8 essential executive assistant skills (with definition)
Updated 21 February 2023
Executive assistants are professionals who provide support to a company, organisation or executive, helping them complete daily administrative and clerical tasks. If you seek to become an executive assistant, knowing and understanding the skills of an assistant is vital to succeeding in the role. It also ensures you can improve your skills to advance your career and grow as an individual. In this article, we discuss what assistant skills are, list eight essential executive assistant skills and provide tips on how you can improve these skills.
What are executive assistant skills?
Executive assistant skills are abilities and qualities that help high-level assistants thrive in their positions. These skills allow them to assist the executives of an organisation in tasks, daily schedules and other company projects. Employers require executive assistants to possess both hard and soft skills since they perform a wide range of tasks and have many responsibilities throughout the day.
Examples of skills of an executive assistant
Here are eight skills essential to the role of an executive assistant:
The duties of an executive assistant are time-sensitive, making it crucial to possess excellent time management skills. Good time management ensures assistants can stay focused and complete assigned tasks on time. They also keep operations flowing smoothly by allowing executive assistants to stay on top of assignments. Some examples of good time management skills include:
delegating jobs to a teammate
prioritising jobs, starting with the most urgent
creating efficient workflows and setting boundaries
keeping a schedule and following a routine
planning the workday early in the morning or the day before
Executive assistants interact with clients, guests and co-workers throughout the day, which makes having exceptional communication skills vital to communicating effectively. Assistants listen to and understand other people's points of view and give precise directions and instructions to departments and customers.
They also get their ideas across quickly and possess excellent writing skills. This way, they can properly format business letters and triple-check spelling on emails before sending them. As an executive assistant, it's crucial to communicate clearly and respectfully with other staff and remain friendly in all your interactions.
Technology plays a significant role in administration, allowing assistants to record data, schedule meetings and keep client information using various software and applications. Employers expect executive assistants to be tech-savvy and proficient in utilising basic software programs to complete their clerical tasks. While some companies provide training for using unfamiliar software and technology, they still expect professionals to have some knowledge of technical tools.
Organisational skills are among the top executive assistant abilities employers look for in candidates. Since the role requires you to perform a wide range of administrative tasks, possessing good organisational skills guarantees you can work efficiently and orderly to meet pressing deadlines.
An organised assistant doesn't easily fall behind or lose track of important details. They know which tasks to prioritise and plan their schedules beforehand to keep operations flowing smoothly. This boosts productivity within the organisation.
Executive assistants are good at multitasking and can handle multiple projects at a time. They possess the ability to focus on one task while keeping track of others and can quickly attend to urgent issues immediately as they arise. For example, an executive assistant can answer phone calls and send emails simultaneously.
The ability to quickly switch back and forth between tasks and effectively perform different assignments requires a high level of concentration and experience. This way, you don't make any mistakes and meet your deadlines even when facing an influx of tasks.
Data entry is one of the most attractive technical skills for executive assistants. It ensures you can keep and maintain office records and update databases with maximum speed and accuracy. This makes it vital to improve your data entry skills if you want to succeed in the role. With strong data entry skills, you can:
take and edit meetings
manage filing systems
record data using software and programs
retrieve and analyse data
Executive secretaries observe and evaluate situations to develop ideal solutions for them. They identify the root cause of a problem through extensive research before recommending and presenting a viable solution. As an executive assistant, you're constantly faced with challenging situations that require you to make last-minute decisions and develop effective strategies. Having excellent critical thinking skills helps you navigate these complex scenarios.
Executive secretaries handle various clerical tasks within an organisation, including answering and directing phone calls, organising and scheduling appointments and planning meetings. This makes it crucial to possess strong administrative skills to provide reliable support to the company's executives.
Although your responsibilities as an executive assistant may vary depending on the employer, all require you to complete actions relating to the management and running of a business. Knowing how to perform a variety of administrative tasks makes you a desirable candidate.
How to improve your skills
Here's how to improve your skills as an executive assistant:
1. Enrol in a class or training program
An easy way to develop your skills as an executive assistant is through education and training. You can enrol in an executive assistant class or training program to gain more knowledge in your field. Training programmes and classes teach you how to be more effective in handling your skills, ensuring you can succeed in your job position.
2. Identify your weaknesses
If you want to improve your assistant skills, start by identifying your weaknesses. This gives you insight into the areas that require improvement so you can focus on enhancing them. For example, if you're poor in communication, you can improve it by listening actively, maintaining eye contact and thinking before you speak.
Practising your assistant skills allows you to enhance and develop them, boosting your confidence. While it may not be possible to achieve perfection, you can at least gain excellence and increase your competency. Be intentional with your practice and start with friends, colleagues and family members. Don't forget to ask for their feedback to track your progress and accomplishments.
Workplace application of skills
Executive assistants normally work in a fast-paced and challenging work environment and perform various functions that support the executive and larger staff. Here are some tips that can help you utilise your assistant skills effectively in the workplace:
Plan your tasks, to-do lists and schedule in advance or the day before to stay on top of your assistant duties. It helps you identify which tasks to prioritise and keeps you more organised. Be sure to start with the tasks that require immediate attention.
Use tools and resources
Don't shy away from using software tools and resources to make your job easier and increase efficiency. From planners and organisers and scheduling software, there are numerous tools and resources you can use to complete your daily duties. This way, you can improve your technical skills while meeting your daily obligations.
Set both long-term and short-term objectives to improve your focus in the workplace. These objectives help you visualise what you can work on and motivate you to work harder to achieve them. Be sure to track your objectives and check your progress from time to time.
How to highlight assistant skills
Here's how to highlight your skills when applying for an executive assistant position:
1. List them clearly on your CV
Think about how your skills match the job description and only list those that directly relate to the role. This makes you a more desirable candidate, increasing your chances of landing the role. For example, if you're good at multitasking, mention how you can juggle multiple tasks and still deliver top-notch work. You can also connect your skills to any achievements related to the job position you're applying for.
2. Reflect them in your cover letter
Consider how your skill set fits the company's work environment and culture and what value you can bring to the organisation. Show your potential employer how your assistant skills benefited your previous boss by mentioning quantifiable results and achievements. The goal is to depict yourself as an ideal match for the company.
3. Discuss them during your job interview
If the recruiter asks questions regarding your experience as an assistant, use the opportunity to highlight your skills. Mention specific skill sets, giving examples of how you've used them in the past to accomplish a task or objective. Focus on your strengths and keep your responses positive.
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