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How To Hire A Good Virtual Assistant

Hiring a Virtual Assistant can be a great way for a small business owner to create time so they can focus on the things that will grow their business. But there are several important steps to be considered to ensure you are getting someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and right for your business. 

In ‘How to hire a good Virtual Assistant,’ we discuss the key elements to finding the right Virtual Assistant for your business.

These include:

    • Understanding why you want to hire a Virtual Assistant
    • What do you want your Virtual Assistant to do?
    • How to create a job description
    • Finding and interviewing Virtual Assistants, and most importantly…
    • Working with a Virtual Assistant

Why do you want to hire a Virtual Assistant?

When looking at how to hire a virtual assistant for your business, clearly understanding why you want to do this brings greater clarity to the process of finding a good virtual assistant.

Before going to the trouble of hiring a Virtual Assistant, it’s important to understand why you want to do this. If a Virtual Assistant is handling some of your routine admin and business tasks for you, what will this allow you to do instead?

Will it allow you to:

    • Create more quality time to develop your products or services?
    • Grow your sales pipeline consistently?
    • Focus on your clients, building stronger business relationships?
    • Develop your business strategy and put it into practice?
    • See the ‘wood for the trees?’
    • Reduce your working hours?
    • Create more time in the evenings and weekends for family, friends, and leisure?
    • Increase your overall productivity?

If you cannot identify strong reasons for hiring a Virtual Assistant, then perhaps this is not the right solution for you. Maybe you need to look at other options.

On the other hand, having a clear understanding of why you want to hire a Virtual Assistant brings greater clarity to the next steps, e.g., what tasks you want them to handle and the skills and experience they need to have.

What tasks do you want to delegate?

Some people know exactly what tasks they want to delegate. But many small business owners find themselves in the position where their business is growing quickly, and they’re overwhelmed with everything they have to do. They know they need help, but they don’t know where to start. So, the first step is to identify what tasks you want help with. Try this exercise… List out your background activities and re-arrange them into 3 lists:
    1. The tasks only you can do
    2. Tasks you like to do (but could delegate later)
    3. Everything else
From your ‘everything else’ list, pick one or two tasks that take up the most time or energy and can be outsourced easily. Outsource these first and get comfortable with the process before outsourcing further tasks. When you’re comfortable, look to delegate more tasks from your ‘Everything else’ list. Once your Virtual Assistant is handling everything from this list, you can start to consider the ‘Tasks you like to do (but could delegate later)’ list. The intention is to create all the time you need to focus on the things that will grow your business. Identifying the tasks you want to delegate from the outset gives you a much better idea of the skills and experience you require your Virtual Assistant to have.

How to create a Virtual Assistant job description

A big part of learning how to hire a good virtual assistant is taking your time to create a good Virtual Assistant job description, so that you attract the right candidates. Detail your virtual assistant's duties and responsibilities, the skills and experience required, and also how many hours you want your virtual assistant to work each week.

Having answered the first two questions, you now have a good starting point to create a job description. It’s important to take some time over this and get it right. After all, you do want to attract the right candidates.

Start by listing out the various duties and responsibilities your Virtual Assistant will be taking on. Don’t restrict yourself for the moment, simply list out everything you would like your Virtual Assistant to handle in an ideal world.  

Also, think about your longer-term goals and the tasks that you like to do but could delegate later (from the above exercise). There are likely to be skills that cross-over several tasks.

Create a job description that details the skills required for your immediate tasks. If there are tasks you know you will want to hand over in the future, do the skills required today cross-over to the future tasks?

If future tasks require different skills, you may want to consider adding these into your job description. You can view this as ‘future proofing’ yourself so that your Virtual Assistant grows with your business. The alternative is that you have to start again with a new Virtual Assistant. Would you want that upheaval?

It’s also important to write down how many hours you want your Virtual Assistant to work for you each week. 

  • Firstly, it gives any Virtual Assistant applying for the role an idea of the time commitment you’re asking for. If they have several other clients, they want to ensure they have the capacity to give you the quality time you deserve.
  • Secondly, if you don’t set any boundaries, your Virtual Assistant could simply keep working on everything and your invoice at the end of the month will be much higher than you budgeted for.

How to find a good Virtual Assistant

There are various avenues to explore here. In no particular order of importance, here are some of the more common ways to find a Virtual Assistant for your business:
    • Carry out a Google search
    • Look for Virtual Assistant groups on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn
    • Post on social media that you are looking for a Virtual Assistant, e.g., Facebook and LinkedIn
    • Ask at Network meetings
    • Ask colleagues and business connections

How to carry out a Virtual Assistant interview

Part of the process about how to hire a good virtual assistant is to learn the common interview questions for a virtual assistant, so you can understand if they are a good fit for your business.

The chances are you’re not going to be interviewing Virtual Assistants face-to-face.

Since Covid, we’ve all become used to meetings via Zoom, Teams or similar and video calls enable you to get to know someone better than if you relied simply on a telephone call. This is so important when hiring a Virtual Assistant.

It’s likely you will be interviewing Virtual Assistants who are very experienced and have the skills necessary to provide you with a high level of support. However, they will also be an integral part of your business, ensuring it is running smoothly in the background.

They will be working with you on a 1:1 basis and so it’s vitally important that you both work well together and build a strong working relationship. With a video call you can get to understand their personality a little better and determine if you can work with them.

Interview 3 people, or more if possible. I can’t emphasise enough that working with a Virtual Assistant is all about personality and attitude. The Virtual Assistants that you interview may all be perfectly qualified to do the job but building a strong 1:1 working relationship will determine its success.

Common interview questions for a Virtual Assistant

You will obviously have your own questions to ask interviewees about their skills and experience but here are a few common questions that will help establish their suitability to your business:
    • Ask how many clients they have and what they do.
      • If they have many clients, are they overstretching themselves?
      • Asking what their existing clients do may reveal experience that could be helpful in your business. It may also spark an idea that you hadn’t thought about.
    • Ask about their availability.
      • Do they have a maximum number of hours they want to work each week?
      • Are there certain times they cannot work? Maybe for family reasons where they have to drop children off at school in the morning and collect them in the afternoon?
    • How have they dealt with issues relating to their required tasks?
      • Do they ask questions?
      • Do they try to work things out themselves?
      • Do they procrastinate or try and ignore the issue?
      • You’re looking to see if they take responsibility and are proactive, but not afraid to ask questions when necessary
    • Are they familiar with any essential software you use in your business?
      • If not, are they willing to take the initiative and learn?
      • Can you provide some training or point them in the right direction?
    • What would they do if asked to do something they have not done before?
      • Are they prepared to embrace new ideas? 
      • This may be more important if you’re a fast-growing company 
Of course, there will be many other questions that can be asked but these cover some fundamentals of working with a Virtual Assistant.

Follow up references

References

Once you have completed all interviews and made a decision, follow up with references for your preferred Virtual Assistant. It’s better to find out what they are like to work with now, before they start with you than realising a few weeks or months down the line that it’s not going to work out.

If they have other clients, obviously ask for references from their clients.

If you’re one of their first Virtual Assistant clients though, that’s fine. We all have to start somewhere. Ask for a reference from their previous employer.

Testimonials

Also look at any testimonials they publish on their website and recommendations on their LinkedIn profile. This all helps to get a better feel for them as a person.

Working with a Virtual Assistant

When you have understood how to hire a good virtual assistant, and found the right person for you, three key areas to consider when working with a virtual assistant include; communication, processes, and expectations.
Here are three key areas to consider when working with a Virtual Assistant:
    • Communication
    • Processes
    • Expectations

Let’s discuss them individually:

Communication

What’s the big secret to ensure working with a Virtual Assistant is a success for you, your business, and your Virtual Assistant?

Communication

Yes, communication is everything.

While the reason for hiring a Virtual Assistant is to free up your time, so you can do more of the revenue generating stuff, please make time in your diary to have at least a weekly catch up call. In the early days it will probably need to be more than this, but it will quickly settle down into a routine that suits everyone.

Although Virtual Assistants enjoy working independently, they also need confirmation that they are on the right track and feel they can talk to you whenever they have a question.

And let them know your preferred ways of communication if they need to ask you something quickly. Nothing is worse for a Virtual Assistant if they don’t know how to get hold of you for something that’s time critical.

Good communication helps a Virtual Assistant understand you value their help and in return, they’ll go out of their way to do a better job for you.

Processes

As soon as you hire a Virtual Assistant, provide access to your processes for the work they will be handling for you. Everything will be new to them to start with and the sooner they learn your processes, they quicker they will be able to provide effective support to you. If you don’t have processes in place, one of the first tasks you can give your Virtual Assistant is to write up the processes. This achieves two valuable things:
    1. They’ll learn what needs to be done and how your business works in a practical way
    2. You’ll have written processes from now on

Expectations

It’s important that your new Virtual Assistant knows your expectations of them. However, it’s equally important that you also know their expectations of you. While it sounds obvious, if expectations are not clearly stated, then what is delivered is open to interpretation. While a lot of this should have been covered at the interview stage, here’s a quick checklist to ensure your Virtual Assistant knows what your expectations are:
    • Confirm the tasks you want them to handle
    • Clearly detail how you prefer work to be delivered, which should be covered in your processes
    • Clearly state how many hours you want them to work each week, particularly if you have a maximum
    • Any expectations you have on response times, e.g., same day, within 24 hours etc.
Also ask your Virtual Assistant what expectations they have of you. Their expectations could include:
    • They have capacity for a maximum number of hours per week
    • There may be certain times each day or week they cannot work for you due to other client or family commitments
    • Their boundaries around out of hours communication
    • How, and how often, will you be communicating with them?
    • How to get hold of you if they need an urgent response from you?
Whatever expectations either of you have, make sure these are clearly communicated, understood, and agreed.

How Core PA Services can help

Rather than provide you with a ‘generalist,’ we provide Virtual Assistants with the skills and experience required for each specific client. In addition, we place great emphasis in putting forward Virtual Assistants that have the character and personality to fit in with you and your organisation. This is to ensure we build a strong working relationship with our clients.

How do we do this? By following these steps:    

    • We will have a detailed discussion with you so that we have a good understanding about you and your business, your reasons for wanting a Virtual Assistant and the tasks you want them to handle 
    • We will source potential candidates and interview them for their suitability
    • We then whittle them down to a short-list who we feel match your requirements
    • You interview the best three candidates
    • You choose the Virtual Assistant you want to work with
    • If none are suitable, we will search again with different parameters until we find someone just right for you.

We often find that the more we talk with a client, the parameters do change as they get a better understanding of how a Virtual Assistant can benefit their business. Our experience also enables us to identify the skills and experience that will enhance your business.

In Summary

Hiring a Virtual Assistant creates more time for a small business owner, allowing you to focus more on the tasks and actions that will help grow your business.

Hiring a good Virtual Assistant can make a huge difference to your productivity and success. Getting the right person, who is always thinking ahead and looking out for you can dramatically accelerate your long-term success. Taking the time to follow these steps will go a long way in helping you hire a good Virtual Assistant, one that is right for you and your business.

If you have any questions about ‘How to hire a good Virtual Assistant,’ please get in touch. We are always happy to answer any questions about working with a Virtual Assistant. 

Allen Wooding

Allen Wooding, co-founder of award winning Virtual Assistant company Core PA Services, helps business owners focus 100% on their key revenue generating activities, by handling the routine business tasks that often overwhelm small businesses. Download his 3-Step guide ‘𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗢𝘂𝘁𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗮 𝗩𝗶𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁’ and dramatically increase your productivity.

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