We all know that EA and PA roles require special people to fill. From understanding the workings of business, to knowing the nuances of your manager, there’s probably nothing you won’t be asked to do.
But being tested with a virtually impossible task during a job interview might be taking things a bit too far. The San Francisco Business Times recently wrote about a prospective employer asking candidates to have the “the exotic Jamón Ibérico ham delivered to his aunt in Iceland.”
What’s more, that particular ham can only be found halfway around the world in a little town with an unknown name. Then, even if the meat was in fact found, there was the matter of successfully getting the ham into a country where it was banned.
So, the story goes that one candidate contacted various official departments for import and export in Iceland. She eventually found a small manufacturer in Northern Spain with the help of a friend in Madrid who could export the ham to Iceland for a premium price. Success, right?
Nope. Despite her heroic efforts, the job went to a bilingual French applicant. We understand the other candidate cancelled the order for the ham.
Problem-solving is an agreed part of any EA’s role, but how far can recruiters go in setting a task as part of a job interview, sometimes only to appear ‘cool’, before the entire process becomes a farce and a distraction from actually objectively sourcing the appropriate candidate?
This is one of the many stories Leni Miller had heard in the years before she established her own search firm specialising in senior-level executive support.
Publishing her first book Finding Right Work; Five Steps to a Life You Love, Leni says “Everyone wants the best and the coolest, and the most exciting. In order to get the right theme and the right venues, executive assistants must have contacts that meet those criteria. Networking is most important thing they can do.
“People are asking for an EA who is really intelligent. It’s what we call the ‘gets it factor’—someone who is smart enough to do things in a self-directed way.”