Congratulations! After carefully updating and submitting your resume and cover letter, you’ve been invited to an interview.
You’re not quite in a zen state of mind, but you’ve researched the department or organisation and secured insights into its people and operations. You’ve picked apart the position description to try and anticipate questions the employer or interview panel may have of you, and developed answers to showcase your fit with the role.
You may be preparing to interview by phone, GoToMeeting, Skype, Teams, Zoom or even in person. You’ve done your homework, so all that’s left to do is hover between anticipation and stress, right?
Not quite. You also want to consider that the interview represents an opportunity for both parties to mutually assess fit. First, the employer needs to determine whether you have what it takes to help them succeed, and how you compare with other candidates.
Both parties are searching for confidence that you can build a good working relationship
You, on the other hand, need to determine if the position, compensation package and organisation align with your aspirations. Will there be a good fit between you and the person to whom you’ll report? With this in mind, be prepared to take advantage of an invitation to raise questions of your own.
Be prepared to ask questions of your own
Being invited to raise your own questions provides you an additional opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates
This portion of an interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your preparedness for and interest in the role. It’s also one more opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates.
Have a look at the lists below. Give thought to which of these themes and questions you may want to incorporate into your interview. Tailor your questions to the role and what you know of the employer.
Then, raise only a limited number of questions when invited. Select them on the basis of what you learn before and during the actual interview. Remember, you want to leave a positive, professional impression; you don’t want to inundate people with questions.
- What are your key priorities or deliverables over the next month / quarter/ year … and how can the incoming assistant support success on this front?
- If I was to start in this role tomorrow and develop my initial “to do” list, what would you recommend as my top three priorities?
- What skills or traits are most critical to you in an assistant? How can I best support your success?
- What are a couple of key qualities or personality traits your assistant will need in order to succeed in the job? (this is another way of approaching question #3 above)
- How do you like to work with your assistant with respect to managing your email and calendar? (Once you’re hired, build on this information in an early conversation. Discuss colour coding appointments. Will the assistant have primary responsibility for the calendar, and/or does the principal [boss] like to control or tweak the calendar? Who has authority/privileges, and to what degree? Be prepared to propose recommendations for both calendar and email management; also be prepared to listen.)
- What business practices have you and your current assistant established that you’d like to ensure are maintained?
- Are there any changes to practice that you’d like your new assistant to incorporate? Be thoughtful in how you phrase this. While one assistant’s departure often marks the ideal opportunity to incorporate change, you want to broach the matter in a respectful manner.
The work environment
- What does a typical work week, if there is such a thing, look like in this role?
- How did this opportunity come about? (Is the incumbent moving elsewhere within the organisation, or is this a new position?)
- Are there opportunities for growth and assumption of additional responsibilities/career development?
- What do you particularly enjoy about working here?
- What advice would you give someone stepping into this role?
- I understand that the organisation prides itself on “A” and “B” (here’s where your research kicks in); can you tell me a bit about the office culture, and how I could be a good fit?
- What are the greatest challenges and opportunities you see for the successful candidate?
Priorities and non-negotiables
If we decide to work together, I’d appreciate an early conversation to learn about some of your key contacts and preferences.
- any people/contacts I should put through/connect with you even if you’re otherwise engaged (family, other contacts)
- any meetings I should ensure remain uninterrupted except in case of an emergency
- how you like to plan your day – where possible, do you prefer to schedule meetings in the morning/afternoon, and build in dedicated blocks of work/focused time in the afternoon/morning, or – ?
- Are there any blocks of time/days that are untouchable, and in which I should avoid committing you to meetings or events?
Supporting the employer’s decision making
- Is there anything else you’d like to know about my skills and experience to support your decision making?
- About the Author: Shelagh Donnelly educates and inspire assistants on topics ranging from meetings and minutes to business acumen, cybersecurity and working with boards. She helps assistants nurture their adaptability, productivity and resilience in order to enjoy the career and continue to add value even as roles evolve. An international speaker, Shelagh worked with C-level executives for more than 25 years and is recognized for her governance expertise. Shelagh founded her globally read Exceptional EA website in 2013, and is the author of the upcoming book, The Resilient Assistant.
This article first appeared in Exceptional EA, a globally respected professional development resource for administrative professionals. Visit https://exceptionalea.com/ to find out more and tell her we sent you