Secret interviewers: Get them on your side

Jun 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Job Interview, News
Executive assistants handle phones, candidates -- and they have the boss' ear. iStockPhoto

Executive assistants handle phones, job candidates. iStockPhoto


A survey of 150 senior executives shows that 61 percent say that their administrative assistants’ opinions about job candidates is important.

The survey was conducted for the staffing services company OfficeTeam.

I invariably asked my assistant, Sandra, what she thought of the candidates she brought in for us to interview at the Free Press.

Of course, I almost always knew something about them before we brought them in. But Sandra got to know them in a different way. She worked with them to arrange flights, hotel stays and other logistics. She would see in ways that I did not whether a person was high maintenance. We hate high maintenance.

You may encounter several assistants in a day of interviewing with a big company. Their names may not be on the schedule, but you will meet them before your official interviews. They watch, they listen and their opinions do matter. They are the company’s  secret interviewers.

Candidates knew they should treat the bosses well, but I wanted to know whether they treated Sandra well, too. A reporter who does not treat administrative help well shows disrespect that we did not want to bring into our newsroom. They also showed signs that they may lack the skills or temperament to develop sources.

Most executive assistants have keen radar. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the jobs they have. They know the office culture, they know what the workplace needs and how the managers work. An administrative assistant can tell a newsroom manager which ones fuss about their flight arrangements, who has a good telephone manner, who is articulate and who is responsive. Much of the impression candidates make on an administrative assistant is made before they ever get to town.

To make a good impression on administrative assistants — one that can be relayed to managers, do this:

  • Thank the administrative assistant on the phone and in person for all the logistical help.
  • Never be brusque with the administrative assistant or blow by him or her to reach the so-called important people.
  • Pay attention to what they say, follow instructions and ask for, rather than demand, changes in arrangements.
  • Learn to say the assistant’s name correctly — asking shows you care — and use it.
  • When you send thank-you notes after your interview, remember to send one to the administrative assistant, too.
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One Comment to “Secret interviewers: Get them on your side”

  1. Ben says:

    Considering the “English, please…” slam in the ‘Great cover letters… – Non-starters’ section, as I continue to read your entries, I’m honestly surprised by the number of editing comments that could be made. Regardless, you’ve provided some valuable info. Thanks.

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