The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Hiring a virtual assistant doesn’t have to suck.
In fact, it’s the single most important thing you’ll ever do for your business…
But hiring the wrong person can be costly. And missing out on the right candidate can too. So how do we find exactly who we’re looking for?
The truth is, finding the right talent is difficult. It can be a long, draining process.
When you first start out as a business owner, you’re forced to wear multiple hats. And if business is going well, eventually, you’ll get to a point where you realize you’re stuck in the day-to-day grind and need to bring on some extra help in order to allow your business to scale.
You’re probably thinking you don’t have the time to hire a VA or the capital for a full-time employee.
But how are you supposed to grow your business if you’re stuck doing repetitive and monotonous tasks everyday?
Sometimes, the best answer is to hire a remote virtual assistant to handle some of the extra assignments on your plate.
Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed over 100 virtual assistants for many different positions, and have had both good and bad experiences.
I’ve learned quite a lot about hiring and working with virtual assistants and I want to share some of those strategies with you because they will save you hours when interviewing and qualifying a large number of candidates.
First, I’m going to give you some tips to help you optimize the hiring process and help you find the ideal candidate for the position. And then I will show you a few tools that can help you pre-qualify candidates so that you don’t end up spinning your wheels or wasting time on candidates who aren’t the right fit for you and your business.
But before I get into it, let’s make sure you are hiring for the right reasons…
Note: I’m hiring virtual assistants using onlinejobs.ph. (Yes we are an affiliate, but we only recommend them because we love them). The same principles can be applied to hiring virtual assistants on other freelance job posting sites such as Upwork.
Why Hire A Virtual Assistant?
When you’re starting out, you do not always have the capital to bring on a full-time in-house person.
This is a perfect scenario for hiring a virtual assistant.
Hiring a VA can:
- Allow you to focus more on growing your business
- Help you offload tasks such as email marketing, social media, influencer outreach, content creation, and much more.
- Liberate you from the mundane tasks that bog your business down.
- Make you more money (at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about) by allowing you to focus on the high-level tasks that are deserving of your attention and specific skillset.
How Can Hiring a Virtual Assistant Help Me?
Have you been doing the same excel spreadsheet calculations for the last month?
Are you being forced to copy/paste something 19 times for social media, a Meetup group, or an email?
Tired of shrinking images, re-naming them, and uploading them to WordPress?
There are hundreds of easily outsourced tasks you are doing every day, that you just shouldn’t be worrying about. You cannot make the hourly wage you deserve if you are doing tasks below your pay grade. End of story.
Don’t think you’ve got enough tasks for your VA? Think again.
The key is to start outsourcing tasks now, and over time, you will pile on enough work for them to handle. A great resource I’ve used is 101 Tasks to outsource to a virtual staff by Chris Ducker.
The more you can take off your plate and delegate to a virtual assistant, the more you can focus on growing your business. This works great for small businesses that do not have the capital to hire a full in-house team.
How Will Hiring a VA Make Me Money?
Hiring a VA is a clear investment into your business, scaling your time, and increasing your hourly wage.
Think about it, if you can charge a client $150/hr for your time, and you are doing tasks that you can pay someone $4/hr to do, you are costing yourself $146/hr by doing the task. Stop it!
At only $3-$5/hr, or $160/week, you can hire phenomenal talent from countries like the Philippines. I did a little math, and if you’re making if you’re making $75/hour or more you should absolutely hire a VA as you will make money after about 7 weeks!
Time is in weeks:
While there is a little bit of upfront cost in the beginning, once things are set in place and your VA has been properly onboarded, you will spend less time automating processes for them and can reap the benefits of having someone work for you while you sleep. Literally.
What if you aren’t making enough money right now to justify the cost? Find out how you can improve your hourly wage by focusing on doing more of what you are good at and less of what you aren’t. Or work on one of the other levers… Only give them a few very simple processes and lower your management time by simplifying workflows.
So we know we can make money hiring a virtual assistant… But there is a clear risk. They have to make it to week 8 to pay for themselves.
Finding the right virtual assistant is tricky. Screening and interviewing potential virtual assistants can be a long, draining, and tedious process, but it doesn’t have to be!
The 5 Step Virtual Assistant Hiring Process
Now, there are a million ways this can go wrong for you.
Execution is the key.
You need to understand these 5 steps in order to maximize your chances of success:
- Write a clear job description
- Quickly weed out candidates that are not a fit for the position
- Use tools to help streamline and automate the process
- Pick your short list
- Set up interviews and follow-up questions with a test task
Go ahead and bookmark this page, so that you can come back here throughout your hiring process and ensure you do not miss a step.
The biggest mistake most people make is that they believe that paying someone else money will magically solve your business problems.
You have to onboard them, manage them, and help them grow to ensure your own success, and since this is an investment of your precious time, finding the right candidate is paramount.
The goal is to pre-qualify applicants early in the process so you don’t waste time finding out that the person you hired isn’t the right fit.
Be prepared to reject applicants in the early stages of the hiring process if you notice any red flags. You don’t have time to waste interviewing someone who you can tell is not a great fit right away.
Now that you understand this point, let’s get into the steps.
Step 1: Your Job Description MUST be Clear and Detailed!
To get started, you will need to carefully craft your job description including any specific details on the job that you’re hiring for.
You want to be as clear and upfront as possible in the job description so that applicants aren’t surprised by what the actual job position is when they start.
This not only helps job applicants understand the position they’re applying for, but it also helps you clarify the position and the work that you will need once you hire a virtual assistant. If your job description is vague, you run the risk of receiving too many applications from unqualified candidates.
You only want to receive applications from people who are qualified for the position so that you don’t end up spending a huge chunk of time weeding through mediocre candidates.
Step 2: Quickly Weed Out Candidates that are Not a Fit for the Position
When seeking a virtual assistant for social media, web development, or general tasks, you will get a slew of people who are applying to anything and everything. Freelance sites such as Upwork or onlinejobs.ph often have job seekers that like to shotgun apply for jobs.
These “shotgun job seekers” usually have pre-written, generic templates that they use as cover letters to apply for your job. You can identify when the applicant didn’t read the complete job description because their listed skills will be irrelevant or there are buzzwords littered throughout the cover letter or resume.
I specifically ask the applicants near the end of the job description to apply for the virtual position by visiting my typeform specifically to weed out these shotgun applicants.
I will ignore anyone who applies directly on the site, as following basic instructions is the #1 thing you should always be looking for in a VA. Only focus on the people who followed directions and filled out the typeform because people who skip this step are likely to make the same errors in the future. Attention to detail is a key trait for a good VA, and not following the directions this early in the game is a definite red flag.
Although onlinejobs.ph gives you a platform to easily manage your applicant submissions, it’s better to use an external method for the application because it adds a very simple layer of protection against the mass submissions that you are sure to get.
Spending a little bit of time upfront by adding on this extra layer saves you a lot of time in the long run because the people who don’t follow the directions can be easily spotted and eliminated.
Now that we have a clear Virtual Assistant job description, let’s prepare using Typeform to collect more information about the candidate.
Step 3. Using TypeForm To Help you Streamline the Process
Since it is ideal to add a layer of difficulty to your application, adding a typeform is an easy way to accomplish this (and this goes for hiring on Craigslist as well).
To get an idea of the types of questions you should ask, check out the exact typeform SplashOPM used to hire an online events and social media manager. And here’s one they used to hire a content manager.
And here’s a generic typeform template you can customize for your next job application.
Remember, the typeform is serving multiple purposes:
- Making it harder to apply so that you only get applicants that actually care about getting the job.
- Having the applicant self-verify the skills that they are good at so as to see if they are a good fit.
- Testing their English skills by way of studying their long form answers.
- Testing their attention to detail and passion by studying their answers, and especially the length of their answers (the longer the better).
Let’s look at what we have so far:
- A clear and descriptive job description post for onlinejobs.ph
- A separate form application collection method. In my case this typeform.
Going Live with Your Job Post
Now that you’ve configured and set up your hiring funnel, it’s time to post your job description and start collecting candidates. The general virtual assistant job descriptions I’ve posted on Upwork or onlinejobs.ph typically start receiving applicants within a couple hours.
If you’ve configured the self-respondent notifications in Typeform, you will start seeing those job applicants and details coming in through your email.
Step 4: Choosing Your Short List
I received tons of applications, do I interview all of them?
Chances are, most of these applicants aren’t the right fit. At this point, you have more applicants than there is time to interview. You will need to go through the applications and cherry pick the ones who appear to be the best, thus creating a short list.
Give your typeform 2-5 days to get as many applicants as you see fit, then export them all to a csv file.
You need to sort through the responses to narrow down who you want to interview based on the best skills sets for the best prices.
Here are a few things that I look for:
- Did they answer the practical questions correctly?
- Self-Assessment of Skills
- Responses to General Interview Questions
Rule: The respondents with the longest answers are more likely to be the ones willing to go the extra mile for you, so review and focus on their answers first.
Go through the resumes, and really get a feel for who these people are. You’ve already narrowed it down based on your initial criteria. That buys you more time to spend vetting potential virtual assistants before scheduling some time to interview them (preferably over Google Hangouts or Skype, but email works okay too).
Why You Shouldn’t Hire The Perfect Virtual Assistant
Be careful with applicants who have a wide breadth of skills across various disciplines. It would be great to find someone to write articles, manage your social media, handle paid advertising, and help set up email campaigns, while at the same time writing PHP and creating custom plugins for your WordPress site.
But, the truth is, there is no one-size-fits all solution for your business. Be careful not to fall into this trap. Candidates who seem too good to be true likely are, so don’t be naive. It will only cost you more time and money down the road.
Temper your expectations, because the unicorn you seek does not exist. Not at the price point you’re hiring for at least…
Rule: If a candidate says they are good at everything they are either: lying, crazy, or going to outsource all your work to others.
There are a lot of great workers out there that can do the specific tasks you are looking for, the key is staying on point with what you want, and being able to clearly define and manage their work.
Step 5: Interview Time!
So far, our multi-step funnel is designed to help eliminate any unnecessary interviews. If we’ve followed our process and prescreened our potential virtual assistant candidates, we’ll only be interviewing people who’ve followed directions to this point and fit what we are looking for.
Now comes the step where we narrow down our applicant pool further by assessing their communication skills and personality. Hopefully at this point we are confident that our candidate can do the job based on their application, work examples, and references if they’ve provided any.
Now we’ll ask them to hop into a video Skype or Google Hangout to see if this is going to be someone who can communicate and back up everything they’ve presented to us through our application, email, or messages.
Here is an example of my hiring funnel:
- 40 applicants who submitted applications on onlinejobs.ph
- 13 people who followed directions and filled out the typeform
- 5 people who fit what I needed and requested and interviewed
- 1 person hired for the job – SUCCESS!
After the video interview and some questions, I will choose the person I want then send them a templated email that basically says I like them, think they will do a great job, tell them that I will pay them bi-weekly for the first month, then month to month after that.
Set all of their expectations up front and tell them that they shouldn’t ever hesitate to ask questions.[Tweet “When hiring a VA, set all of their expectations up front and tell them they should never hesitate to ask questions.”]
You’re Hired! Tools and Processes for Your New VA
Once you’ve found the best candidate, you will need to start onboarding them into your company. This means, outlining the tasks that you wish for them to complete in detailed and easy to understand processes. Unfortunately, creating the processes that you give to your VA can be very time-consuming, so having a game plan for getting these done is a must.
Download and use Jing so that you can easily take screenshots and videos, upload them online, and link them to your VA. Combine these videos with written, step-by-step documents and you will be sure to see your VA succeed.
Also, you can use Dropbox or Google Drive to easily share spreadsheets or documents with your whole entire team.
Another tool that has proven to be helpful is 1Password for Teams, an online vault system where you can store passwords and manage permissions. When you hire a VA to do tasks like manage social media, you will need to give them access to company passwords and logins. This is a safe way to add only the information that they need at any given time without having to create password protected spreadsheets or sending that information via email.
Hiring a VA has never been easier. The process is a little daunting your first time, but you will get the hang of this in no time.
I don’t expect a new virtual assistant to know exactly what to do when they start, that is up to me as the business owner to train and teach this person what exactly I need them to do.
If you are able to find someone who can follow directions and be coached on what you need, then you will save yourself a lot of time in the future by hiring the right person initially.
Of course, sometimes even though you did your due diligence, a new hire may not be the right fit. Once you’ve got your new hiree, you need to make sure they are delivering to your expectations.
Unfortunately, even when using the above process, you will get a bad apple every now and then. It’s to be expected…
But, keeping a bad apple is toxic for your business. Sometimes it’s hard to do, but if you think they are underperforming, forgetting tasks, missing deadlines, etc., you need to cut them out and start anew.
One way I hold my employees accountable from the get go is to have them write a 30/60/90 Day plan.
This is a very great tool for helping employees visualize how they are going to perform the job, and give them motivation to achieve their “goals,” more specifically because they are the ones that conceived of them.
Ultimately, hiring a virtual assistant can help you grow your business faster and cheaper than potentially any other avenue. My only regret is not taking the time to do this process sooner.
So what about you? Are there any additional steps you take to hiring your virtual assistants? Have VA’s changed your life? Let us know in the comments below.