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Standing out from the EA crowd
What skills are employers looking for?
Most EAs can display the necessary technical skills employers need, for example, travel arrangements, diary management, expenses management, etc. However, the skills really valued are often things that can’t be demonstrated on a CV. Extra skills that set an EA apart include excellent written and verbal communication skills and the desire to go above and beyond, thereby demonstrating high levels of pro-activity and character. By character, employers often mean someone who brings something extra to the office environment, for example, someone who drives energy across the office or has a cohesive bond that builds team camaraderie.
How can you demonstrate those skills during an interview?
It all comes down to communication skills. You need to demonstrate in an interview that you are structured and concise, and use examples to ground your answers in reality. It’s very easy to talk about how you would handle situations in an ideal world, but what an interviewer really wants to know is the reality of what you have actually done in a given situation.
We often advise our candidates to use the STAR technique when answering questions in an interview. This stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Situation refers to the situation, issue, problem or challenge that you had to handle; Task means what you needed to achieve from this situation; Action is what you did personally to rectify the situation, what were your alternatives and why did you choose that action. Result refers to the outcome of your actions. By following the STAR method you ensure you are using real examples, that your answer has structure and is concise.
It’s also a good idea to personalise your answers. That is, talk about how you made the role your own, what additional value you brought to the organisation and what qualities your boss really valued in you.
How do you make a good first impression during an interview?
It sounds basic but there are certain fundamentals you must do, like be on time. By that I mean get to the interview 5 to 10 minutes early. However, just as it’s important not to be late, don’t get there too early otherwise you put your interviewer under pressure to finish what they are doing to see you earlier. Another example is to be professionally presented. This means wear a jacket, don’t wear anything too revealing, wear light make-up and ensure your hair is tidy. Don’t go too crazy with accessories, like nail polish, either. The risk is that the interviewer will fixate on these and struggle to see the skills you can bring to the role. Make sure your mobile phone is switched off (and not on vibrate), that it’s safely stowed away in your handbag then tuck your handbag out of sight. There’s no need for you to have it on your lap during the interview — it makes you look like you’re keen to escape as quickly as you can!
To stand out from the crowd, you need:
Display the necessary technical skills
Demonstrate your communication skills
Make a good first impression