How to Hire an Assistant - Part Two

assistant part2In Part One of our three-part series, “How to Hire an Assistant”, we discussed the importance of your job description, how to create an effective and appealing job description, and where to place your job description to attract the ideal candidate for your company. Hopefully you’re on your way to creating that top-notch job description and finding the candidate who is right for you! In Part Two of our series, we’ll cover the next part of the process – the steps to take once your job description starts to “do its job” and bring potential candidates to your door!

How Do You Keep Candidates and Applications Organized?


It is in your best interest to make an email account that is specific to your job postings, applications and potential candidates. You will want to make different folders in your email account for each marketplace you have posted to. makes keeping organized very simple. All applications and resumes will go directly to this email account, leaving your general email account clear of the hundreds of emails you may receive related to your job posting.

Phone Calls

Be warned – applicants will find your phone number. They will call to inquire whether you have received their resume or inquire about getting an interview. Just like your company is in need of a highly qualified employee/independent contractor, a highly-qualified candidate (or even one who is not) will be eager to find work and want to get started right away. Do your best to make it clear that an applicant should not call regarding the position. But if this isn’t possible, or you don’t mind people calling, be prepared.

Have a system in place for how to handle these calls. Make sure it is clear who will be handling the calls and what you’d like them to say. You don’t want your staff to be caught off-guard, and you certainly don’t want to be getting 50+ calls transferred to you or your assistant all day.

By being prepared for unexpected phone calls, you will keep the inquiry process relatively stress-free. These tips will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed, so that you can really focus on the end goal – hiring a candidate who is perfect for your team.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

This is easier said than done! As I’m sure you already know, the number of job applications you receive will likely be very overwhelming. According to, “on average, 250 resumes are received for each corporate job posting”. It also says, “chances are, the first resume will come through within 200 seconds”. So, within about 3 ½ minutes, it is possible that you will receive your first resume. Now remember, these numbers could fluctuate depending on where you post and what position you are hiring for.

It is not necessary to spend hours responding to every single resume and application you receive. If you do feel that you need to respond, a simple form letter saying “Thank you for applying. We will contact you if we feel you will be a good fit for this position.” will suffice. Rather than taking this on yourself, have an administrator tackle this task for you. With the email address you have set up for this position, the resumes will go to a designated place and a “copy and paste” email can be used to respond.

During the first review of resumes, you may not find the perfect person. It only takes a brief review of the beginning of a resume to know whether the applicant will be a good fit for the position. There is no need to read the resume in its entirety on your first review. Look for words like “achieved”, “improved”, “launched”, and “managed” to help determine an applicant’s qualifications..

When you feel that you have received enough resumes and you have a good number of applicants that you feel will be a good fit for the position, pause your job posting. The longer your position is posted, the more resumes you will receive, which can lead to you feeling more and more overwhelmed.

Dedicate a time period without any distractions to look through the resumes. Do not procrastinate. You will end up spending more time on this task if you start and stop. Just get it done.

You’ve Found Potential Candidates…Now What?

Screening Resumes

First, above all, read the cover letter. No cover letter? No interview. Look for spelling and grammar errors. Did your applicant pay close attention to detail? That buzz question in your job posting…is the answer there?

Next, skim for qualifications. Are you looking to hire someone with certain educational credentials or work history? If the applicant doesn’t meet your requirements, put the resume in the “no” pile.

What is the applicant’s professional profile? Did they take the time to customize it to match your job description – maybe not exactly, but pretty close? The last thing you want is someone whose professional profile is exactly the same for every single job they apply for. What is the applicant looking for in their next position? Does it match the available position or could it apply to any position at any company?

Take a look at the applicant’s most recent employers, their experience and their length of service in their previous positions. You want to hire someone who is a loyal employee. The last thing you need in your company, small or large, is someone who bounces from job to job.

Pay attention to the following warnings in a resume:

  • Employment gaps
  • Decreasing responsibility
  • Several jobs for a short period of time

Narrowing Down Your Candidates

You have weeded through the non-qualified and have your potential “yes” candidates. But now what? How do you know who is going to be the most qualified applicant? You already have a clear view of what you expect from the person who will do this job. Do any of the applicants you are questioning meet those standards? Maybe there is one who answered that buzz question perfectly, but who doesn’t have the years of experience you are looking for. Maybe someone has the experience, but has a large gap in employment that makes you question what that applicant did for that time period. Maybe they have had a few jobs within the past year, which can raise a concern about their loyalty and commitment. You know what you want and need in this position, so don’t settle for less.

If you are still stuck and need to narrow your list down, create a survey. makes it super simple to create a quick survey for your potential candidates.

You will have some applicants who you think are highly qualified, and you don’t need to send them surveys. But there may be a few who you like but aren’t sold on yet. Don’t be afraid to give them a small “homework” assignment to perform before the face-to-face interview.

How Do You Know Who Is Most Qualified?

Just as you will hear from under-qualified candidates, you will also hear from over-qualified candidates. And just because they may have more experience than you expected, don’t exclude them for fear that they will be too expensive.

You want your most qualified applicant to be someone who meets or exceeds your criteria but who also has a great attitude and is looking to grow in the company. You want someone who is excited about their work and takes pride in what they do. Despite an initial impression that a candidate is under-qualified or over-qualified, other factors such as the ones described here should be considered.


Chief Human Resources Manager Rosemary Haefner of said, “When companies are assessing job candidates, they’re looking for…someone who is not only proficient in a particular function, but also has the right personality.” The applicant may have all of the necessary skills but be a complete dud with no personality, someone who wouldn’t fit in with your other employees and would essentially lower your team’s morale.

In 2014, Careerbuilder did a study listing top traits that employers seek in candidates. Here are the top 10:

  • Hardworking
  • Dependable
  • Positive
  • Self-motivated
  • Team-oriented
  • Organized
  • Works well under pressure
  • Effective communicator
  • Flexible
  • Confident

Although experience and education are important, they don’t even make the top 10.

What to Do When You Are Ready to Start Interviewing

What Interview Works Best For You?

The interview process is a time for you to get to know your potential employee and for them to get to know you and the company. While the typical face-to-face interview used to be the standard, with today’s e-commerce world, this process has broadened. In fact, there are people who telecommute who have never even met the person they work for. You need to determine which interview will work best for you and your business. goes into detail regarding the 10 types of interviews and lists them as:

  • Traditional In-Person Interview
  • Phone Interview
  • Skype Interview
  • Case Interview
  • Puzzle Interview
  • Lunch Interview
  • Group Interview
  • Apprentice Interview
  • The Firing Squad
  • Career Fair Interview

Conducting Interviews

In-Person Interviews

If your goal is to hire the best possible candidate for the job, then your interview should be the best it can be. No matter what method you use to conduct the interview, the questions you ask and the understanding you get about the candidate will essentially be the same.

The initial few moments of the interview will help you determine the confidence and energy of the candidate. Shake their hand, smile and see how they interact. Do they make eye contact? How are they dressed? Do they look prepared? Qualities to look for include: good communication skills, a professional appearance, and a friendly and enthusiastic tone. Skills can be taught, but attitude cannot.

In the interview, try to have a conversation instead of reading off a couple questions you jotted down five minutes prior to the interview. Get to know the person. Forget about the “question and answer” type interview and try to have a comfortable conversation.

Remind yourself what you need. The best way to avoid getting stuck is to keep in mind the type of person you need for this position. Remember why you called this person in for an interview in the first place.

Before you begin your interview, prepare notes, not questions. It is important to remember that the interview will probably not go in the exact direction you expect. If you have a list of questions, and the answers from the candidate aren’t matching your next question, it can get uncomfortable and confusing for both parties.

When you do ask questions, keep them open-ended, following questions up with “how” and “why”. These types of questions can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. And a great trick is to wait five seconds after the interviewee has finished their sentence before saying anything. This will give them time to think about something more they want to say and open up.

While you are interviewing, take notes on the candidate’s resume. This will help you distinguish between multiple candidates you are interviewing and allow you to make notes in the parts of the resume that matter most to you.

Keep the interview to 30 minutes or less. This should give you ample time to figure out what you like or dislike about the interviewee, and then the rest of the interview should just cruise by.

If you do prefer to ask questions in your interview, offers a great list of 10 open-ended questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself…
  2. Why should we hire you?
  3. What is your greatest strength?
  4. What is your greatest weakness?
  5. Why do you want to work for us?
  6. Why did you leave your last job?
  7. What is your greatest accomplishment?
  8. Describe a difficult work situation and what you did to overcome it…
  9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  10. Do you have any questions for me?

Typically, the interviewee will have questions for you at the end. It’s very important to pay attention to these questions. This is the time when applicants can show if they have done their homework. If a candidate does not have any questions, this can be a red flag – it may indicate disinterest, and it could be that the candidate will take any job at any given moment and may not put time and loyalty into your company.

Here are five questions that your candidates may ask:

  1. What does a typical day look like?
  2. Are there opportunities for advancement?
  3. What are the most important things you’d like to see someone accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job?
  4. What is your favorite thing about working with this company?
  5. Is there anything that concerns you about my background being a fit for this role?

A more thorough list of potential interviewee questions can be found at

Virtual Interviews

The virtual interview follows the same basic principles as the in-person interview. However, there are some subtle differences:

  • Pay attention to the candidate’s responsiveness in setting up the interview. It may be beneficial to give them a deadline to respond to the interview request.
  • Give the candidate a small task to do in regard to the job. This will test their willingness, work ethic and capabilities.
  • If you’re hiring a candidate from overseas, be especially careful to make sure that a language barrier is not going to be an issue in communication.
  • Pay attention and be sure to ask about a candidate’s ability to commit to your working hours. Virtual employees may have a difficult time committing to a schedule when they don’t have to physically come to the office.

Concluding the Interview

End the interview by letting the candidate know what to expect next. They may ask how many candidates you are expecting to interview. It’s okay to tell them how long you will be conducting interviews and if you have a few other candidates. Stay honest. Just as you are eager to get the position filled, they are eager to get a job. They will more than likely be going on other interviews and still applying to job postings, so you want to give them a response in a timely manner. Let the candidate know when they should expect to hear from you and in what way – email, phone call from you, phone call from assistant, etc. You can end the interview by saying this: “Thank you for your time and interest in this position. We have a few other candidates to speak with as well, and we will be in touch via a phone call within seven days to inform you of our choice.”

With the organizational tips in this article, you will be able to put into place a smooth, efficient and effective process for taking your list of job candidates and honing in on the best ones for the job. And once you’ve got your list of finalists, the interview tips presented here will help you find the ones who are the best fit for the job you need filled. In our next segment, Part Three of “How to Hire an Assistant”, we’ll cover the next step in the process……how to craft an offer for your ideal candidate that serves as a win-win and the beginning of a great working relationship!

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