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1 Ultimate Difference Between an Executive Assistant and a Personal Assistant

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is what the difference is between a PA (Assistant personnel) and an EA (Assistant exécutif). In household management, the roles are not as interchangeable as they may be in the boardroom. We are expert recruiters who place candidates in either role (that of PA or that of EA) for clients who may be UHNW individuals, wealthy families, or private estates. We also advise the principal on which skillset best suits their requirements.

Certainly, this is a question that arises often, especially given that the terms ‘PA’ and ‘EA’ are used almost interchangeably in many business settings. Yet, when it comes to household management, the distinction between a Personal Assistant (PA) and an Executive Assistant (EA) becomes much clearer and more significant. These roles have unique responsibilities, skill sets, and demands, and the need to understand these differences is imperative, especially for high-end recruitment.

Assistant exécutif

As expert recruiters, we have a wealth of experience in placing qualified candidates in both PA and EA roles for a diverse range of clients. These clients may be Ultra-High Net Worth (UHNW) individuals, affluent families, or even the managers of private estates. It’s our task to ensure that the right candidate fills the right role, providing maximum benefit to our clients.

We are also well-positioned to offer insightful advice to the principal, helping them determine the skillset that best aligns with their unique requirements. We can guide the client in understanding whether a PA’s diverse and flexible skillset would be more beneficial, or if an EA’s focus on administrative support and strategic planning would be the more appropriate choice.

In the end, our goal is to ensure the best match for both our clients and candidates, thereby ensuring that all parties involved are successful and satisfied with the outcome. Understanding the key differences between a PA and an EA in household management is just one of the ways we achieve this.

Working as a Personal Assistant in a private household

This role is perfect for tech-savvy, highly organised and adaptable professionals who know how to prioritise tasks. Our most successful candidates are degree-level educated, with further training in management and administration, often with accreditation from IAAP (International Association of Administrative Professionals). They choose to work in household management because they enjoy the breadth and variety of functions that the position entails. 

Being a Personal Assistant to the principal of an important household involves being the first point of contact with the public, visitors and guests. The PA will ensure that staff, event organisers, suppliers and family members are all informed of relevant commitments. Furthermore, all administrative and organisational work that can alleviate the principal’s day-to-day agenda are undertaken by the PA. This includes preparing presentations, taking care of correspondence and maintaining meticulous digital and hard copy filing systems. 

Personal Assistants are granted a level of autonomy that allows them to make decisions on behalf of the principal. When running errands, a PA will often choose what flowers are to be used for decoration, what supplier is to be used for bespoke gifts, which merchandise should be requested and whether a travel agent or a travel consultant is to be engaged for forthcoming vacations or business arrangements.  Some personal assistants will purchase presents on behalf of the principal, especially at busy times of the year like Christmas or when sales are on.

Working as an Executive Assistant in a private household

The principals of households that seek an executive assistant usually require a candidate with a background working at international law firms or multinational companies, who is used to handling sensitive information and dealing with complex, urgent requests. This senior role is often awarded to professionals with ten or more years of experience as personal assistants, who transition naturally into this more challenging position. An Executive Assistant works side-by-side with the principal on their professional affairs, traveling on business trips with them, representing them at functions, setting up meetings, and managing the principal’s schedule. The job involves research, handling information requests, and preparing reports, all of this under strict confidence so as not to reveal any indicators as to intention or direction. 

The difference between working as an executive assistant in a company and working as an EA in a ménage privé is the amount of interaction with your employer and her/his family. Whereas the former spend all their time in a sterile office environment, an EA working for a principal from a domestic setting will have a more solid, encompassing vantage point from which to carry out their work. From this privileged position, executive assistants ensure that their employer achieves his/her professional goals. 

Contact us today to discover the best candidates on our books for positions as personal assistants and executive assistants for thriving estates, busy households, and families with multiple properties.

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