If you’re reading this you are probably already very aware of the benefits of outsourcing administrative tasks to a virtual assistant. But you’ve also probably heard the horror stories from friends and fellow business owners about using virtual assistants from ‘gig’ sites like Upwork or Fiverr. Do the words ‘unreliable’, ‘unprofessional’, or ‘untrustworthy’ sound familiar? Or outsourcing to a company based in another country, where you may worry about a language barrier.
Here’s the truth…
It’s hard to hire well, virtually. But with the right elements in place, you’ll be able to hire an amazing virtual assistant that will contribute to your business just as effectively as an in-house hire. Maybe even more so. Experience has taught me that the best way to safeguard yourself – and your business – from a negative encounter is to have a solid hiring process.
Here’s what I recommend.
Virtual Assistant Hiring Process
Read through this process before hiring. Finding, interviewing, onboarding, training and managing a new virtual assistant represents a significant investment of your time and money. Having a clear strategy before getting started makes the entire process much easier.
There are four key elements:
- The job ad
- The interview process
- The sample project
- The post-hire trial
If you forget any of these elements, or implement them poorly, you increase your risk of a negative result, so I am going to step you through what I have found to be the best way to organise each element and hire a superstar every time.
The Job Ad for a Virtual Assistant
The first thing you need to know about job ads is where to post them. My go-tos are onlinejobs.ph or upwork.com as a backup. Onlinejobs.ph is by far my preference for sourcing full-time VAs whereas upwork.com is typically your best bet for finding a freelancer.
Once you’ve got the platform you are going to use, it’s time to write up your ad. What and how you write it isn’t massively important, but there are a few key tips I like to keep in mind. Do the usual – be clear with tasks and requirements – but I also like to drop a purple giraffe into the mix.
What the $%^ is a purple giraffe? Well, somewhere between the middle and the end of my ad, I will insert a mini ‘test’ for candidates that are applying. Something along the lines of “when you apply please write “purple giraffe” in the subject line. Before you’ve even interviewed them, you’ll know:
- Whether they understand and follow instruction
- If they pay sufficient attention to detail
- Their level of genuine interest in the role (if they failed this test, they likely didn’t read the full ad!)
Now it’s time to go live!
The Best Questions for a Virtual Assistant Hiring Interview
The first step of the interview process is reviewing applicants and deciding who to interview. Once you have opened the floodgates of posting your ad, you should have quite a large number of candidates to choose from. Your purple giraffe should help you in fleshing out a large majority of the initial applicants, the rest are for you to review and see who you want to meet with.
When you organise your interview you MUST make sure it is a video interview. Why? This is going to show you how transparent they are (those who refuse to be seen on video are generally hiding something), it will give you a better idea of their English proficiency and is also a very easy way to test their internet connection. As part of your interview process I also recommend you ask them to run an actual internet speed test (https://www.speedtest.net/) – any download speed above 5mb/s is generally acceptable. Finally, I would ask them about their access to a back-up connection in case of internet outages or power loss.
Aside from internet connectivity questions, here are some of my go-to candidate questions (and why I ask them):
- What professional experience and skills do you have that are relevant to the role?
Generally a good, familiar way to kick off the interview and you’ll be able to gauge their verbal communication and English skills.
- Why did you leave/end your last job?
A fairly generic question but this will generally flesh out a lot of key information you may want to know about their attitude towards their work.
- Do you have any other employment?
When I hire virtual assistants on a full-time basis I like to make sure they don’t already have other jobs, or the intention to take on more work. When a VA is managing several jobs, their attention is split and so is their effectiveness.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is going to help you determine if they are in it for the long haul (or not). Matching their goals to yours will help ensure success.
Those are the general questions I always make sure to cover. After these, you can ask your role- and company-specific questions. If you’re interviewing several candidates, be sure to keep detailed notes so you can move onto the next step with confidence.
The VA Candidate Sample Project
Once you have finished interviewing and you want to progress the candidate, I ALWAYS give them a sample project – that they should be paid for. The sample project is going to depend on what role you are hiring for, but some ideas are: graphic design job, sorting data, research tasks etc.
The benefit of the sample project is that it provides the opportunity to see the standard of work they can deliver before you hire them officially. Hopefully by this point you are left with 2-3 candidates that you are considering, which leaves us with…
The Post-Hire Trial Period
When I am hiring for a full-time assistant role, I will always hire at least 2 (3 if you can) people for the same role. I set expectations at the start and explain each will be employed and paid for the next month. At the end of the month, I will offer an on-going position to who I think is the best fit for the company.
What you will typically find is that one of your potential hires isn’t interested in the work or doesn’t want to compete with others – so they’ll opt themselves out. Another potential hire will work twice as hard to truly stand out and ensure they get the job, and the 3rd will generally fall somewhere in the middle. The best thing is, the 2nd who works twice as hard will maintain that performance level when you offer them the ongoing role. If you hired just them at the start they probably would have performed closer to the level of the 3rd (average) person, so instantly you have set yourself up with a more effective worker.
In the event that more than one are a stand out, I usually keep everyone that I am happy with. There are always more tasks that can be outsourced and some truly great profit-generating activities that VAs can engage in – as long as you’ve got the bandwidth and a reliable team.
So you want to hire a VA? Now that you know what to do, time to go out there and get yourself a superstar VA. Or grab our FREE ebook, Virtual Assistant Advantage, for even more great tips on working with a remote VA.