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Examples of Personal Assistant Skills
This list is not exhaustive but includes some of the most important, sought-after skills for personal assistants.
Organization and Time Management
As a personal assistant, a large part of your job will be to keep someone else organized and on schedule. You must, therefore, be well-organized yourself. Fortunately, organization can be learned. There are specific techniques you can adapt to make your use of time more efficient and to otherwise keep your life and that of your manager in order.
Written and Verbal Communication
You will have to understand and follow instructions, and you will have to transmit information clearly and honestly. Depending on the details of your position, you might also have to welcome clients, reply to correspondence, or create reports and presentations. All of these tasks require top-notch communication skills including speaking and writing, listening, and reading.
Accuracy and Attention to Detail
Attention to detail is a critical component of both staying organized and communicating well.
Vagueness or inaccuracy create inefficiency at best, and could also cause serious mistakes or alienate your manager’s colleagues.
Knowledge of Relevant Software
Which software you’ll have to handle might vary, but will likely include word processing, spreadsheets, databases, calendars, desktop publishing, and PowerPoint, or something equivalent. Being able to provide at least minimal tech support is a plus. You may have to evaluate several different programs and apps to choose for yourself which provides the best tools to accomplish your manager’s objectives. Always, your job is to make your manager’s job easier and simpler, and that might require a lot of behind-the-scenes problem-solving.
Tact and Discretion
As a personal assistant, you will frequently be exposed to sensitive material, from trade secrets to highly personal information that you will need to keep confidential.
A related skill is tact, the ability to react gently or not at all to information that other people might find difficult or embarrassing. You must, in other words, be a safe person for your manager to be vulnerable with. After all, only you will know how much assistance they need.
Personal Assistant Skills List
These skills are often part of the job description for a personal assistant or are skills of added value. Your employer may need someone who can do these tasks for her.
- Event Planning
- Implementing Procedures
- Maintaining Schedules
- Office Management
- Project Management
- Taking Dictation
- Taking Messages
- Taking Notes
- Travel Arrangements
- Travel Planning
As a personal assistant, all aspects of communications are important for the job. Be ready to show your experience or training.
- Answer Phone
- Greeting Visitors
- Handling Inquiries
- Nonverbal Communication
- Screening Calls
- Verbal Communications
- Written Communications
Do you have experience or training for these tasks?
Are you able to use different platforms and devices and do basic troubleshooting?
- Computer (PC, Mac, tablet)
- Database Management
- Microsoft Office
- Presentation Preparation
- Word Processing
Personal Mastery Skills
These skills are often part of your personality. Show how you have used them and developed them.
- Positive Attitude
- Problem Solving
- Professional Demeanor
- Team Player
- Time Management
- Work Independently
If you haven’t used these skills at a previous job, look at how you have developed them at volunteer or unpaid jobs or use them in your personal life. Do you use these skills as part of a faith community or for a student project at school? Have you developed skills as part of a sports team or individual sport? That experience can also be valuable and make you a better candidate for the position.
Do you speak employer? It can help you to interpret an interview question if you know what the recruiter is really getting at. This is a question that can be asked at any type of interview, but is most likely to be asked during a strengths-based job interview.
This question may look like an invitation to brag, but beware of either self-deprecation or arrogance. What is really being asked for is a cool-headed analysis of your own strengths and how they match up to the requirements of the role.
How not to reply to the interview question ‘Why do you think you will be successful in this job?’
‘Because I’m great! Seriously, I’m probably going to end up running the company and everybody thinks I’m excellent.’
Why is this answer unlikely to get you the graduate job you want?
Not only is it bragging – it’s highly subjective, and not specific enough. Yes, you want to highlight your strengths, but you need to back them up with evidence and relate them to the role. Remember, the recruiter wants to find out why you would be successful in this job, as opposed to any other. It’s best to take a matter-of-fact approach, and let your skills, achievements and experience speak for themselves.
What is the graduate recruiter really asking?
You are being asked to match your strengths to the qualities needed to do the job. In order to answer the question well, you need to have prepared by getting to know what the employer wants and analysing how you fit the bill. So you’ll need self-awareness, analytical ability, and the motivation to do a thorough job on your employer research.
As a starting-point, refer to the competences in the job description, and prepare concrete examples that show you have the skills and work experience required. It will help you to answer with more confidence if you’ve also got to grips with the employer’s culture and direction.
So how should you answer the question ‘Why do you think you will be successful in this job?’
‘I have the right combination of skills and experience. For example, the job description says you need people with project management skills who can work well in teams. At university a drama society I was in organised an annual charity fundraiser sit-down dinner. Last year I headed a sub-committee arranging the catering and venue so I’m used to overseeing tasks and working within a team. We also increased the amount of money the event raised for charity – up by a third on the previous year.’
Recruiters don’t just look for evidence of involvement in extracurricular activities – they like to be able to gauge how effective you were. If you can come up with information that helps to quantify your contribution and impact, it will help you convince the employer that you’re the right graduate for their scheme or job opportunity.
Unlike an administrator who tends to look after a team, a personal assistant (PA) typically carries out administrative work on behalf of one individual. This individual is usually a manager or executive in a commercial, not-for-profit or public sector organisation. The role of a PA is to free an executive’s time from organising and administrative tasks so that they can spend maximum time on strategic tasks. Responsibilities typically include:
- acting as a first point of contact: dealing with correspondence and phone calls
- managing diaries and organising meetings and appointments, often controlling access to the manager/executive
- booking and arranging travel, transport and accommodation
- organising events and conferences
- reminding the manager/executive of important tasks and deadlines
- typing, compiling and preparing reports, presentations and correspondence
- managing databases and filing systems
- implementing and maintaining procedures/administrative systems
- liaising with staff, suppliers and clients
- collating and filing expenses
- miscellaneous tasks to support their manager, which will vary according to the Sector and to the manager’s remit, eg completing some corporate governance reporting (to ensure that the business is being run properly and complying with legislation and regulations) or conducting research.