Hiring an EA? 10 Key Executive Assistant Skills Your Next Hire Should Possess

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Are you constantly overwhelmed and have no time to focus on your business’s strategic growth? You’re not alone. Most business leaders are—and 45% experience symptoms of leadership burnout like:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Health problems (headaches, stomach problems, and even heart disease)
  • Insomnia and increased absenteeism
  • Problems with time management skills

But if you can turn this around, that would be sweet, right?

Enter your virtual secretary aka executive virtual assistant. They’re essentially the C-suite support system that could give you the freedom to concentrate on scaling your business. And in this guide, we’ll explore the essential and top executive assistant skills they must possess to help you achieve more.

What is an executive assistant’s main purpose?

Business owner looking overwhelmed with lots of files piled on his desk

A great executive assistant has a sole mission? It’s to help make the life and work of an executive or business owner easier and more organized. And according to a post published in Harvard Business Review, an assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than they would be alone.

So, hiring an executive assistant—especially in a fast paced environment—can be the key to unlocking business growth. After all, with executive assistants handling specific administrative tasks, the executives themselves can put more energy into strategic thinking.

For more detail, let’s break down the key responsibilities of executive assistants:

Manage and maintain executive schedules

Business executives often have numerous appointments, deadlines, and commitments. So, if your schedule is a mess, some of these appointments might slip through the cracks and even cause delays for the entire team. It’s also possible that there may be some urgent or unannounced meetings that need immediate attention. Without someone managing a calendar, it would be difficult for an executive to move things around and contact the people involved.

Therefore it’s a critical responsibility of your personal assistant to ensure your calendar is orderly and followed.

Handle communications on behalf of the executives

Being a point of contact for communication (email and phone calls) is another vital responsibility of an executive assistant. They’re your gatekeepers. This means that all incoming and outgoing communications to and from your office are filtered, shielding you from unnecessary distractions. This requires exceptional organizational skills.

Organize and manage events—both business-related and personal

Coordinating events is also a core responsibility of an executive assistant. Business-related? Of course! Whether it’s team meetings, presentations, or high-stakes corporate functions, an executive assistant must be able to conduct intensive event planning and prepare all necessary materials and logistics.

However, some of the best executive assistants are also trusted to manage even personal events and errands such as travel arrangements or personal appointments such as doctor’s visits, haircuts, or family gatherings.

Coordinate between the executive team and internal departments

Like a liaison officer, the executive assistant prevents disconnects. How? Well, the successful executive assistant collects key updates, data, and feedback from all levels of the organization to keep the executive team informed on operational progress and challenges.

In the other direction, they also translate high-level directives and strategic goals from leadership into actionable guidance for managers and staff to execute. This requires excellent communication skills and technical knowledge about the ins and outs of the company.

Perform administrative duties as required to support the executive and team.

Administrative tasks involve data entry, managing expenses, processing invoices, or overseeing office operations and supplies. Collectively, they help run smooth daily operations. With an executive virtual assistant, you can offload these time-consuming administrative burdens and focus your efforts on core business functions.

Why should you hire an executive assistant?

Executive assistant scheduling appointments on a calendar

Seeing their key responsibilities, it’s kind of obvious that hiring an executive assistant is (more than just an added expense) a worthwhile investment that can deliver returns. 92% of CEOs already receiving assistance from great executive assistants report increased productivity. For you, here are more reasons why:

1. They help alleviate stress.

Multiply your impact as a leader? Yes, an executive assistant skill set can make you feel that way. It’s because they’re freeing up your most precious asset—time. Bye-bye time-sapping administrative tasks and errands! Delegating overwhelming or time-consuming tasks that are better off your plate is a sure stress buster

2. They improve your work-life balance.

Admit it or not, the mere presence of a reliable support person naturally makes life easier. If you know someone has your back on business to personal logistics, it prevents burnout. EAs filter out non-essential requests and see to it that your personal time is protected.

3. They’re a cost-effective solution.

Despite the upfront cost of an executive virtual secretary, their impact on your productivity and efficiency can make them a cost-effective solution in the long run. As said earlier, your time equals money. Having a business assistant means you’ll not waste it on trivial tasks that could be better spent planning or networking. So it’s safe to say, the cost savings are your gains. Global Workplace Analytics found that a typical employer in the United States can save around $11,000 annually for each employee who works remotely.

What are the most important skills for an executive assistant?

 Executive assistant answering a phone call

Summing everything up, an executive VA is really helpful for you. They just need a variety of key skills for executive assistant to excel in their role. Let’s divide the executive assistant qualifications and skills into two categories: hard/technical and soft competencies. 

Technical Skills:

These are the practical skills required to perform the day-to-day tasks of the role. 

Appointment setting

Part of an EA’s role is protecting the executive’s time by scheduling wisely. They prioritize high-stakes meetings, batch similar appointments together for efficiency, and guard against overscheduling or unnecessary time commitments.

But that’s not all there is to it, executive administrative assistant skills also include coordinating and scheduling meetings, calls, and events seamlessly for the executive. 

Organizational skills

Beyond simply scheduling appointments, calendar management skill for executive assistants is a must.  This includes blocking off time for focused work, travel, and personal commitments. EAs must be organized to manage the executive’s calendar. 

Also, this skill includes maintaining an organized digital filing system. So it’s always a breeze to retrieve information, documents, or records.

Research, analysis, and reporting skills

For high-level administrative support, research and analysis are among the top technical skills for executive assistants. Why not when it’s required to support executive decision-making with data-driven recommendations? An executive assistant should be resourceful enough when gathering data, information, and insights. 91% of CEOs believe data and analytics are essential for making informed decisions.

Afterward, EAs must effectively communicate their findings through written reports, presentations, or other formats. Basically, they should be able to simplify complex information into digestible summaries and just highlight key takeaways for you.

Task automation

Task automation is another of the top skills for executive assistants for time optimization and improved workflow. Over 80% of managers are already automating their workflows. To effectively implement task automation, the EA must have skills in identifying repetitive processes and using automation tools to create workflow rules/commands.

Also, as you scale, task automation enables executive assistants to seamlessly manage increasing workloads without becoming overwhelmed by manually handling every new task.

Project management

Coordination and collaboration are key aspects of project management skills, such as working with cross-functional teams, external service providers, and multiple stakeholders. Many EAs play a vital role in coordinating and tracking the progress of multiple projects together. This is monitoring progress and seamless execution from start to finish.

It also includes risk assessment or anticipating potential risks, obstacles, or bottlenecks that could impact a project’s success, and developing contingency plans to mitigate issues.

Proficiency in office software

Yes, EAs must possess some serious digital skills. Proficiency in office software is a fundamental technical skill for executive assistants. That’s because a key part of their daily tasks includes competent use of various software applications commonly used in office environments.

Common office software includes Microsoft Office Suite or Google Suite, including word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software.

Soft skills:

These are the personal attributes and interpersonal communication skills, that enable effective interaction and collaboration.

Communication (written and verbal): 

EAs are often responsible for drafting emails, letters, memos, and other written communications on behalf of the executive. So, yes this is one of the most important skills for executive assistants. 

Communicating information effectively, maintaining a positive image, and getting what you want are all about clear, concise, and professional writing.

Interpersonal skills 

Interpersonal skills are executive assistant soft skills that enable them to build strong relationships, converse proficiently, and collaborate seamlessly with others. Key interpersonal skills include actively listening to others, emotional intelligence, empathy and compassion, and diplomacy.

Discretion and confidentiality

Why discretion and confidentiality are important for executive assistants? As someone with access to sensitive information, the executive assistant must exercise discretion and maintain strict confidentiality. Breaches of confidentiality can have serious consequences for the organization, including financial losses, legal liabilities, and damage to reputation.

All in all, it’s about having situational awareness to know when certain information should be kept to one’s self. 

Problem-solving and critical thinking

If there are unexpected situations (say logistical challenges, scheduling conflicts, communication breakdowns, or technical issues), your EA should be able to assess situations objectively, analyze information, and devise effective solutions. After all, their role is dynamic. 

And based on the available evidence and analysis, EAs need to be able to draw logical conclusions and make sound recommendations.

Works well under pressure

This is how your personal virtual assistant maintains composure, focus, and productivity even in stressful situations. EAs who can stay calm and focused under pressure can maintain their efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring that tasks are completed accurately and on time.

Bonus skills:

These skills, while not always mandatory, can significantly enhance an executive assistant’s value.

  • Experience using virtual collaboration tools: Getting the hang of virtual collaboration tools is essential in today’s hybrid and remote work environments.
  • Team player: Being a team player is crucial for executive assistants who often work closely with colleagues, other departments, and external stakeholders. A team player EA encourages open communication and helps build a cohesive team.
  • Financial competence: While not always required, having a basic understanding of financial concepts and practices can be a valuable asset for an EA.

What are the tools that executive assistants need?

Executive assistant using a computer with a solid tech stack and software

Want to help reach your assistant’s best? Give them the tools they need:

  1. Cloud storage solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive for secure storage and easy access to organize documents. 
  2. Note-taking apps like Evernote, OneNote, or Notion help them capture ideas, create to-do lists, and organize meeting notes. 
  3. Password managers like LastPass for secure storage and access to various online accounts.
  4. Messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet.
  5. Calendar apps like Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar are great for staying on top of schedules and appointments, often in combination with scheduling tools like Calendly.
  6. Social media management tools like Hootsuite or Buffer and social listening tools such as Brandwatch, BuzzSumo, and Meltwater.

Delegate to the right executive assistant and watch your business transform

For everyone, especially for you who leads the business—every minute counts. But if you’re constantly experiencing burnout, you need a time-out. Learn to just delegate to an VA with the right virtual executive assistant skills to reclaim the wasted time. 

Skip the hassle of looking for a reliable one. Find your executive assistant here in TaskDrive among our expertly trained VAs. Book a call to see how we go beyond traditional support to actively drive your business growth.

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