What Does an Executive Assistant Do?

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Have you ever wondered what an executive assistant actually does? Ever wonder if it’s something worth investing in? Maybe you’re already considering one, but you aren’t sold on them yet. Maybe you’re just looking for tips on how to go about hiring one. 

Well, in this article we hope to answer those questions and more.  

What is an Executive Assistant?

Definition and Role

Sometimes known as executive administrators/secretaries, an EA serves executives and other high-ranking individuals within a company. They work directly under them and carry out a variety of responsibilities. This includes administration and office management as well as scheduling and planning duties. While they are not project managers or accounting staff, they can perform some of those duties. 

Importance and Benefits

We’ve spoken at length on the benefits of outsourcing, and honestly, we can say the same things about executive assistants.

Time-Savings

They help save time by taking care of important tasks such as:

  • Email management 
  • Call/message screening 
  • Calendar/schedule management
  • Organizing files
  • Filling in for you in meetings and taking notes
  • Creating reports and presentations

Cost-Savings

An assistant can help you get more things done and allow you to focus on growing your profit margins. This is especially true if you go for an executive virtual assistant as outsourcing is more cost-effective than in-house. 

Flexibility

These assistants can also delegate work on your behalf. They can act as your hands, feet, and mouthpiece – relaying instructions and give you progress reports. They can free up your time so you can focus on other areas that need your attention – be it business or personal. 

Skills and Qualities of a Successful Executive Assistant

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Organizational Skills

Choose an assistant who can

  • sort documents and create easily accessible filing systems
  • perform email management (filtering, categorizing, labeling, deleting, and replying to emails)
  • manage a calendar without conflicting dates 

Communication Skills

There’s a lot of communication that goes on within a company. 

You have things like

  • Hiring and recruiting
  • Internal communications between departments
  • Communications with and between remote teams and in house staff 
  • Deadline and milestone checkup meetings
  • Reporting
  • Emails
  • Meeting follow-ups

As such, an EA must be able to 

  • Express ideas clearly and concisely
  • Schedule meetings externally and internally
  • Manage communications between teams and relay instructions 
  • Arrange travel accommodations
  • Create and present reports 

Time Management Skills

  • Can multitask effectively and meet deadlines
  • Know how to prioritize tasks based on level of importance and urgency
  • Can manage another person’s schedule 

Attention to Detail

An EA must have eyes like a hawk. Their job is to notice things that their bosses may fail to catch.  For example, say you put them in charge of arranging a business trip. Something they would consider is if the hotel you would be staying in has transport services and stable internet. 

They must be able to 

  • Observe needs
  • Anticipate problems and plan ahead
  • Perform their duties with accuracy, especially when it comes to tasks like bookkeeping 
  • Strategize ways to save time, make your life more organized, and allow for a better work/life balance.

Responsibilities of an Executive Assistant

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Managing Calendars and Scheduling Appointments

Meetings are practically an everyday occurrence for those in top positions. Whether it’s meeting with potential investors, business partners, or internal staff, an EA must fit everything in without things conflicting. 

They need to be good with dates and times. This includes having a good sense of how long meetings could go. They account for time in between meetings, so executives also have time to prepare before the next thing scheduled.

Arranging Travel and Accommodations

If you’ve ever had to arrange a trip, you know how much planning goes into it. It isn’t much different from business trips. From accommodations, to restaurants, and business related site visits, everything needs to stay on schedule, otherwise the costs go up. Is the plane ticket round trip? Do they have to pay for extra luggage weight? Are the places to eat close to the hotel? Do they have backups for these places in case the first option falls through for any reason?

Screening Calls and Managing Email Correspondence

An email management virtual assistant is someone who can label and arrange your emails. An EA with these skills can sort through your spam. They can assign categories to your emails so they are easy to navigate. You can know which emails are urgent through labels.

Have a bunch of unwanted emails? No worries. They can unsubscribe you from those unwanted newsletters and block spam emails to keep your inbox tidy. 

Assisting with Meeting Preparation and Note-taking

They make sure the executive is prepared for the meeting and filled in on all the details. They also must know how to summarize and condense information while it still being comprehensive. 

Some core duties under this include taking meeting minutes, summarizing information, preparing documents, and even creating presentations for the executives. Standing in on behalf of an executive is not an uncommon responsibility. As such, EAs must also be well-informed so they can present well.

Handling Confidential Information

Discretion is a quality required of assistants handling sensitive data. You wouldn’t be giving just anyone access to email accounts or company credit cards. In order to keep data secure, the person must know how to both store data and share it. For instance, Dropbox and Google Drive are a good option for both. Social media platforms are not. Even the way they talk about confidential information should signal how they will treat the data itself. This is a question you can ask them during the interview process. 

Tips for Hiring an Effective Executive Assistant

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Factors to Consider when Selecting a Candidate

  • Experience – Consider how long they have worked as an EA. Remember, the greater the experience, the better the efficiency.
  • Expertise – Consider the tools, software, and technical skills they have. Identify your needs and hire accordingly. 
  • Location – What country are they from? Will time zones be an issue? Can they work the same hours as you? 
  • Communication Skills – Assistants must talk to you, other assistants, clients, business partners, hotels, restaurants, and possibly even speak on your behalf. 
  • Budget and Rate – How much does an executive assistant make? You should get a general idea of the range prior to the canvassing stage. We’ll help you out on this one. According to Indeed, the average salary for an in-house EA is $60-65,000/year. If you’re looking for a virtual EA, average hourly rates come out to $40-$50. 

Best Practices for the Hiring Process

The hiring/outsourcing process involves several stages. 

Prepping

Know what you want. List your needs and write a comprehensive job description with a completed list of tasks, roles and responsibilities, and qualifications.

Researching and Canvassing

Look to hire from reputable sites. Create job posts and collect applications and resumes.

Vetting 

Sift through the applications and select which ones make it through to the interview stage.

Interviewing 

Get to know your candidates better and see which ones are a better fit through prepared executive assistant interview questions. Expand on what they wrote in their applications and examine personality and work culture compatibility. You may want to do multiple interview stages to get more in-depth or do skill tests. 

Negotiating

Rate negotiations and other details are finalized in this stage. This should typically happen during later stages or after the interview process. 

Selecting and Onboarding 

Once you’ve chosen your candidate, you must also be ready to transition them into the company. The goal of a remote onboarding process is to familiarize new hires with the company. This may involve orienting them on company culture, SOPs, mission, vision, and the like. This also includes their roles and the roles of the people they will be working with. You should also familiarize them with tools and software you use for internal communications, employee management, etc.  

Managing 

Use time management, employee management, and project management software. It makes managing remote teams and tracking progress and deadlines a lot easier. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an administrative assistant and an executive assistant?

An EA fills a lot of roles, including administration. They are much higher level and have a broader range of responsibility. Any department can have an admin assistant, however, EAs work specifically under executives. EAs can also manage other assistants.

How does hiring a virtual assistant differ from a traditional in-office assistant?

Remote workers are ‌more cost-effective and outsourcing also gives you access to a wider talent pool of experts. However, their limits show if you have a task that requires their physical presence. 

Time-zones can also be a hurdle. However, you can mitigate it by hiring in similar time-zones but you can also take advantage of it. For instance, they can work during company-off hours. Your EA can make travel arrangements and manage your email inbox, so everything is ready by the time you wake up. 

How do I ensure the security of my business information when working with a virtual assistant?

Here are some short, fast guidelines to mitigate data breach risks and keep your bases covered. 

  • Hire from reputable sites sources 
  • Interview through recommendations
  • Check the data security and privacy policies if hiring from a freelance marketplace or through agencies
  • Vet hires properly by checking previous work history and previous client reviews and ratings (if possible)
  • Have workers sign contracts with clear data security terms

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.

Schedule a free sales call to learn more

Free resources you might like: 

Conclusion

Executive assistants are a busy businessman’s best friend. From streamlining monotonously laborious tasks like answering emails, to optimizing your filing system, they make life easier for bosses everywhere. By hiring an EA, you can improve your quality of life in the office and at home. They can free up your time to do what you love and arrange the space to be with the people you love. 

Want help outsourcing & hiring virtual assistants? We make it easy! Learn More, Speak w/ an Expert, or Request a Callback

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