By Bonnie Low-Kramen, PA Trainer and Coach
Bonnie is known for her passionate commitment to the PA profession, and affecting positive change in the workplace. For 25 years, Bonnie worked in show business as the personal assistant to actors Olympia Dukakis and Louis Zorich.
An interview to work as a Private PA is equally about your skills as it is about the chemistry and rapport between you and your potential employer. These tips will help you gauge whether you're a good match and if you feel you're not the right fit, then it's better to know that before you accept the position.
Be sure to carefully review the job description so that you can discuss it during the interview. If there isn't a written job description be sure to take notes during the interview so that you can create one. Every assistant needs somewhere to begin in terms of expectations which will often change as time goes by. It's critical to have something in writing that is mutually agreed upon by you and your new employer.
Do your homework and research your potential new employer and his/her family. Research them via Google and read every article related to them. Check them out on social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pintrest. Takes notes. This information may lead you into a great conversation during your interview. For example, if she is tweeting about her latest trip to Paris and you've been there be prepared to talk about it. If he/she commented about the to-die-for chocolate chip cookies on the airplane, consider bringing a small plate of your home-baked ones as a little gift. Your attention to detail will be noticed.
Be ready with questions based on your research (but don’t come off as a stalker!) Ask questions like: Are you planning more or less travel than last year? Do you always use the private plane or do you also fly commercial? Would I be travelling with you? I so enjoyed your latest movie/book/album. Will you be travelling to promote it? Will I be involved in your social media presence? Be ready to offer a suggestion regarding what might be added on social media.
Have a story ready for everything on your resume. If you say that you ran the New York City Marathon, be ready for the question: “How did you train?” Practice your 2-minute stories that highlight your skills and achievements. Seriously, these stories should last 1-2 minutes maximum. If you include that you are a gourmet cook, be ready to answer, “What is your signature dish?” Note: Do not include anything on your resume that you do not want to do in your next position.
Interview them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions like: Will the current assistant train me? What is your biggest problem and I’ll tell you how I will solve it? What are the qualities you value most in an assistant? What is your communication style?
Volunteer important information which helps establish boundaries from the start. Say things like: I really enjoy my dance class one night each week. Are working nights and weekends part of the job description? I try to attend church on Sunday so that would be an example of one of the only times when my phone is turned off. I would certainly check it after the service. Would that work for you? The answers to these questions will tell you a great deal about your potential employer.
The Basics Count A Lot! Arrive 15 minutes early for the interview. Dress professionally and respectfully. No heavy perfume or extreme wardrobe choices, jewelry or makeup. Power down your phone prior to walking into the house. Know that everyone you meet could potentially have a say in whether or not you are hired. That means everyone including the receptionist, gardener, driver, and housekeeper. Smile warmly, offer a nice firm handshake and look them in the eye. Say “please” and “thank you.” These things help establish rapport in the fastest possible way.
Money talks. When it comes time to receive your job offer, be prepared by having a document ready which outlines what you want to negotiate. Be sure to negotiate your compensation to a level where you are comfortable because every future salary is based on the one that came before. Employers and recruiters check these facts and figures and many ask to see your tax returns. Think about it. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot. It is perfectly fine to say, “I would like to think about it.”
Ask questions. Still in doubt? Ask again. The job responsibilities of a Private PA can be broad, complex, and multi-faceted. Gain clarity by asking questions. It’s the only way to understand what is expected of you and to succeed doing it.