There are mundane activities in every business. These are tasks that take time and energy but frankly are better handled by someone else so you can focus on your company’s core business.
“Most business owners know that they need to spend their time on high-value tasks such as business development and creating a great culture. And many business owners know that getting an assistant can free up their time from things that they should not be doing” explains Robert Levin, co-founder of Work Better Now, a near shore company that provides affordable virtual assistants.
But where can you find someone to handle these tasks? Enter the virtual assistant!
Where to Find a Virtual Assistant
Virtual Assistant Companies
If you search the web you will find a number of virtual assistant companies looking to provide you with immediate help. Some offer American based assistants with extensive education for a premium rate and others will offer foreign based, English speaking assistants at a lower rate. But in the end, it will all depend on what you need them for, how you wish to use them and what you can afford.
Virtual Assistant Job Postings
On the flip side of a virtual assistant company, you can hire a virtual assistant from a plethora of job boards such as Freelancer.com or Hiremymom.com. These sites provide freelancers that you can hire on a project basis by project basis or part-time and full-time. But before we hire anyone, let’s look at the tips below.
Considering the important role they play, it’s crucial to select wisely when hiring a virtual assistant. Below are some secrets to hiring the right one..
Things to Consider When Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Be Clear About Expectations
You’re obviously looking to offload tasks. First, determine your specific needs. Often you know you need one but can’t put your finger on exactly what for other than a couple of tasks. Don’t worry. Over the course of a few weeks, you will find plenty of work to take off of your plate and give to your assistant. A good assistant will help you figure these things out.
Know What Qualities You are Looking For
Hiring a virtual assistant is much like hiring any employee, you have to make sure they are qualified for the job. The interview process should be directed at finding out how a person will handle specific situations rather than just their prior work experience. The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the situation you are describing that they have done?
If they were on a team, what was their contribution. If X happened, how did they handle it. And taking ownership of mistakes is a must. We all make mistakes but admitting we caused them and working to rectify them should be our expectation in this situation.
Know What Skills are You Looking for
It’s important to have a clear understanding of what skills you are looking for in your virtual assistant. Are they going to manage your social media? Do they need experience with Quickbooks? Are they sending out invoices? Do you need someone to put together your next PowerPoint presentation? Should they have sales experience? Customer service experience? You get the picture. Create your list of needs and try to fill as many of those as you can. But remember, no one knows everything.
Maintain Clear Communication
A key difference between hiring a full-time employee and a virtual assistant is physical presence. Unlike a regular employee, a virtual assistant cannot step into your cabin to get answers. This makes communication extremely crucial. You should, therefore, look for a virtual assistant who maintains complete transparency in communication at all times.
Pick a Communications Channel and Approach
One of the key ways to keep communications open is to adopt a platform and style of communications that you both stick to. Communication is key in any relationship, especially with someone who doesn’t work in your office. It’s important to set up a process that works for you. Is there a daily call? Do you use Skype or Zoom? Is Slack part of your communication routine? It’s up to you to determine an open line of communication that keeps both parties informed.
Look for Someone with Industry Experience
Suppose you own a small B2B business and your target audience is the more serious and evolved group of people and decision makers. Would you benefit by hiring a novice with no industry experience? Probably not. Rather you should look for someone who has enough knowledge about the industry you operate in. A person with strong industry experience will be able to understand what the audience really wants.
Make Sure They Can Own Mistakes
A professional virtual assistant is never afraid to take the onus of mistakes committed at work. It is this quality that makes it easier for you to work with them. As Ostroff says, “They value their work and their contributions to your success, and take ownership for mistakes or misunderstandings so they can do better in the future.” Taking ownership for mistakes also indicates the person’s accountability, which is a great quality to have in a virtual assistant.
Ask for Verifiable References
A simple yet effective way to gauge a prospective virtual assistant’s skills and qualities is to look for references and testimonials from past employers. Make sure you pay close attention to what their previous employers have to say about their work, personality and skills. Based on the testimonials, you will be able to find the right person for the job.
“This really goes back to my earlier comments, hiring a virtual assistant is much like hiring any assistant.,” Levin said. “Would you check the references of a candidate that would be working in your office? Does the company you’re hiring the assistant from have testimonials from other clients who are using their VA’s? “
Make Sure They Understand Social Media
If you are hiring someone to, for example, manage your Facebook account, it is important for them to fully understand how the site works. Apart from a comprehensive understanding of Facebook’s functionalities, it’s important to clearly know what it can do for businesses. A good track record will be useful in helping you examine a prospective virtual assistant’s capabilities in performing the job at hand.
Look for Some Who Makes Suggestions
Professional virtual assistants have enough confidence in their skills and experiences to share suggestions that can help their work and benefit your business. “They can also make suggestions when it comes to processes and efficiencies based on their own experiences that will help you run your business more seamlessly,” mentions Ostroff. Useful inputs and suggestions can ultimately help you meet your business goals.
Look for Some who Asks Questions
When a prospective virtual assistant asks questions about the job role and responsibilities, it shows his/her interest in meeting your expectations. Valid questions are also useful in helping you chalk out well-defined job responsibilities.
“I’ve interviewed every virtual assistant that works for my company,” says Levin. “The ones that stand out are the ones that went the extra mile and researched the company they would be interviewing with. This shows a real interest in the job, the company, and their own future.”
“It’s important to look deep within yourself and your business to figure out what you really need to be doing and what someone else could do. Then, you need to figure out which of the things others can do actually should be delegated to a VA,” says Ostroff.
Try a Trial Run
Not sure about how your relationship with the virtual assistant is going to turn out? Try a trial project to test waters.
“Virtual assistantsare often hired month to month, so a trial run or probation period is easily established,” says Levin. “I’ve also had companies create Performance Tests that candidates take prior to start. It’s easy to identify a VA’s attention to detail and critical thinking via a small test example. I also suggest easing the VA into daily tasks over time. The more time and experience you have working with your VA, the more work you’re going to want to offload.”
“It’s important to start with tasks or projects that are small and specific so you can begin to build trust while not risking anything major going wrong if the assistant isn’t the right fit,” explains Ostroff. If the small project goes well, you can trust the assistant with bigger tasks.
Look for Great Management
A major quality of a good virtual assistant, according to Ostroff, is their ability to “take day-to-day items that cause stress, but are not actually that difficult.” To do so, the virtual assistant must possess great time management skills. In other words, they should know how to prioritize different jobs and multi-task without missing the deadline. They should also value your time and ensure you have an agreement on the timelines.
Seek Out a Compatible Personality
Considering how closely you need to work with your virtual assistant, it is quite crucial to find someone whose personality is compatible with yours. For example, would you feel comfortable working remotely with someone who doesn’t talk at all? You need to have a clear understanding of the interpersonal qualities you are looking for in a person who you won’t meet face to face every day.
Make Sure They Understand Your Target Audience
When you are trying to connect with your audience through social media or any other approach, you should rely on someone who knows your audience, or at least is willing to improve his/her knowledge. Say your target audience is an average American teen living in a small town. You’d benefit from hiring a virtual assistant who knows the pulse of that kind of audience.
Look for Someone Who Will Remain Reachable
Staying connected is pivotal when you are working with a virtual assistant. We’ve mentioned before the need for open communication. So consider how difficult this might be if you were to work with someone on the other side of the planet — with radically different hours. Thanks to the Internet, there are several ways to interface with people who are sitting miles away. But it’s also important to find someone who is comfortable with your work hours. For example, if you are sitting in the U.S., would it help hiring a virtual assistant in Malaysia when you have to be in contact on a daily basis?
Look for Someone Who Understands Your Business
The right virtual assistant becomes more involved. He or she knows that to help you connect with your audience they must understand what your business is all about. It is this understanding that helps them learn about your strategy and contribute in the most effective manner.
Look For Someone Willing to Learn
You may not always need to hire a virtual assistant with several years of experience. A comparatively less experienced person can also do a great job as long as he/she has the determination to learn. You may need to groom that person first, but the pay-offs are greater when you consider their considerably low cost.
“I find this is critical in hiring anyone,” Levin says. “I’m a proponent of finding the “right” candidate and teaching them the skills they will need to succeed. If your VA has an interest in learning, then you will be able to groom him/her to perform to your expectations. It’s also important that a VA is accepting of feedback and it’s important that we, as the boss, provide constructive feedback that helps our VA perform better. Again, communication is key.”
Seek Someone Who Takes Feedback
A virtual assistant serious about his or her job will be more proactive in seeking feedback to find areas for improvement. Eagerness to receive feedback is a clear indicator of the assistant’s seriousness about the job.
You Want Someone Who Keeps You Updated
It’s tricky to keep an eye on what the virtual assistant is up to because you are not physically close to each other. But a good virtual assistant understands this, and that’s why he or she keeps you updated from time to time. A good virtual assistant will share updates to keep you informed about progress and help eliminate miscommunication.
Look for Someone Who Delivers Detailed Project Reports
Professional virtual assistants have an eye for detail. They recognize the role of a detailed report to track the project’s status, progress and areas for improvement. A detailed project report also helps you know what you’re getting out of the engagement, which is beneficial in monitoring the return on investment.
Seek Someone Who Anticipates Your Needs
A professional virtual assistant takes the time to understand your business and its needs. Over time, the virtual assistant begins anticipating your business requirements and can make informed decisions.
In conclusion, hiring a virtual assistant is much like hiring any employee you are looking to add to your team, but with a few tweaks,” Levin says. “Once you establish a process that both you and your assistant are clear on, working with a virtual assistant is going to change your business and allow you the time to focus on tasks that will make you money.”
Assistant Image via Shutterstock
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