a Personal Assistant Do? Key Responsibilities and Essential Skills in 2024

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What does a personal assistant do? What are their responsibilities and qualifications? 

The decision to hire a personal assistant is not always an easy one. Some people weigh the pros and cons, wondering if it’s even worth the investment, which is completely reasonable. In this post, we hope to help make that decision easier by providing you with a general overview of this role. 

What is a Personal Assistant?

The role of a personal assistant is so important for many businesses. A personal assistant can help you with administrative tasks such as communications, scheduling, organizing, and other related tasks as required. Anyone who needs support with their daily tasks can hire a PA for themselves. A PA may not serve the business directly, but the way they support the executives is vital.

Responsibilities of a Personal Assistant

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Managing schedules and appointments

A PA can ensure that you never forget a meeting. They can update your calendar, set appointments and reminders for you, and make sure no events overlap. They not only can set appointments for business-related matters, but also for personal affairs (such as medical and family events). 

Organizing and maintaining files and records

One of the main clerical duties of a PA involves sorting and categorizing files. Organizing documents makes for easy and quick access. This can also involve inbox management, including labeling and filtering emails. They also check regularly to make sure the database remains up to date. 

Handling correspondence and communication

Apart from emails, PAs also manage other communications, both internal and external. They screen calls and serve as a point of contact between their manager and other staff. Some higher level PAs can also manage external communications with business partners, suppliers, and customers. 

It’s also common for a PA to attend meetings on behalf of their managers and take minutes of these meetings. They need to be able to summarize the discussion and catch all the main points to report back. 

Assisting with travel arrangements

From booking hotels and restaurants to creating an itinerary, PAs make traveling for business or pleasure a lot easier. They can book flights for you as well. When they do, it usually includes travel arrangements to and from the airport, hotel, restaurant, business venue, etc. 

Providing administrative support

What does a personal assistant do aside from scheduling, appointment setting, and file organization? Well, they can also take an inventory of office supplies. When these run low, they’re also in charge of ordering and replenishing. 

Some personal assistants also do some basic bookkeeping duties. For instance, managers will often send their PAs on errands. This can include ordering food, buying groceries, taking pets to the vet, and other transactions. Of course, an online assistant will not be able to do this kind of legwork. Often, they will pay for things with a company card. It isn’t uncommon for them to list and/or categorize these expenses. They would then relay the information to the bookkeeping team.

Coordinating meetings and events

Files aren’t the only thing a PA can organize. Coordination requires a certain ability to organize people as well. A PA becomes the point of contact, communicating and following up with key players. They make sure schedules align and delegate responsibilities appropriately. They are involved from inception, to planning, to execution, to debriefing.

Skills and Qualifications of a Personal Assistant

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Excellent organizational skills

A lot of the time, people who hire personal assistants are spending hours on tasks that could be optimized. Whether it’s rummaging through files or sifting through spam in their inbox, a PA should be able to set things in order. They are able to develop systems that make it easier to locate, update, and delete information. 

Strong communication skills

Of course, you should look for a proficient English speaker. But you also need someone who can clearly convey ideas to others. They sometimes speak on behalf of others and therefore must be good at relaying information. Different contexts also require different styles of communication. They need to be able to shift between professional business language and more casual tones. 

Time management abilities

“PA” and “multitasker” may as well be synonyms. These disciplined individuals are able to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines. Because they are great managers of their own time, this also helps them manage other people’s schedules and timelines. 

Attention to detail

They pay attention to the little things. It’s their job to think about things that might go under other people’s noses. They are proactive. When they notice a potential problem area, they don’t just bring it up. They take the initiative to come up with solutions. 

Adaptability and problem-solving skills

PAs need to have plan and be ready at all times. Sometimes a meeting can go longer than expected and they need to move things around. Maybe your accommodations fell through at the last minute. A great PA is not just resourceful when the unexpected happens, they account for those possibilities. 

Salary Expectations for Personal Assistants

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Factors affecting personal assistant salaries

Like most positions, salaries and rates can depend on several key variables.

  • Level of Experience and Education. – An entry-level PA is not going to have the same rate as one with several years of experience. Similarly, if you require a degree when hiring, expect candidates to request a higher rate. 
  • Skill Level. – You should also expect to pay more for the time and effort they’ve dedicated to learning particular skills. For instance, you might need someone very proficient in Excel. This individual may charge a little more than a standard PA. 
  • Location. – In the US, personal assistant rates can vary from state to state. If you’re looking to hire a virtual personal assistant, those numbers can fluctuate even more depending on your needs. Outsourcing tends to be the more cost-effective option if your PA can do the work remotely. 

Average salary range for personal assistants 

The average general PA rate is around $15/hour. For more specialized help, like a personal finance assistant or executive assistant, these rates can jump to $20-$30/hr. Hiring online can lower these rates, depending on the person’s location. Consider checking out our personal assistant salary guide to get more details on it. 

Education and Training Requirements for Personal Assistants

Recommended educational background for personal assistants

As the PA position is more skill-based, you don’t necessarily need a degree to become one. However, some companies might prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. These include degrees related to administration, business management, or other related fields. But why is that? Well, these tend to be more standardized, making it a safer bet for hiring managers. Additionally, most college programs have some kind of OJT (on-the-job training). Other experiential training can also be part of the curriculum. 

Certifications or additional training that can enhance career prospects

That being said, certifications and skill training can be just as valuable if not more so. Not all PAs will have in-depth skills related to certain software, for instance. Think Google Suite, Microsoft Office, and others. If you are looking for a PA with a specific skillset, make that clear in the job description. 

Experience Requirements for Personal Assistants

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Past experience in administrative roles or related fields

Consider this also when hiring. The more experience a person has as a PA, the more aware they are of possible hiccups. They will be‌ more adaptable to not only respond to quick changes but also quick to find solutions. 

The question of “What does a personal assistant do?” also depends on the industry they’re in. If you are in the finance industry, you’ll prefer a PA with experience working in a similar field. If you work in fashion, you probably want someone who is familiar with that world and its concepts. Whatever the case, make sure their work experience, education, and skills match the responsibilities you expect them to fulfill.

Proven track record in PA  support services

You need to know the personal assistant interview questions that can help you gauge their multitasking capabilities. It involves asking them if they have experience organizing events. These tend to have a lot of moving parts and not everyone can pull it off successfully. If you’re looking for a personal executive assistant, this ability is even more crucial. Executive PAs have additional managerial duties. This means that they need to be able to organize people and delegate tasks. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the qualities that make a good personal assistant?

Here is a god starter list of characteristics you should look for when canvassing for a personal assistant. 

  • Excellent communicator
  • Proficient multitasker
  • Problem-solver
  • Active listener
  • Good manager of time 
  • Self-disciplined
  • Resourceful 
  • Quick on their feet
  • Observant 
  • Proactive 
  • Teachable
  • Adaptable
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Organized and methodical 
  • Respectful 
  • Honest and integrous 
  • Team player

How do I know if I need a personal assistant?

Do you pay a significant amount of attention to a task that isn’t a core business function? If so, you may need a personal assistant. Do you you spend hours replying to emails, planning meetings, or other tedious tasks? If you answered yes, it might be time to start looking. This is because these issues indicate bigger issues. You’re probably not making the most efficient use of your skills or fulfilling your key role in the business. You should be free to focus on areas of business you are passionate about, too. More than this, you need time to relax and spend time with loved ones. These are critical aspects of life that you can’t sacrifice!

What training do I need to provide for my personal assistant?

We recommend getting a PA up to speed on company SOPs, culture, and communication channels ASAP. Most PAs are familiar with the common tools used to help them perform their administrative duties. However, we recommend making a comprehensive list of all the software and programs you use. Major tools should be put in the job description. You can go through minor ones during the interview process. You need to make sure that they confirm their ability to use all the tools before you hire them. Make sure it’s at the level you expect, too.

What Is Outsource School?

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Outsource School helps you to unlock the potential of virtual assistants and accelerate your business growth.

This is the exact system Outsource School’s founders, Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan, used to go from zero to 8 figures and 40+ virtual assistants with an exit in 2019.

Since being founded in 2020, Outsource School has helped 1,000+ business owners hire 2,000+ virtual assistants for their companies.

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When answering the question “What does a personal assistant do?”, we find they have several key responsibilities. This includes admin, calendar management, communications, and event planning. When assessing your need for a PA, consider how much time and energy you put into these areas.