11 Common Interview Questions for Personal Assistants

An illustration of an executive and a personal assistant

Interviewing for a new job can be incredibly nerve-wracking, but if you’re well-prepared ahead of time, the process can be far less stressful.

During your interview, you will need to demonstrate certain qualities, including professionalism and trustworthiness, attention to detail, flexibility and high levels of organisation.

While no two PA interviews are the same, they do tend to possess many similarities. As such, you’ll likely be asked these very common personal assistant interview questions (or a variation of them) and you must, therefore, have your answers prepared ahead of time.

Below are some typical personal assistant interview questions, as well as tips and advice on how to best answer them.

1. ‘Tell me about yourself and your background.’

This is one of the most common interview questions typically used to open an interview and provides you with the opportunity to address anything notable on your CV or highlight any interesting milestones (such as a gap year or professional accomplishment).

This is, essentially, your chance to explain your experiences, and how they might support you in your career.

Remember: every answer you provide is an opportunity to sell yourself, so make sure you use this particular question to highlight the most notable or interesting aspects of your CV and try to back up your answers with solid facts and figures.

2. ‘Why are you leaving your current job?’

The golden rule when answering this question is to never respond negatively about your current or former employers. While you may be leaving because the executive that you currently work with is difficult, unappreciative or just plain horrible, this isn’t your chance to vent. Instead, focus on your career growth.

Perhaps you’re looking for a new challenge, or you’re particularly passionate about the industry that this new executive is involved in. Maybe the scope of the role is much broader and will enable you to make use of skills you aren’t currently using.

Whatever your reasons, your answer must be diplomatic, and you must speak graciously about your current and former employers while being enthusiastic about the new role.

3. ‘What are your biggest strengths as a personal assistant?’

This question is incredibly common, and there are two keys to getting it right.

The first is to sell yourself. You need to give your answer with confidence and be prepared with examples to back up your claims. The next is to have strengths that will be useful to the position you are interviewing for.

Avoid being too generic, though. For example, answers such as ‘I am nice to colleagues’ or ‘I turn up on time’ don’t provide much value to the interviewer. Instead, think about the strengths you possess, especially those which are relevant to the job. These can be skills, such as specific technology, or characteristics that make you successful in the workplace.

4. ‘What are your biggest weaknesses or areas of improvement?’

This is one of the hardest interview questions to answer, as you don’t want to pour your heart out about how you get angry easily or how you can be rude when tired!

When an interviewer asks this question, they’re looking for:

  • Openness and honesty, especially about shortcomings
  • A healthy level of self-awareness
  • Your ability to pursue self-improvement and growth opportunities to combat your weaknesses
  • Whether or not you are a potential asset

You can either focus on hard skills (those that you acquire) or soft skills (those that make up your personality). For instance, with a hard skill, you could say: ‘I am currently working on improving my Excel skills by taking an advanced Excel course, and I am learning a great deal from it.’ If you choose to focus on a soft skill, meanwhile, avoid talking about a skill that is required for the job, as you’ll only end up disqualifying yourself from the race.

5. ‘Describe a time when…’

This type of personal assistant interview question is incredibly common. It looks at your ability to handle a situation and think on your feet while prioritising and communicating clearly.

It’s best to have some sample answers ready from previous employments that demonstrate your initiative, creativity, competency and problem-solving abilities.

Also, do remember to explain why the outcome of the situation was a success.

6. ‘What software programs are you familiar with? How would you describe your computer skills?’

Again, honesty is the best policy.

List the programs you are familiar with, including those you use in your spare time. If you’ve completed any technical courses, list these as well.

Even if you aren’t skilled in specific programs that will be used in your new role, this is fine as long as you can demonstrate your willingness and ability to learn new things.

7. ‘Why do you want to be my personal assistant?’

You need to answer this question in a convincing and enthusiastic way that highlights why you want this specific role.

Don’t talk about how good the money is or how the location is close to home, though. Although these might be contributing factors, the interviewer wants to know why you want the opportunity to be their personal assistant specifically.

Your answer should show that you have given genuine thought into what you are looking for in your career, and how this job would be a good fit. One major concern employers have when choosing a personal assistant is longevity. They want to be sure you will be happy in this role and that your position has longevity.

8. ‘What do you know about the organisation?’

There is absolutely no excuse for arriving for your job interview without any knowledge of the company or the individuals interviewing you. If you fail to have a good answer to this question, this will reflect very badly on you, and your chances of passing the interview could be diminished.

Learn as much as you possibly can about the organisation by checking out their website, social media pages and employer reviews. What does the company do? How long have they been in business? What qualities of the organisation appeal to you the most?

Make notes of what you found and then practise answering the question. Have a precise answer prepared so that you can confidently, successfully and convincingly respond.

9. ‘How do you manage your time when dealing with urgent tasks simultaneously?’

Be specific about the strategies you use in these circumstances.

How do you prioritise? How do you decide what’s most urgent? How do you keep track of all your tasks? What is your leadership style?

Show your interviewers how capable you are under pressure.

10. ‘What interests you about this role?’

This question is usually asked to make sure you fully understand the role and that your competencies align with those needed for the position.

Here, highlight your skills and focus on areas you particularly enjoy or are particularly good at. Treat this question as an opportunity to focus on how your competencies will contribute to the role.

11. ‘Do you have any questions?’

This is one of the most important questions out there because it shows the interviewer that you are engaged with the conversation and interested in the position.

Your questions should make it clear that you were engaged throughout the interview and want to learn more about the company’s goals, priorities or culture.

Make sure to ask open-ended questions instead of simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, and o avoid asking complicated or irrelevant questions.

Are you ready for your personal assistant interview?

As with most things in life, preparation is key. Above all else, be on time, dress the part, smile and remain focused. Good luck!

Have you ever been answered any of these questions in a PA job interview? Are there any other questions you think are worth mentioning? Join the conversation down below and let us know!