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The Evolution of the Executive Assistant’s Skill Set

evolution of executive assistantsAccording to Merriam Webster online dictionary, an executive assistant is “a person whose job is to support an executive, group, department, or organization, especially by handling administrative tasks (such as data entry, correspondence, filing, and scheduling appointments).”

If you are an executive assistant or your company employs them, you know that the role has evolved from an administrative-focused position to a key cross-functional position in many organizations. Even as early as 5 or 10 years ago, an executive assistant might have been solely responsible for tasks such as:

  • Booking meetings and managing calendars
  • Arranging travel
  • Answering phones
  • Filing paperwork
  • Note taking

Today, the role is much more comprehensive and continues to become a pivotal role in any organization. Here’s what’s expected from today’s executive assistants:

Advanced Technology Skills

The days are gone where the executive assistant is just a power user of the Microsoft Office Suite of programs. Now, executive assistants need to be proficient in all aspects of digital tools, technology, and computing.  They are increasingly relied upon to manage websites, social media accounts, and project management software. There is an app for just about everything now (conferencing, scheduling, invoicing, etc.) and if you can find an executive assistant with advanced knowledge of new tools and apps, you will have a candidate with the potential for remarkable  efficiency.

Red flag: If your executive assistant isn’t familiar with common tools like:

  • FaceTime
  • Skype
  • Google Docs
  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • Asana

It may be an indicator that their technology knowledge is lagging behind.  Companies are also increasingly relying on their executive assistant to setup and troubleshoot IT systems.

Cross-functional Leadership

Today’s executive assistant is an experienced and business savvy individual with more often than not, significant education.  They are relied on for leadership, inter-departmental collaboration, and execution of strategy.

CEOs are now relying on their executive assistants to:

  • Not only create presentations but in some cases give them
  • Recognize priorities and schedule items accordingly
  • Have industry-specific skills
  • Be experienced in human resources and accounting functions
  • Get involved with middle management tasks like
    • Purchasing
    • Budgeting
    • Creation of policies and procedures

Independence & Flexibility

You want to hire an executive assistant so that you have less to worry about, not an employee constantly seeking direction.  Today’s business environment is active well beyond the 9-5 window and you need someone who is not only available but also capable of working independently outside of those hours.  An executive assistant that can get things done remotely from home, hotels, etc. on short notice is a great asset.


The best executive assistants also remain up to date with a rapidly changing business environment and take the initiative to seek training when required and even go as far as innovating and improving processes.  They are dedicated to continuous learning and excellence. The business environment can be stressful and you need someone who can not only manage, but thrive under those conditions.  Most importantly, your executive assistant should allow you to hit the ground running in every aspect of your day and let you focus on tasks that create value.


The growth of the internet now means that more data has shifted online, making confidentiality more important than ever. As the role of the executive assistant evolves, these individuals now have access to sensitive information and need to display strong discretion, diplomacy, and professional judgement.  The best executive assistants are an extension of the executive and are trusted and respected as such.

The role of executive assistant has evolved from an entry-level or stepping stone position in the corporate world to a bona fide career with important tasks. As such, the desired skill set for this role requires education, training, and experience.   Employers are recognizing this and top performing companies are hiring candidates with at least 10 years of experience in the role. CEOs that are relying on executive assistants with sub-par skill sets will continue to spend time on non-value added tasks while their competitors are focused on strategy and growth.

Having trouble finding an executive assistant with experience, education, and a modern skillset? We can help. Get in touch with Executive Assistance today.


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