If you feel like you’re drowning in work, hiring a great personal assistant may be the best solution.
Providing an extra pair of hands to assist with admin, diary management, gatekeeping and more, a PA will enable you to work smarter, delegate more efficiently and manage many of your day-to-day tasks. In short, they will help you get more work done, and ensure you focus on the most important tasks to help your business grow.
Those with a PA actually work nine hours less per week than those without the extra support – time which is invaluable to achieving a healthy work-life blend and maximum productivity during the working day.
So, if you’re on the hunt for a PA to lighten the load in your business, what skills should you be looking for? Personality fit is a great start, as you will be working very closely with your PA on a daily basis, so an ability to get on at a personal level will mean the difference between a smooth transition and a bad hire.
However, there are a few additional core skills that are essential when choosing your perfect personal assistant. Hone in on these skills when reading each candidate’s CV and when you shape your subsequent interview questions.
The ideal PA must be able to manage people on your behalf, whether that’s internal or external contacts. Within your business, they will be required to liaise with everyone from the facilities coordinator to senior management, which means an ability to communicate at all levels is essential.
Great PAs have the skill to walk a fine line between being firm when they need to be, while not stepping on anyone’s toes, and always ensuring people feel heard and respected.
With external stakeholders, it is perhaps even more important that you have confidence in your PA’s efficiency, discretion and professionalism, particularly when dealing with important clients or partners.
Far from just managing diaries and taking meeting minutes, PAs are a highly skilled and adaptable resource that can be deployed strategically across various departments to consolidate existing teams.
This frequently means helping to manage cross-company projects and a great PA will go above and beyond to get important projects up and running, and ensure they stay on track. Regardless of the project scope, your assistant is your right hand when it comes to organising the day-to-day details that will make your whole vision come together.
Select someone who is confident and willing to take charge of these logistical details, leaving you to focus on the bigger picture and project goals.
Filtering who you do and don’t speak to
Gatekeeping, in simple terms, is the act of managing who gets to talk to the leaders of the business and take up your valuable time. Your PA will be the person who manages this line of communication, knowing when to take a message and when to usher somebody straight through to see management.
This can sometimes be a delicate balance, as the PA has to be able to read people and situations intuitively and remain calm under pressure. At the very least, your PA needs to build an understanding of your important clients, to know who can be placated with a polite email and who will be more demanding.
As some stakeholders may respond negatively, your PA may also need to deal with impatient and, occasionally, aggressive personalities in a professional manner. Make sure you choose a PA who has experience of doing this and who can clearly demonstrate that they are able to diffuse these high-pressure situations.
Personality and chemistry fit
We’ve already touched on how important personality fit is to this role, but it also follows that a working chemistry is necessary for a successful partnership.
As a PA works so closely with you, it’s absolutely essential that you choose someone who suits your personality. You could have the best PA in the world on paper, but if you don’t work well together in practice, then it is unlikely to last long.
For example, if you’re direct and straight-to-the-point, you need a PA who will also think and speak in a direct manner. Conversely, if you’re open-minded and prefer to bounce ideas off somebody, you’ll work best with a PA who can think creatively as well.
Additional skills and experience
It’s becoming increasingly common for PAs to perform duties beyond the traditional secretarial responsibilities, whether that is liaising with marketing teams or helping to organise events.
While not always essential, it will help if candidates have some relevant experience which will help them For example, talking about their ideas in practical terms to the marketing team, or mucking in and supporting the events team when they need an extra pair of hands. Always keep a lookout for these kinds of additional skills on a PA’s CV.
Every business is different so listen to your intuition. Finding the right PA can take time and effort, as they will affect all aspects of your working day. However, if you get it right, you’ll find improvements both in and outside the office. At work, you’ll have more time to think and be interrupted less; and at home, you’ll benefit from more spare time to look after your health and spend with your friends and family.
These practical benefits mean that it’s well worth investing in a great PA, both for your mental health and for your business.
Rebecca Siciliano is the managing director of Tiger Recruitment.