As with most things, there is a right and a wrong way to approach the hiring process when it comes to a virtual assistant (VA), so what steps should you avoid and which ones are important? Having a virtual assistant may feel a little too fancy pants for most people, but the truth is they offer an invaluable service to just about any business person or entrepreneur. Today, most companies function at least partially online, so it makes sense to shift some duties to a virtual assistant as well.
A virtual assistant can be the keystone for any business, allowing you to leverage your time doing other things like bringing in new leads or creating strategies that move the company forward. Hiring anyone these days, especially online, is difficult, though. A virtual assistant is someone you will rely on heavily, too, and that adds to the strain. Consider some ways you can streamline things when hiring and working with your virtual assistant.
What is a Virtual Assistant?
Put simply; a virtual assistant is an independent contractor you hire to do specific tasks. Working remotely, the virtual assistant does functions similar to a personal assistant or secretary, but from a home office. As a private contractor, though, the business does not provide a benefits package or working space to a virtual assistant but pays merely a wage either hourly or perhaps per task.
The Hiring Process
Adding a VA to your business is a two-step process that starts with finding one that fits your business needs. Hiring well is the best way to ensure you get a VA that frees up your time.
Evaluate Your Needs
A little business self-reflection will likely tell you, yes, you do need a virtual assistant but what can this person add to your business? You are investing in your future, take a minute and figure out what you need. In the long run, it will save you time. Your goal is to outsource tasks, so start by considering what you want a virtual assistant to do such as:
- Data entry
- Create presentations
- Manage emails
- Manage personal business
- Make travel arrangements
- Set up appointments and manage other kinds of scheduling
Not all virtual assistants have the same skill sets. Know going into it you want from yours to focus your search. The better you define the role, the better your new VA will settle into it and be productive. Look to hire someone that fills the role as you describe it, not just a person who can manage a few tasks.
Create a List of Must-Haves and Skill Sets
What does your ideal VA candidate look like, anyway? Make a criteria list to give you an idea such as:
- Education requirements
- Industry knowledge
- Software experience
- Available time
Don’t forget physical requirements like:
- High-speed internet
- Specific software such as Photoshop, Skype or Work
- Time zone
Consider, too, whether you want someone able to work full-time for your company or a person who splits their time with other clients. You can weed out some potential VAs right off the top if they don’t meet your specific requirements.
A resume is the first line of defense against wasting time on someone who isn’t qualified. You can create a shortlist based on what you see on a resume. Automatically discard any that are poorly written, have grammatical errors or provide information that doesn’t fit the role.
Take the remaining resumes and look them over carefully to see what makes each candidate stand out. Look for little extras, too, like an online writing portfolio and a blog. These are tools that can help you get to know that person so you can make an informed decision about whether they are worth interviewing.
Interview More Than One Candidate
Hiring the first person that applies limits your options. You might find they are not a good fit and then you’ve wasted whatever time you put into the process of training them. Make sure you look at several options and pick the one that feels right. The time it takes to evaluate a few candidates will pay off when you get a virtual assistant that is a good fit.
Ask for Samples and References
Be sure to ask for prior examples of work and even business references. You are putting a lot of trust into any VA you hire, take the time to gauge the quality of the work, so you don’t end up disappointed.
Make it clear to the candidate what type of tasks you are looking to outsource and insist the samples be in line with your needs. If necessary, suggest this person create examples for you, but expect to pay them for their time even if you don’t hire that candidate. You might also develop a specified task for them as a test run. It will be worth the money to see how well they do with targeted jobs.
Working With a New Virtual Assistant
Once you find the person or person’s, because you can have more than one VA you want to hire, consider your role as their employer.
Manage Your Expectations
You are not hiring a website designer or errand runner. A virtual assistant handles specific administrative tasks. They can branch out a bit to fill a few roles for you like human resources for example, but you’ll pay more if you want specialized work. If you hire the least expensive virtual assistant you can find, you’ll only get the basics.
Virtual assistants do expect to wear many hats. One day they may help with social media postings and the next work with you to write a proposal. They want to help in any way possible and will try hard, but it’s up to you to realize the limitations.
For example, if you want a new logo design, hire a graphic designer to do that work. Don’t ask your virtual assistant to do it for you. They may be willing to try but not have the training or skill sets to give you a professional look your brand needs. Instead, ask the virtual assistant to do some research and find a graphic designer for you.
Never forget your VA has a life outside your needs, too. If you made it clear that working nights or weekends was part of the job, fine, but otherwise, don’t ask your VA to give up family time, to work on holidays or to ignore other clients if there are any.
Make Training a Priority
As with any new hire, it takes time to learn the ropes. Even a highly skilled virtual assistant will need some guidance. Most business people have a set way of doing things. Your VA doesn’t come into the job already understanding yours, so plan to spend some time training. The better the training, the fewer bumps there will be down the road.
Get and Give Plenty of Feedback
Feedback is at the heart of any learning process. It’s not enough to just throw out a set of instructions and walk away. Provide your virtual assistant with the detailed feedback necessary to know something is perfect or to nudge them in another direction if it’s not. The sink or swim methodology will cost you both time and money.
When you do have set instructions, make them clear and concise. For most tasks, you will only have to provide detailed instructions once; then you can tweak performance with feedback and praise to boost productivity.
Create Priorities and Keep Things Organized
A virtual assistant doesn’t have the luxury of being in the same office as you. It’s up to you to provide the best quality information possible, and that includes creating priorities. If you give the new VA a to-do list of 10 tasks, make it clear which ones to do first. Maybe, number the list with the top job being the most important.
If your needs are more complex than the simple to-do list, consider a color system or some other way of coding priorities. Maybe anything highlighted green can be done at leisure, but the red tasks are your top priority.
Consider a color coding system for yourself, as well. You could highlight one task in red as something you should do yourself and make the things that you want the VA to do in green. It’s an effective system for shared document environments so there is no confusion on what the virtual assistant should work on or time wasted when they pick up the wrong task.
Be Patient and Courteous
Please and thank you are your most essential business tools whether you are working with clients or employees. Take the time to thank your VA for the work and to nicely ask when you need something done. Trust is an essential factor in this relationship and being courteous helps build it. Remember, it will take time if you have to hire someone else, so be patient as your new VA acclimates to the environment.
Consider moving tasks over one by one to help get there. Once the virtual assistant masters one, you can add on another. It will be a gradual process, one that requires a little give and take on both sides. You are paying for a service, so you have a right to expect an individual work ethic, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Give the VA a reasonable learning curve.
Be Conscious of ROI
Return on investment, that’s what a virtual assistant is to your business - an investment. At some point, you need to see the benefit. You should notice you have more time to do other things, for example. You can spend that time generating new business or growing your company. If that’s not happening, you need to figure out why. It’s possible:
- The virtual assistant you hired isn’t managing the amount of work you had hoped.
- Maybe you are paying more than you can afford for a VA, too.
Whatever the reason, you VA needs to generate positive ROI, or you need to reassess the situation. You may find you do need to make a change and hire someone new or look for a way to factor in the cost of your VA by rearranging the budget.
When You Do Find a Great Virtual Assistant
Take steps to keep that person on board. It is not an easy relationship to build. Some things you might have to do to keep your virtual assistant include:
- Pay a reasonable rate and throw in a bonus now and again. Exceptional work deserves recognition.
- Pay on time.
- Be polite in all things
- Make sure there are clear lines of communication, especially in an emergency.
If you need help finding a virtual assistant, then request a consultation. We are here to make the hiring process simple and quick.