A virtual assistant, or a VA, as the name implies, is an assistant that helps and supports your business virtually. This does not necessarily mean that the person is a robot. It just means that he/she is based at a remote location and is competent enough to help you fulfil your tasks.
Recommended Reading: What is a Virtual Assistant and What Does a VA Do
The major reason why the concept of a virtual assistant has gained popularity in recent times is due to the advancement of technology. Because of the presence of a scattered workforce, and/or other unforeseen circumstances, businesses are now transitioning to function remotely.
Employees and executives no longer need to be physically present in the same room, or even the same building to be precise. The internet plays the role of a binding agent and allows VAs to be connected to business owners with the help of state-of-the-art business-related software.
So, how do you as a business owner go about finding and hiring the best virtual assistants?
Why choose VAs over freelancers
First things first. Before deciding on how to hire virtual assistants and where to hire them from, businesses must understand the subtle difference between a virtual assistant and a freelancer.
The biggest differentiating factor between VAs and freelancers is loyalty. When it comes to freelancers, they are loyal to whoever pays them their salary. Therefore, there could be circumstances when one freelancer might be working for multiple companies at one go.
While such an arrangement is not necessarily a bad thing, having a freelancer working for you, in addition to working for someone else, could lead to inefficiencies and questionable value.
With virtual assistants, on the other hand, things are different. Businesses can have someone working exclusively for them full time, and not have a situation where the work is split. It’s similar to having someone on your payroll, just in this case that someone is not a permanent employee.
Imagine that you’re a business owner looking for someone to help you with community management tasks. Let’s assume that you went ahead and hired someone off a freelancing website for a limited time period. You go ahead and onboard the person and train them fully.
Once that contract ends, you would then have to go over the whole rigmarole from scratch - a phenomenon that is not only time consuming, but also a waste of resources. It’s true that hiring freelancers might be the cheaper option, but in the long run it’s definitely not worth the effort.
Therefore, business owners, looking to get their core operations handled, should not have new people cycling in and out every two to three weeks. Instead they should hire virtual assistants, who understand what their company stands for, who the clients are, and are in it for the long haul.
Have a reason to hire VAs
It goes without saying that if businesses are on the lookout for hiring virtual assistants, they probably already have a solid reason in place to do so.
Let’s face it, no business owner would hire a VA just for the sake of hiring someone.
In addition to that, however, there has to be a substantial amount of work that needs to be done while hiring, and ideally the hiring part should be accompanied by a robust onboarding process.
What this means is that businesses must always hire virtual assistants by having something that they can interface with because there has to be a clear role that a person is being hired for.
Just like a normal hiring interview, it’s imperative that businesses test the skill set of their VA candidates by having them accomplish a piece of task before bringing them onboard.
Depending on the role they’re being hired for, virtual assistants must use the ingredients they’re provided with and create the stuff that you would want them to do. This could be anything ranging from making derivative copy for a blog, producing videos, or writing a social media post.
The six stages of hiring VAs
While there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to outlining the number of steps a business must take to hire a virtual assistant, we believe that the optimum process has six.
Just like all other job hirings, the first step while hiring VAs states that businesses must create a relevant job posting online. A simple Google search will give you numerous websites where businesses can do so and get access to qualified candidates.
At this stage of the process, you must head in with a mindset to separate the grain from the chaff early on, because after posting it’s possible that your inbox would be flooded with mails.
Therefore, in order to get a quality VA on board, it’s important that the job posting communicates the task-related essentials, as well as the job expectations, ahead of time in a clear manner.
An interesting strategy that renowned digital marketing expert, Dennis Yu, implements to weed out the serious candidates from the pretenders, is to sprinkle in a small task like having the VAs respond to the job posting with a specific ‘keyword’ in the subject line.
If they don’t do so, they’re eliminated from the process.
Such an approach is elemental when it comes to sorting out the flurry of responses you would get because it shows how much attention to detail a candidate gives. You can save time and delete the responses that don’t have the keyword in them without even opening the email.
Once you get the responses and have shortlisted the desired virtual assistants, the next step in the process is to send the candidates some content to study and have them perform simple exercises based on that.
Doing so will let businesses know about the skills that the VAs possess in depth. For example, Dennis Yu’s team sends their VA candidates some course material and then asks them to either create a one-minute video or write a small blog about what they understood.
Such a practice helps them understand how well the virtual assistants can grasp certain topics, how fast they can take action, and lastly how comfortable they’re with remote communication.
This step is critical to the whole hiring process because it helps the VAs understand the concept or goal of your business on a deeper level, thereby leading them to be more productive.
The next step in the process involves businesses making virtual assistants fill out a detailed personal goals sheet. The purpose of this is for you to get actionable insights on the characteristics of the VAs, as well check the compatibility between them and your business.
The last thing you want is to have a situation where you have to let someone go after a short period of time because their goals did not align with your company’s culture and values.
Having them fill out a goals sheet at the beginning of the hiring process would help you understand how your business can create a synergistic relationship with the virtual assistants, and how you would be able to best help them achieve their goals once they’re fully on board.
Some advantages of filling out a goals sheet involve you getting to know their perceived skill level, and getting a head start on preparing a development plan in accordance with their needs.
As the next step in the process, businesses must have the virtual assistants create a one-page sheet that contains all the information related to the whole hiring process in it.
Therefore, all information related to the VA’s resume, the videos that they made, the blog that they wrote, and their personal goals sheet must be present on this one-page sheet.
The purpose of this step is to analyze the organizational skills of the VAs and to test how well they follow instructions while working remotely. Lastly, such a practice is also a great way for businesses to keep a repository of all candidates for a better and more efficient hiring process.
Now comes the interview stage of the hiring process, where you get to have a face-to-face interaction with the virtual assistants in a video-based format.
As your interactions with the VAs, once they’re onboard, would be completely online due to the remote nature of the arrangement, take this video interview opportunity as a means to assess whether the arrangement would work and how viable it would be for the candidate.
While each business owner has their own unique way of conducting job interviews and generally has their own set of questions ready, a key tactic during such interviews should be to make the conversation as much as possible about the content that they reviewed in step two.
Therefore, clarifying doubts about the content that was sent, asking questions related to your company’s operations, and clearing all remote working doubts would be good topics to discuss.
Lastly, based on the content that you sent to the virtual assistants in step two, it’s now time for them to get back to you with those simple exercises that they were asked to perform.
These could be anything ranging from creating one-minute videos to writing short blogs explaining whatever was asked. This step is the final barrier between you and the VAs and acts as an analysis of their ability to execute the instructions over a remote working scenario.
Once the virtual assistants pass this step, you’re good to hire them and bring them onboard.
Mistakes people make while hiring VAs
Over time, once businesses start growing and start getting multiple virtual assistants to work for them, being able to delegate individual tasks, which are driven by a particular role, is absolutely key in order to keep business owners from burning out.
However, the number one mistake that businesses make in such circumstances is that they try to hire a super VA, instead of multiple VAs, in a bid to save time, effort, and costs.
Business owners must understand that hiring a super VA, who promises to do everything and handle all tasks, would not turn out to be a fruitful business decision.
If you think about it, do you feel that one person, who says that he/she would be able to handle multiple tasks like video editing, writing blogs, preparing proposals, and managing social media communications would be able to do so and be highly productive as well at the same time?
The answer is no! According to Dennis Yu, even those people who have close to 20 years of marketing experience won’t be able to do everything together and be of value at the same time.
Therefore, businesses must hire virtual assistants for one role and have them do just one thing.
If you’re on the fence while trying to decide whether your business actually needs a virtual assistant or not, just ask yourself the following questions.
When it comes to your business, what is it that you do that is repetitive everyday? What is it that you do daily that eats up a lot of your time, and is something that you don't really want to do?
It could be organizing meetings, making reports, creating presentations, making cold calls, or something similar. And if you're honest, you'll probably find the answer that you’re looking for.
The number one reason why businesses hire VAs is to tackle specific tasks that need to be handled on a daily basis. If you do not have such tasks, then hiring VAs will just be a nightmare.
When you’re looking to hire remote workers, it’s easy to think that they're just software programs that work in the background. However, by having a clear purpose for hiring, understanding their goals, and outlining a career path for them, both your business and the VAs would truly prosper.