We’re often asked what to write in the subject line of a cover email. Some people like to get creative and put things like “Rockstar Assistant Candidate” in their subject lines, and while there are definitely hiring managers that will respond well to this, it’s also possible that some will think it's overly showy. Because of this, we like to play it a little safer.
From our perspective, there are two good options for your subject line. Often, the hiring manager will indicate the exact verbiage for the subject line in a posting as a test to see which candidates can and cannot follow directions -- an easy way to weed out unqualified applicants. When there's a specific directive, follow it exactly -- if they used all caps or a colon, you should do that too. In this case, if you choose to go with your own subject line, don't be surprised when you don't get a phone call for an interview.
When there are no specific subject line instructions in the posting, we like to use “[Position title] Candidate: [First & Last Name]” (for example, “Agency Assistant Candidate: John Smith”). Using this format allows you to clearly indicate what position you are applying for, and it also helps you stand out in the crowd. Many email programs tend to group emails that have the same subject line together, and using your name will ensure that you will get your own thread. Plus, it makes your email easily searchable later on.
Realistically, your email subject line won’t make or break your application (unless you have a spelling error or fail to follow instructions). There are plenty of options that are perfectly acceptable, so pick one and then focus on creating a stellar cover email!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
One of the most challenging aspects of assistant life is that your boss will never know how much work you actually do. Since you're there to make his life easier, you should make it your goal never to let him in on what happens behind the scenes — if you can keep something off his plate, do it. Your boss may never know that scheduling his lunch with an important contact took hours and hours of back and forth emails and calendar juggling, and that's a good thing, even though it's frustrating to do good work for little or no recognition. So how do you impress your boss if he's completely unaware of all the hard work you're doing to keep his life running smoothly? By becoming the go-to person for information. There's no better way to showcase your long-term viability as an employee than to be the person your boss can rely on to tell him anything he wants to know at the drop of a hat.
If you can stay on top of the calendar, phone sheet, and contacts, you’ll probably be able to relay a lot of information off the top of your head, which is great. But if there's too much to remember, have a system for finding the answers to simple questions very quickly (for example, you could bring your phone or laptop into a meeting so you have easy access to the calendar). But that's only half the battle. You've also got to have a solid strategy for finding information that isn't as readily available.
Sometimes you'll be asked for information that requires a little digging. This is when you’ve got to be resourceful. When asked a question you don’t know the answer to, respond with “let me check,” or “I will find out," and then check, find out, and report back promptly. Make it seem effortless. Never admit that you don't know the answer, or worse, that you don't know how to find the answer. Do whatever you can to figure out the information on your own, without asking others. If you simply don’t have knowledge of a company process and there's no written material you can comb through to learn it, ask another friendly assistant for help. Try to avoid asking others on your team, especially if it's outside of their purview. If you’re constantly pushing work onto your superiors, it will get back to your boss, and you won’t be able to maintain your image as a person who can magically produce information out of thin air (aka a rockstar assistant).
Strive to be the person that can come up with the correct information the most efficiently — it will set you apart from others and show your boss that you're indispensable. If your boss thinks you know everything, he’ll begin to trust you with higher level tasks relatively quickly, which is how you’ll eventually earn that promotion.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You may have a few standard outfits that you rely on when going to a job interview, but what about a Skype interview? Those same outfits won’t always work on a computer screen. A Skype interview isn’t the time to make a wardrobe statement – you’ve got to keep it simple. Here are a few tips for figuring out what to wear:
1. Wear solid colors. Patterns will distract the interviewer and don’t always look good on screen. Choose a colored top (white can make you look washed-out), sit in front of a neutral backdrop, and avoid clunky jewelry. The focus should be on your face.
2. Dress as formally or informally as you would for an in-person interview. Try to figure out what the typical office dress is at that company and use that as a guide. For example, if you’re doing a Skype interview for a very buttoned-up corporation, wear a suit. We also recommend wearing the full outfit, not just a formal top with sweatpants. You’ll probably feel the part if you commit to dressing the part. But if you’re more comfortable on camera with your pajama pants on, that’s fine too (just make sure you don’t stand up!).
3. Dress modestly. This mostly goes for women – don’t wear a v-neck or sleeveless top to a Skype interview. The computer will make your v-neck appear more low cut than it is in real life, and showing off your shoulders will look too casual on screen. Find a modest blouse or dress that hits your collarbone and covers your shoulders. Short sleeves are fine.
Most importantly, test your outfit the night before your interview. While you’re doing your tech check, ask a friend to provide feedback on your clothing (and makeup, if applicable) and adjust it as necessary.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan