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 organization?"
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. “What skills have you found vital to your job as a personal assistant?”
Keep your answer short and sweet by mentioning a few top skills. It’s also wise to offer some examples to show how some of these skills are essential to the role. For instance, you could say: “Through my experience, I have found that organization, time management, discretion and trustworthiness, as well as oral and written communication skills are crucial. For me, these skills have been imperative to my progression as they allowed me to undertake all my duties successfully.”
The hiring manager is doing a cultural check here. They are trying to see if you value the same skills as them and if you would be a good fit for the job.
12. “How would you respond to a frustrated client that can’t reach your boss because they are unavailable?”
As the gatekeeper, the buck stops with you; no one gets through to your boss without your approval, especially when he’s unavailable, and that’s what makes you good at your job. It would be best to give your interviewer a real-life example of a time that you’ve experienced this. If you haven’t, give a detailed response as to how you would react in a hypothetical scenario.
For instance: ‘I would strive to provide excellent customer service by remaining calm and appeasing the client by acknowledging their frustration. I would offer an alternative solution by redirecting them to speak to someone else who can help with their query or advising an alternative time when they to speak with my boss.’
13. “How do you actively improve your professional skills?”
Having exceptional professional skills is imperative to your role as a personal assistant.
If you haven’t done anything to further these skills in the past, outline your future goals to do so. By mentioning options like conferences, online courses and specific trainings that will allow you to sharpen specific skills, you will be able to answer this question professionally.
14. “What are your career goals?”
This can be a hard question to answer, so be ready as it’s sure to come up! Your new employer wants to gauge your passion for your job and how long you could potential stay with the company all at once through this question.
Perhaps an answer like, “I truly love my work as a personal assistant. It’s a rewarding and fulfilling role for me. I look forward to growing my knowledge of how to become better in my role daily and hope to be able to manage more duties within the perimeter of my role, too.”
Ensure you drive in the point that you enjoy your role and to mention that your career goals are to become better as you progress.
15. "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!
This article is an updated version an earlier article originally published on 17 November 2019 and contains contributions by staff writer Shalie Reich.