Everything will be just a bit better or harder in this job. You’ll respond for more duties than a typical secretary does, they’ll expect a bit more from you in the job, and you’ll earn more money.
And while there certainly is a difference, and not every secretary can become an executive secretary, the basics of the job remains the same. And it reflects in the interviews. Let’s have a look at it together, starting with questions you will likely face in your interview.
Questions for executive secretary interview
You will face mostly personal and behavioral (scenario-based) questions. Typically anything between seven and fifteen questions, inquiring mostly about your motivation, experience, skills, and attitude to various situations that can happen in the office. Let’s have a look at them.
- Why executive secretary? Because you already have some experience and feel ready for this level. Because you understand what will be expected from you in the job, and believe to have the abilities to handle the tasks, and to be a great companion for other people in the office.
- Why our company? Because they happen to be located close to your apartment, or in a place where you always wanted to live. Or maybe you have a lot of respect for what they do, for their products and services, and would be proud to work for them. Because you really like the job description, and/or the working environment in the company. Or maybe their salary offer and employee benefits stand out.
- Tell us something about your experience. Mention everything relevant, administrative work, customer service, hotel industry, office management, sales. Speak about your past roles with enthusiasm, but do not go into details. Talk about the main duties you responded for, especially if they correspond with the duties you’ll respond for in your new job.
- How do you imagine a typical day in work? Try to talk about having system in work, because most executives work very systematically. Such as checking the schedule of meetings in the morning and the correspondence, making a good cup of coffee for the boss, planning your day, and then working according to the plan, task after task, hour after hour.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? Go with things that are central for the job of an executive secretary, at least when you talk about strengths. Responsibility, diligence, strong administrative skills, confidentiality, ability to work quickly, multitasking, strong communication skills, … you name it.
- How would you cope with an angry customer, or business partner? Do not show any surprise when hearing the question. Some guests will be angry, and may even blame you for a bad service. But any of that should not waver with your confidence and courtesy. Say that you will fight anger with kindness, and smile. Say that a bad behavior of some guest won’t have any long term impact on you in job.
- Can you work with MS Office? How would you rate your skills? Go for a modest answer. Say that you can work with the typical programs from the package, but know that you can improve. There is always some room for improvement. I do not suggest you to say that you can handle everything with Excel, since a practical test can always follow in an interview, and an average result in a test would destroy your credibility once you claimed to be fully proficient with the program…
The impression you make is also important
Let’s face the truth: secretary is neither a nurse, nor a project manager.
The skills needed for this profession can be learned directly in the job. One does not need to be gifted with extraordinary intelligence or talent to learn to take care of the working duties.
Every executive knows that. Therefor, first and foremost, they will consider your personality, and attitude.
Do they feel good with you in an interview? Are your communication skills excellent? Do you talk to the point? Can they imagine spending a lot of time with you, working together? They will try to answer such questions while talking to you, regardless of the tasks you will have to handle in the interview…
Tricky scenario based questions – test you have to prepare for in a big corporation
Job interviews in big corporations have become incredibly sophisticated in the later years. If you interview for a secretary job in any Fortune 500 company, you can expect to deal with at least ten behavioral (scenario based) questions.
Inquiring about different situations you experienced in the past, interviewers try to understand your attitude to conflict with a colleague, meeting deadlines, prioritization, multitasking, and to other situations you may face in the workplace of any big corporation.
To the most common questions belong:
- Describe a conflict you had with a colleague.
- Tell me about an obstacle you overcame.
- Describe a time when you had to deal with an angry or upset client (customer).
- Describe a situation when you faced a particularly demanding problem or challenge in your personal life. How did that affect you in your job?
- Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
- What is your communication style?
- What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career?
- Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important. How did you eventually overcome that?
- Describe a time when you faced an ethical dilemma.
- What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever faced at work?
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all information you needed.
- Tell me about a time you had to comply with a policy or procedure that you did not agree with.
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.
- Describe a situation when you had to meet a tight deadline.
- When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
- Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed with work.
Conclusion, premium answers to all questions
Success in an interview for an executive secretary position depends on several factors: Your interview answers, the connection you manage to build with the interviewers, the quality of answers of other applicants competing with you for the job.
It is not easy to get it right and succeed. What is more, executive secretary is a fancy job title, it attracts many applications, and you will typically compete with at least several skilled and motivated candidates for each open position.
Everything combined, interview for a job of an Executive Secretary definitively belongs to difficult job interviews. If you are not sure how to answer the questions from my list, or experience interview anxiety, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to basically all questions you may face in your interview will help you streamline your interview preparation, find the right words in every moment of the interview, outclass your competitors, and eventually get the job. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you good luck!
Matthew Chulaw, Your personal job interview coach
Special Tip: You can also download the list of ten basic questions as a one-page long .PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
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- Secretary interview questions – Tell me about yourself.
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- School secretary interview questions.
- Legal secretary interview questions.