Start-up owners need to allocate their time efficiently. They have to focus on tasks that require their expertise and potentially translate to revenue. As entrepreneurs, they probably have over a million things to do every day with only 16 to 18 hours left to spend. Clearly, they need assistance but given their tight budgets, they may not have the resources to get additional help.
Enter the Virtual Assistant. The Virtual Assistant or “VA” has become a popular fixture in the business development agenda the past decade because of his ability to lower costs while improving productivity. According to OutsourceWorkers.com.au, getting the right Virtual Assistant can be tricky.
Here are seven (7) tips for hiring the right Virtual Assistant:
- Write down your criteria.Before you set out for your search for the right Virtual Assistant, have a clear understanding of the reasons you need virtual assistance. The best way to go about this is to build a set criteria which addresses the following:
- Primary purpose of the Virtual Assistant
- Type of work to be assigned
- Itemized qualification for each candidate
- List of expectations
- Business goals and objectives
The criteria will help you gain clarity on the purpose of hiring a Virtual Assistant in relation to your business goals and objectives. It will also establish your guidelines in qualifying candidates. Your interview questions and types of testing methods will be based from this set of criteria.
- Use reputable sources.There are more people making the transition from regular office employee to virtual assistant. Whether it is for part-time or full-time work, the industry for virtual assistants is rapidly growing.
As the industry keeps growing, you should become more wary of where you source candidates. Remember that while growth creates opportunities for new entrants, it also creates opportunities for scammers out to make a quick buck at your expense.
Here are a few notable resources:
a. Online job networks. The Internet is rife with online job networks that act as a market place between clients and freelancers. Among the popular ones are:
There are others in the market but these five (5) are the most reputable.
b. Virtual assistance websites. There are several websites that offer virtual assistance services. It will require some sleuthing to figure out which ones are legitimate and which ones are not. Always conduct due diligence work on a virtual assistance website before communicating with them.
c. Social media. There are focus groups and forums on various social media where you can find virtual assistants looking for work or where you can post a job. The best place to start would be LinkedIn which offers a more professional community than either Facebook or Google Plus. Some of these are closed groups which means you have to be accepted as a member first.
d. Referals. The safest approach would be to get referrals from friends and associates. You may be surprised at the number of associates who have had experience working with a Virtual Assistant.
- Be creative with the job post.One of the most important qualities a Virtual Assistant should have is attention to detail. The Virtual Assistant also acts as your extra set of eyes; they make sure you don’t miss crucial details or schedules that could potentially make or break your business. You can test the level of detail immediately from the job post.
When you compose a job post, include an important detail which is not usually inputted in the job description. An example would be “On the upper left hand corner of your application write ‘I Am Groot’ as proof you have read the instructions carefully.” You will be surprised at how many candidates will miss out on this all-important detail!
- Build a short-list of candidates.The biggest mistake start-up owners make is to pick the first candidate that comes along. Entrepreneurs do this largely out of impatience and lack of time. The best advice is: make time by preparing early in your business development schedule. Again, this is why you need set criteria.
As a general rule, get at least 5 candidates for the position. The reason for the short-list is to have a basis of comparison between qualifications. The first candidate who applies is not necessarily the best. It may take time to acquire a pool of talent but it will be time well-spent.
- Make the preliminary interview explorative.The purpose of the preliminary interview is to uncover who the candidate is. It is very easy to craft a great online profile and a curriculum vita. Oftentimes, you will come across an application that reads “I am the Virtual Assistant you have been looking for” only to fall flat during the interview. Unless you go in-depth on the application, you will never find out for sure if the details are accurate.
- Apply a 3D approach to testing.Another mistake start-up owners make is placing too much emphasis on the curriculum vita or online profile. A more effective approach would be to implement the 3D approach:
a. Technical competence. Test each candidate for their level of competence on the required skill. If you are looking for a Virtual Assistant for accounting work, ask the candidates to prepare a cash flow statement and an income statement.
b. Fundamental competence. You should also test the candidate’s knowledge on the basic responsibilities of the required task. In the example earlier, have the candidate explain the different types of employment benefits and the method of calculating the correct amounts.
c. Behavioral profiling. This is the most important, yet most overlooked aspect of the hiring process. The best candidate is the one you can work with.
Having a candidate with the highest test scores, recommendations and brightest curriculum vita will not guarantee you the best results if you cannot get along with him. Here are some tips on how to determine the behavioral profile:
- Provide situational tests
- Ask each candidate to provide a list of former clients and character references including contact information
- Check their social media accounts
- Engage them in informal conversation and assess where their sentiments are in matters that are important to you
- Require a testing period.The best way to determine your final hiring decision is to ask a candidate for a paid trial period. Most candidates will agree as long as the trial period is within reason and will not impact on their capacity to earn. Perhaps a 2 hour schedule for a period of one week would suffice.
The key to finding and hiring the right Virtual Assistant is to take your time. Be patient when going through the process. In the end, the entire exercise will benefit your business.