Working in a personal assistant job can be demanding. You will need to be the eyes and ears of the person you are assisting with and as with any interview, you will need to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and abilities to land the job.
For PAs, this may mean you have to complete a task or give evidence of how you can manage and organise daily business tasks whilst in the interview. Being able to multi-task is crucial to this role and you will need to show that you are more than able to do this and to react quickly to developing situations.
Part of the job could involve scheduling meetings, correspondence and note taking as well as answering calls, running errands, making travel arrangements organising finance and generally relieving your employer from tasks that are associated with their business and some of their personal life.
Our recruiters in the sales, marketing and customer services sectors outline their top interview prep tip in the video below:
Personal assistant interview questions and answers.
Tell me about yourself
Because a PA will work very closely with the manager it is important for the manager to be sure that they will get along well. There are not many jobs where the interviewer will ask this up front but it is a common question in PA roles. Have a planned, honest answer that highlights your interests, your experience, and attitudes; the key is to be positive throughout.
What are your biggest strengths?
Ideally, you should have by now identified some strengths. In a PA role, this could be the ability to type fast and accurately, to take down shorthand or be very well organised.
What is your greatest weakness?
This is a difficult question for a PA role. Attention to detail is a good response - say that you sometimes dedicate a little too long on making a document perfect; go on to say that you are aware of this and set yourself deadlines to work to so that you do not spend too long on individual tasks.
What are top 3 skills for PA position?
The most important skills are good organisation, excellent computer skills and a very high standard of writing, copying and audio typing. A PA’s role is to ensure that the manager is well organised and to produce perfect written documents.
Why did you leave your last job?
This is a difficult question to answer well. You certainly cannot be negative about your previous manager or company as the interviewer will be concerned that you may not fit in either. Say that you are looking for a new and more challenging role within a company that can support your career aspirations.
What experience do you have for PA role?
Here you should just speak honestly about your experience. If you do not have much direct experience speak about any related work you have done, such as with voluntary groups or helping to organise events.
What additional job training have you done recently?
When seeking a new role it is a good idea to further your training. If you are not already doing so enrol on some courses to help improve your typing skills or IT skills. You could also use books or the Internet to learn new skills. Explain what you are doing and why you have done it.
What are your career goals?
For a PA, this is a hard one to answer. Really the best answer you can give is to say that your goal, for now, is to be able to provide the best assistance possible in your next role and that you do not currently have any career aspirations outside of PA because you really enjoy this work.
Why do you want to work here?
Research the company, read their values and mission statement and make your answer fit with these values. Explain how you are impressed with the company ethos and that you wish to be able to contribute to the future success of the company.
What do you know about our company and products?
Again, do your research and know what the company does. Also, you should go into the interview with a clear idea of the role of the manager you will be PA for.
What do you know about the position?
If you have done your research, read the company website and annual reports you will be able to give a concise answer about the company and then say what you know about the role. The job description should be accurate so use this information.
Do you have any questions?
It is always good to ask questions. For a PA, you can ask if the role is a PA for just one manager or a team. Ask if you will be expected to travel on business at any time and ask how they see the role developing over the next few years.
Additional personal assistant interview tips.
1. Be personable yet professional
Whilst the contract allows you to form a business relationship and your job is to oversee the day-to-day schedule, for your employer, you will need to be personable, likeable and above all trustworthy. You will spend a lot of time managing your employer’s business and even personal life so they are looking for someone they can count on to get the job done.
Your employer will rely heavily on you and being disorganised and unable to keep on top of things could be damaging. Because the working relationship is very close you will need to be able to manage a professional and personal balance.
2. Be prepared
As a personal assistant, you will need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. You will need to show these skills and be prepared to do this either through a mock task or through rigorous questioning.
Whilst you can never be too sure exactly how an interview is going to go, you can take measures to prepare for them such as practising answering and asking questions. Get a friend or family member to ask you typical interview questions, such as where do you see yourself in five years, and practice a model answer that you would be satisfied to give.
Don’t forget interviews are give and take so you will need to ask the interviewer questions to come across as interested, keen and knowledgeable about the company and the role.
3. Think on your feet
Successful candidates can expect stressful situations and emergencies to arise and you will need to work calmly and efficiently under pressure. As the role might require you to be quick thinking when it comes to problem solving, you could be thrown a curve ball question and asked something seemingly irrelevant or odd.
This is your potential employer’s way of testing your ability to think on your feet in a stressful situation. Do your best to give an answer that shows you in the best possible light as well as demonstrating your team player spirit.