In this installment of the executive/administrative assistant series, we will take a look at finding and identifying the right person. We will also look at some of the most common mistakes that brokers make in the hiring and selection process.
When you think you are ready to find and hire an assistant, start with creating a complete Inventory of Responsibilities (IOR). This is a list of everything you are responsible for in the day to day operations of your business. Prioritize your list, and indicate those tasks that you are willing to let go of. I say “willing” because I believe everything on your list CAN be delegated, yet I understand that there are some things that you will be UNWILLING to let go of. This exercise will lead to a better and clearer job description for your future assistant. Once you have a clear job description – your search can begin.
The most costly mistake we see brokers make is that they focus on experience and qualifications. They are looking for someone who already knows how to do most of the tasks they need help with. For example, many want a 4-year college degree, or a former paralegal or transaction manager for a title company. Why is that a mistake? Simply because, no matter who you hire – they MUST learn YOUR business from the ground up. Your business is unique, and you will want someone who eventually understands how your business operates. The top executive assistants that I spoke with, had widely varied backgrounds and educations. On one end of the spectrum there was a culinary school graduate – and on the other end there was a former CPA.
If you are looking at the three C’s, start with chemistry and character. Replace “competency” with “aptitude”. Competency can be learned if they possess the aptitude. If you work for a very large company with a pool of admin support staff, you have an advantage. Maybe there is an admin professional on staff that you work particularly well with on a limited basis, and you can explore an exclusive partnership with them. If you don’t have that advantage or experience – start thinking about people that you know and like, that may be in a job that doesn’t allow them to grow and realize their full potential.
If you don’t have access to a pool of admin support staff, and you don’t know someone – try praying. No, I am not being sarcastic, nor am I preaching. However, a broker in one city, Jerry – desperately needed an assistant. An educated and experienced professional in another city, Heather – desperately wanted to go back home to be near family. Both of them, oblivious to each other – began praying about it. 2 days later, the broker was sharing his predicament with a close client – who was also Heather’s cousin. The next day, Jerry and his wife drove to the other city to meet Heather, and hired her that very afternoon. Six years later, this is an incredible partnership and friendship. True story.
Alternatively, if you don’t have access to a pool of admin support staff and you don’t know someone who would be a great candidate – LinkedIn and advertising sites (like Craigslist) have also been very effective resources to connect with great candidates.
Keep in mind that there are lots of high-quality people out there with tremendous work ethic, and the desire to learn and succeed – even if they did not have the opportunity to go to college. If you provide the opportunity for someone to make a better quality of life for their family, you will have an extremely loyal partner who will always put forth that extra effort. A partner that no one will be able to hire away from you. On the flip side, if you hire someone who is seemingly more qualified, and possibly not as grateful for the opportunity – you run the risk of losing them to a better opportunity in the future. It’s hard to put a price on loyalty.
If you can forget about formal education (as in a degree), and not be concerned with past experience – you will have a much larger pool of candidates to choose from. Instead, you should focus on: character, chemistry, aptitude, work ethic, attention to detail, motivation, and drive to succeed. Chances are good that you may already know someone with these attributes that can be trained to be the perfect executive assistant for you.
In our next installment, we will discuss the best training and onboarding process for your amazing new hire.