Q & A with Jan Jones: Executive Assistant Compensation

In this article, Author Jan Jones shares ideas for determining your compensation as it relates to the Executive Assistant position.

FlyPrivate is a proud partner and associate of Jan Jones. Jan brings valuable, actionable information to EAs across the globe. We hope you enjoy her blogs as much as we do! 

FlyPrivate: When interviewing for an EA position, how do you determine how much you would be worth in the position and what salary is warranted based on the responsibilities of the job?

Jan Jones: A good place to start is by benchmarking against your current or recent position. How similar is it to the position you are pursuing in terms of location, commute, job responsibilities, industry, for example?

If possible, ask other assistants who are in a similar role if they would be willing to share some numbers with you. Sometimes people are reluctant to share their salary so you could share your current salary, or the new job salary, and ask if they would be satisfied with it for the job they are doing.

One assistant who thought she was not well compensated was surprised to find out, after checking with EAs she met at a networking event, that she was being paid almost $5,000 more than they were for an equivalent position. Another assistant told me she was “disgusted” that she’s been paid several thousand less than a good friend of hers whose compensation also included generous benefits from her company. She’s known this woman for a long time and has changed jobs twice during their friendship, while her friend has stayed in the same job. This is why it’s important to stay updated and informed, even if you are not looking for a job. Ask questions, read and research. Know the current market and how you measure up. It will help you to know where you are on the skills spectrum and whether you are on track to be viable in the role, long term.

In addition to asking others directly, there are numerous resources online where you can do research. Even if some salary ranges tend to be broad they can be a good reference starting point. It’s important to get a good feel for the salary range of your job so you can accurately ask for what you are worth.

Glassdoor and Payscale are two companies most people are familiar with. For the UK, Adam Fidler, the UK’s leading trainer for executive assistants recommends the PA and EA Salary Guide, released each year by Hays. Adam provides the commentary for the Guide and recommends all UK EAs download this guide before negotiating their salary. 

Keep in mind that salaries vary based on many factors. Locations like San Francisco and New York pay higher salaries because the cost of living in those areas is astronomical compared with small cities and towns. I remember meeting an EA in Silicon Valley who told me her salary is not sufficient to cover her living expenses so she uses her credit cards to make ends meet. This is probably not the case in cities where the cost of living is more affordable. So assistants, please don’t look at areas such as Silicon Valley, Seattle or Boston, where some companies pay premium salaries, and think that an assistant in a small town should be making that kind of money. I’m not saying you are not worth that amount of money, but local economic realities most likely will preclude it.

Leni Miller, President of EA Search in San Francisco says there is a nationwide shortage of support professionals who can support the most senior executives. The more specialized job knowledge needed, the higher the salary. The longer an assistant supports their executive, the more valuable they are because of their specialized body of knowledge.

It’s the law of supply and demand so the more people there are available to do the job, who have the right skills, education and experience, the lower the salary on offer will be.

Other considerations include “Combat pay” if the job is 24/7, or the boss is difficult and demanding. Does the job have “meaning” such as a non-profit? People take less pay for a job they consider to be more meaningful, if they can afford to do so, says Leni.

The EA role varies considerably from position to position. There is no one size fits all. You should factor in your years of experience and your expertise in the role. (Longevity by itself is no indicator of how good the assistant is in the role). If you are a top-level EA with 10+ years of experience, if the position requires a self-starter who will be working long hours, if you are required to manage projects, perform executive-level duties and make executive-level decisions, you will command a higher salary than a mid-range or entry-level assistant who does tasks as assigned and isn’t required to make complex decisions, or routinely work overtime.  

If you have established a track record of working for senior executives where you have demonstrated exceptional skills  and you can accomplish executive-level tasks without supervision, your salary expectations would be higher and warranted.  

Do you have supervisory or managerial experience that would be a bonus for the job? Do you have any degrees or diplomas that add to the value you bring to the job? Take all these items into consideration as you are preparing to evaluate your salary requirements.

How about when to bring up salary when applying for a job? I asked HR recruiter and industry veteran Carla Block this question. While this should not be the first question you ask, Carla says that it’s better for both the recruiter and applicant to be upfront about salary. You can share a range or a threshold you will not drop below, for example. I’ve had phone interviews where the recruiter opened the conversation by saying they were impressed by my resume and immediately asked “what kind of salary are you looking for?” What Carla suggested is exactly what I had done. I provided a salary range. My experience is if they ask that question right at the outset, they likely think they can’t afford you.

Be flexible in your negotiations and consider what benefits are being offered which might offset lower salary compensation. If you are being asked to accept a lower salary than you would like and you feel the position is worth it, I recommend asking for a review in 90 or 120 days, after which you would expect them to meet your salary requirements. That amount of time would be sufficient to demonstrate your value and worth to them. Within that time you, too, will know if that’s the place for you.

You should take an in-depth look at the job description. Often it is written by someone who hasn’t done the job. They can’t anticipate what else goes along with that bullet point description. You may need to expand on it for them and explain why a higher level of compensation is warranted. At the right time in a job interview or performance review I have done this, and it has been an eye opener for the recruiter and the executive. They are surprised by what it takes to do the job, and the level of detail I used to educate them.

Be prepared to make a case for yourself and the value you bring. The best way to do that is to use the resources available to you and prepare for the conversation ahead of time. Remember, these suggestions are useful beyond going for a job interview. You can also use them for your performance and salary reviews, or when you are asking for a bonus. The more informed and prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be in your negotiations. The more confident you are, the more professional you will come across. It will be an indication of how you’ll perform in your job and could just clinch the deal in your favor.


©The CEO’s Secret Weapon. The ideas expressed in this article and any text extracted from “The CEO’s Secret Weapon” are the intellectual property and copyrighted to Jan Jones. All rights reserved. No unauthorized usage or duplication by any means is permitted without the express consent of the author.

Author: Jan Jones

Want more from Jan Jones? Check out her Q & A Series!

Jan Jones is the author of “The CEO’s Secret Weapon How Great Leaders and Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness”. The book debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in the Office Management Category. It has received widespread acclaim from executives and executive assistants worldwide. Jan spent 20 years as an esteemed international executive assistant to well-known business people, including personal development icon and author Tony Robbins. Jan is passionate about the executive assistant role and continues to champion the profession through speaking, mentoring and offering timeless, practical advice that is relevant to the day-to-day role of the executive assistant.

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Visit Amazon to purchase Jan Jones’ book and visit her website:
The CEO’s Secret Weapon.

The CEO’s Secret Weapon: How Great Leaders and Their Assistants Maximize Productivity and Effectiveness

Jan Jones

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