The CEO of a medium-sized Australian manufacturing business contacted me recently, seeking advice on hiring virtual assistants (VA). Since 2008, I have employed various VA’s from Australia, India and the United States.
Hiring the right VA for your business can be challenging. Before you start the hiring process, I recommend you take a look at the list below.
Top 15 Things I Have Learned About Hiring VA’s.
1. Be crystal clear about exactly what you require from the VA and how you will measure their performance.
2. Document your daily activities for a few weeks – including personal tasks. After a few weeks you have a comprehensive list of all of the activities you do each day. Start grouping them into common tasks such as ‘email management’ or ‘proposal writing’.
3. Sort the list into two categories:
- Things only I can do or must do
- Everything else! (What can be delegated or outsourced)
4. Write a position description (PD) for the VA role. Ensure you use the same level of focus and discipline as you would if you were hiring for a permanent role.
6.Sort the candidates using the criteria described in the position description.
7. Consider their actual job-related experience. A VA position can look like an easy life where you can work from home and work your own hours. It’s not! Look for the people who have achieved real life results.
8. Once you have shortlisted your candidates, conduct interviews (face to face or on Skype) and critically analyse their specific skills and experience against the PD.
9. Naturally there has to be a brand fit and a cultural fit, not to mention the constructive chemistry that exists in a good working relationship. However, their experiences in dealing with specific issues are more important than a bubbly, friendly personality.
10. Here’s the big tip. Don’t just hire one – hire two – or three! It helps to have more than one VA available for a number of reasons:
- VAs by definition are working for more than one person and may not be available to do your work exactly when you need them.
- VAs work from home by choice, often because they have family and other commitments.
- VAs have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are fantastic at monitoring social media, but may not be great researchers. Some have exceptional formatting and editing skills but may not be suited to speaking to customers on your behalf. Work out the strengths of your VAs and task them with work they will excel at. You will get higher quality work, completed in a shorter timeframe – and they will love working for you!
11. Take the time to get to know your VAs. Find out about their background, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes and their preferred working style. This includes asking a range of questions including:
- What is their preferred work structure and timetable?
- Are they available in the mornings, afternoon or evenings?
- How much notice do they need for urgent work? (Can they do ‘same-day’ or is 24 hours notice required?)
- Are they equally competent working in Excel, Word and PowerPoint?
12. Communicate by voice as often as possible. Email is great for certain types of communication, but not the most effective tool for collaboration. Use Skype for a daily catch-up or at least once a week.
13. Give specific feedback as often as possible, particularly in the early stages. This will give them a greater understanding of your expectations.
14. If it is not working out, move on quickly.
15. Remember to thank them and congratulate them on their great work. It can be a lonely life being a VA, especially when working from home with no colleagues to bounce ideas off or shoot the breeze with.
What are your experiences working with a VA? Do you have any tips you would like to share?