Executive Assistants - What They Do

Executive assistants co-ordinate administrative procedures, public relations activities and research and analysis functions for members of legislative assemblies, ministers, deputy ministers, corporate officials and executives, committees and boards of directors. They are employed by governments, corporations and associations.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Establish and co-ordinate administrative policies and procedures for officials, committees and boards of directors
  • Analyze incoming and outgoing memoranda, submissions and reports and prepare and co-ordinate the preparation and submission of summary briefs and reports to executives, committees and boards of directors
  • Prepare agendas and make arrangements for committee, board and other meetings
  • Conduct research, compile data, and prepare papers for consideration and presentation by executives, committees and boards of directors
  • Meet with individuals, special interest groups and others on behalf of executives, committees and boards of directors to discuss issues and assess and recommend various courses of action
  • Liaise with departmental and corporate officials and with other organizations and associations on behalf of executives, committees and boards of directors.

Job titles

  • corporate secretary
  • executive assistant
  • legislative assistant
  • committee clerk
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is required.
  • A bachelor's degree in public administration, political science or a related discipline is usually required.
  • Experience in a related administrative occupation is usually required.

Essential Skills


  • Read reminders and notes from co-workers. For example, they may read notes specifying dates, times, participants, agenda topics and supporting materials for conference calls and board meetings. (1)
  • Read text entries in forms. For example, legislative assistants read entries in communication forms to understand why citizens wish to speak to members of legislatures and parliaments. Corporate executive assistants read biographies of people invited to join boards of directors in personal information forms. Executive assistants working with societies and non-profit agencies read contributing patrons' profiles in database forms. Executive assistants read descriptions of hotels' amenities in booking forms when organizing events. (2)
  • Read e-mail and memos from co-workers, board and committee members, suppliers and members of the general public. For example, constituency assistants read e-mail about job tasks and priorities from members of parliament. Corporate executive assistants may read e-mail from co-workers who express concerns about new administrative procedures. Executive assistants may scan executives' e-mail to determine priorities and actions to be taken. They may also proofread memos on newly-established procedures to verify form and content. (2)
  • Read letters from suppliers, members of the public and colleagues. For example, they read suppliers' letters of agreement which provide terms and conditions for purchasing office supplies and equipment. Executive assistants in non-profit and fundraising organizations read letters from individuals who request information on making donations. Constituency assistants read letters from members of the public on topics such as accessing government and community agencies. Executive assistants for directors of non-governmental organizations may read letters from partnering groups on topics such as causes of heavy water use by irrigation projects. (3)
  • Read manuals. For example, they may review software manuals when using word processing and page layout programs to design documents such as newsletters, entry forms and brochures. They review their organizations' policy and procedures manuals to clarify their duties, responsibilities, obligations and rights. (3)
  • May proofread memos, newsletters and reports. For example, executive assistants in large corporations may proofread memos on newly-established work procedures to verify the accuracy of content and the effectiveness of the layout. Constituency assistants may proofread newsletters to constituents. Board executive assistants may proofread reports produced by directors. (3)
  • Read legislation, codes and bylaws. For example, executive assistants in municipal governments read bylaws and regulations to understand the implications of changes to zoning codes. They may review the Local Government Act to understand boundaries separating municipal and provincial governance. (4)
  • Read reports, discussion papers and studies. For example, executive assistants in large corporations read quarterly and annual reports to identify topics which may be of interest to managers and department heads. They may read reports generated by other organizations such as health authorities and various levels of government to understand risks and challenges in their fields. (4)

Document use

  • Locate information in lists and tables. For example, they locate contact information for co-workers, colleagues and customers in telephone directories and contact lists. Corporate and school district executive assistants review attendance lists for board meetings and other sponsored events. They also locate dates and details of upcoming events such as board meetings and enter appointments and travel dates in calendars. (1)
  • Locate information in a variety of forms. For example, they confirm dates and arrival and departure times on travel itineraries. They identify work-related expenses on credit card statements and verify items ordered and received on suppliers' invoices. They skim shipping and courier labels for information about senders, contents and intended recipients. They scan timesheets to determine number of hours and reasons for overtime. Executive assistants in non-profit and fundraising organizations review donation histories of patrons and members' qualifications and areas of expertise in database records. (2)
  • Complete a wide range of forms. For example, they record items and costs when completing expense reimbursement, cheque requisition and purchase order forms. They complete weekly, monthly and annual reports for leaves, training and sales performance summaries. They enter senders' and recipients' names, addresses, telephone numbers and brief content descriptions on waybills. Executive assistants working with societies and non-profit agencies may complete regulatory forms confirming their status, contact information and board members. (2)
  • Enter data into lists and tables. For example, they enter appointments and travel dates in calendars. They may record and summarize agenda items and key discussion points using table formats. Corporate and governmental executive assistants may review departmental financial reports and integrate critical data into spreadsheets for managers and director generals. (3)
  • May obtain information from graphs. For example, they identify expenditures and sources of revenues which have been displayed in pie charts. Executive assistants for health authorities review bar graphs showing numbers and types of patients' treatments by region, number of overnight stays per care facility and durations of patients' wait times. Executive assistants in municipal governments view line graphs showing increases in property values over five year periods. Executive assistants for school superintendents review graphs showing current and projected student enrolments by school. (3)


  • Write reminders and notes to the executives they support. For example, they write reminder notes of tasks to be completed and jot comments on documents they handle. They also write notes to inform executives of meeting times and locations and of customers who have arrived for appointments. (1)
  • Write e-mail and memos. For example, they confirm meeting dates, times and locations and inform co-workers of financial reporting deadlines using e-mail. They ask for directions and clarifications of assigned tasks, provide cost comparisons for office equipment purchases and inform executives, managers and board members of incidents which may require their attention. They write memos to co-workers explaining procedures to be followed when submitting expense reports and registering for mandatory training sessions. (2)
  • Write letters. For example, they write letters to suppliers to confirm terms and conditions for new office equipment leases and purchases. They also write follow-up letters to job candidates to acknowledge receipt of employment applications. Corporate executive assistants write letters on behalf of executives and board members to accept invitations to speak at various functions and to thank individuals for hospitality. (2)
  • Summarize meeting discussions and decisions. They prepare minutes of management and board meetings which serve as official records of decisions and action plans. (3)
  • May write speeches and press releases. For example, they may write speeches for executives and board members. They include key points and details appropriate to particular audiences. They may write press releases announcing corporate acquisitions and new appointments within their organizations. (4)
  • May write manuals, procedures and terms of references for their organizations. For example, they may write manuals to outline boards of directors' responsibilities and conflict of interest policies and procedures on topics such as requesting personal leaves, acquiring credits for completed continuous learning activities and protocols to follow when applying for internal job postings. They may draft terms of references for newly-formed committees, outlining their mandates, boundaries and procedures for appointing chairs. (4)


Money Math

  • Calculate reimbursements for expenses. They calculate travel claims using specified per diem and per kilometre rates. They add amounts for accommodation and incidental expenses. (2)
  • Calculate and confirm amounts on invoices. For example, they calculate line amounts, subtotals and taxes for office supply invoices. They may calculate discounts for volume orders. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • Monitor budgets. For example, they check travel expense claims and purchase orders to ensure budgets are not exceeded. They track costs for items such as office supplies, travel and catering. They compare expenditures to allocations to ensure they are within budget. (2)
  • Schedule ground and air travel. They review meeting locations, projected travel times and time zone changes. They consider alternatives should meetings be delayed and connections missed. (2)
  • Schedule appointments for the executives, legislators, managers and boards of directors they support. For example, when booking meetings and appointments with senior staff and business partners, they allocate varying time periods, appropriate to subject matter and number of attendees. They assign times to agenda items to allow for discussion and consensus on each topic. They adjust daily schedules when appointments extend beyond allotted times. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • May take measurements using common measuring tools. For example, they may measure the sizes of meeting rooms to ensure space for tables, chairs and electronic equipment. They may also measure distances travelled when using personal vehicles for work purposes. (1)

Data Analysis Math

  • May collect data and develop statistics to describe business and office operations. For example, they may calculate average monthly overtime hours. Executive assistants in financial settings may calculate year-to-date sales figures and compare these to past years and to other branches. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate times needed to complete tasks such as preparing reports and agenda packages, times for the discussion of agenda items and times to travel to airports during rush hours. (2)

Oral communication

  • Listen to recorded telephone messages and digital recordings. For example, they listen to messages from co-workers outlining tasks to be completed and informing them of cancelled meetings. They may listen to recordings of meetings when preparing minutes. (1)
  • Answer telephones, greet callers, screen and direct calls, take messages and provide information. For example, they greet individuals arriving for meetings, question callers to determine purposes of their requests and take messages when other workers are unavailable. They provide information in response to customers' queries. (2)
  • Discuss products, prices and delivery times with suppliers. For example, they place orders and discuss invoice discrepancies with office supply representatives. They negotiate service contracts with event planners and hotel managers when arranging meetings, conferences and special events. They plan itineraries with travel agents. (2)
  • Exchange information about ongoing work with co-workers and colleagues. For example, they discuss project timelines and handouts for meetings with managers, board members and corporate executives. They explain protocols for contacting executives while they are travelling. They speak to other executive assistants to confirm details of upcoming meetings. They remind executives of formal motions required for board meetings and impending project deadlines. (2)
  • Exchange business and technical information with co-workers. For example, they seek assistance and advice from co-workers when they encounter unusual and new situations with software programs. They discuss changes to media releases and electronic presentations, budget discrepancies and changes to work processes with executives and board members. They may offer their perspectives on the roles of board members and express their opinions on new logos under consideration for corporate branding. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Cannot complete job tasks due to office equipment malfunctions. For example, when photocopiers are not working properly, they inform their co-workers of the malfunctions and take their work to other photocopiers. (1)
  • Are unable to make direct contact with supervisors, board members and customers. For example, when their supervisors are in private meetings and cannot be disturbed, they make contact using text messages. When board members are in remote areas, they leave messages with the people the board members will be meeting. When they cannot contact customers, they leave voice messages on telephone systems. (2)
  • Receive products from suppliers that do not meet quality standards. For example, when a translation for a speech is too literal and does not flow well, an executive assistant may identify a staff member who can translate using a more conversational style. When suppliers provide inferior products, they write letters of complaint identifying quality concerns. They monitor subsequent deliveries and inform suppliers and their executives of status changes. (3)

Decision Making

  • Direct telephone calls, mail, e-mail and visitors to co-workers and other work units within their organizations. For example, when determining how best to route requests from the public, they review procedures for handling requests and check the availabilities of individuals who could handle the requests. (2)
  • Set meeting agendas. They order agenda topics according to importance, leaving less important items for later in the meetings. (2)

Critical Thinking

  • Evaluate completeness and accuracy of agendas, meeting minutes and presentations they have prepared. They review their notes, recall discussions during meetings and verify accuracy of content with executives. When evaluating presentations, they review resource materials provided, the organization of content and the suitability of vocabulary for intended audiences. (2)
  • Assess efficiency of travel plans. They review meeting locations, projected travel times, time zone changes, traffic patterns and potential for delays. They consider available alternatives should meetings be delayed and connections missed. (2)
  • May assess appropriateness of print materials for publication. They read critically to see if texts are accurate, in good taste and on topic. They assess texts' adherence to corporate policies governing confidentiality, privacy and conflict of interest. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Executive assistants work independently to complete administrative tasks assigned by executives, board members and managers. They determine their priorities and sequence their tasks and schedules in response to the needs of the executives they support. They adjust their work plans to accommodate interruptions and changing priorities. When preparing for meetings, they may coordinate job tasks with co-workers to maximize efficiency. (3)

Planning and Organizing for Others

In larger organizations, executive assistants may organize and assign work to assistants and other clerical staff such as filing, updating contact information and researching specific topics such as travel itineraries. (3)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember names and telephone numbers.

Finding Information

  • Find travel information. For example, when planning travel to meetings in new destinations, they read extensively, speak with co-workers and colleagues and search the Internet to gather data on topics such as childcare practices in other cultures. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use word processing. For example, they use word processing software such as Word to prepare letters, meeting agendas, minutes and monthly reports. They modify existing templates such as fax cover sheets and memoranda, and save documents in portable document format. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, they enter and retrieve board and customer contact information using Access. They may use customized database software to enter, view and approve purchase orders, prepare monthly cost centre reports and track correspondence received and actions taken. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they create spreadsheets to accomplish accounting tasks and to collect, organize and analyze data on topics such as staff leave and overtime. They may enter and adjust travel arrangements and record, track and total expense reimbursements for executives, managers and board members. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software. For example, they use accounting software to enter and locate budget items and print reports. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they exchange e-mail with executives, co-workers and customers. They may attach press releases and advertisements for publication in newspapers. They may use calendar functions to manage appointments, travel and due dates. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they use Internet browsers to search for product information and venues for meetings and social events. They browse bookmarked directories of postal codes, telephone and address information. They view their organizations' intranet sites to access human resources information and to print standardized forms. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, they synchronize calendar information in desktop computers and portable handheld devices. (2)
  • May use graphics software. For example, they may use presentation software and insert tables, graphs, logos and photographs when preparing slide shows for others to use in meetings and conferences. They may use page layout software to prepare monthly reports and newsletters for their organizations. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Executive assistants coordinate schedules and integrate job tasks with co-workers to ensure efficient and timely completion of tasks. (2)

Continuous Learning

Executive assistants are encouraged to take courses which directly relate to the work they do. They are responsible for identifying courses to help improve software, time management and writing skills. School district executive assistants may attend conferences where they interact and exchange ideas and observations with provincial colleagues. They also learn through daily interactions with co-workers and customers. (2)