As the owner of a virtual assistance agency, I am constantly balancing the client/assistant ratio. Which means I’m always on the lookout for great virtual assistants, or administrative assistants who desire to be virtual assistants.

I find excellent assistants by listening to conversations; frequently it comes up that someone is looking for work. I also rely on Ziprecruiter to find excellent assistants.

Over time, I have learned to really get specific on the personality traits that I look for in an excellent assistant. So…

What makes an excellent assistant?

First, let’s look at what does not make an excellent assistant. Among the zillion resumes I have reviewed in 7+ years, I can tell you what quickly goes into the trash pile:

  • No office experience. There must be a belief in the universe that anyone can be an assistant. There isn’t much that causes my anger meter to quickly hit the hot button faster than getting resumes with no office experience. It demeans this industry. Experience as a waitress, waiter, fast food worker, call center assistant, customer support center assistant, fundraiser, receptionist, hairdresser, nail tech…none of these provide the qualifications or experience to be an excellent assistant.
    These career choices have their own necessary skill set. I am certainly not in possession of the skills required for those careers. I do not understand why people with this experience reply to ads for an experienced Executive Assistant or an experienced Virtual Assistant…but they do. Doing this is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Resumes with typos, incorrect punctuation, incorrect capitalization, incorrect grammar, inconsistent formatting, difficult to read, misspelled words…all these indicate a lack of skill as an assistant. I am embarrassed for the individual submitting resumes with these errors.
  • Not following instructions. If I place an ad and request a cover letter and resume, that’s what I expect to receive. If my ad requests the email be used as the cover letter and the resume attached, that’s what I expect. If my ad requests interested individuals respond to an email address, that’s what I expect. If the applicant can’t follow these instructions, there is little hope of other instructions being followed.

Now let’s look at what makes an excellent assistant. Personality traits are more important to me than skill set. It is not difficult to learn the necessary skills, but it takes the right personality to implement those skills in a way that provides excellent support as well as taking command of the individual being supported.

What does this look like?

  • Professionalism. An excellent administrative assistant knows how to be professional. They are able to appropriately and comfortably address and carry on a conversation with any level of management. They do not take the conversation personally, and by that I mean they do not get personally insulted by something said or implied. They treat everyone in the entire company with respect – janitors, mailroom staff – everyone gets the same level of respect as the CEO. They don’t play office politics. They do not participate in any form of gossip. They don’t drop hints about what they do – or don’t – know. And customer service is always a top priority.
  • Collaboration with the boss. An excellent assistant views themselves’ as their boss’ partner. They anticipate and fulfill the needs of the boss. The strive to accomplish the boss’ objectives and complete every task they can for their boss. They offer appropriate suggestions. Their goal is to make their boss look good.
  • Outstanding organizational skills. An excellent assistant is the calm in the storm. They are able to be calm because they know everything going on with every level of the company. They know the projects going on and the status of them. Being detail-oriented and proactive allows calm regardless of the pressure.
  • Excellent communication skills. As the company’s go-to person, the assistant’s ability to communicate concisely and clearly in person as well as in writing and email is mandatory.
  • Willingness to go the extra mile. Excellent assistants never need their hands held. They are independent thinkers. When they become overwhelmed, and it does happen, it’s how they handle the overwhelmingness that sets them apart. They prioritize, they delegate, and they follow up in a proactive manner. They help become a positive change agent in your organization, finding opportunities to streamline and improve your business operations. An excellent assistant tirelessly resolves problems, averts every crisis, and ensures all commitments are fulfilled, even if others involved tend to push-back.

To summarize, an excellent assistant is confident, reliable, flexible, well-organized, and smart. They are an amazing asset to their boss and organization.

I’ve also posted this article on LinkedIn. Check it out here.