There is no question that hiring virtual assistants will give your business many benefits which the conventional office-based employee cannot. Virtual assistants are a cost effective solution and their experience, expertise and high competencies assure you of greater productivity. But challenges remain in searching for the best candidate for your business.
So how do you hire the best virtual assistants?
- Research on the virtual assistance industry
Even though the virtual assistance industry has grown and the profession has become more popular, not too many people are familiar with its nuances. Theoretically, you are simply hiring personnel for your business albeit from the virtual world. In truth, real challenges exist when entrusting responsibilities to a person who conducts his services from a remote location.
For those who are used to collaborating with people while sharing the same space, you will need to re-frame your mindset with the Virtual Assistant. Despite the availability of collaborative software such as Asana, salesforce.com and Bitrix-24 which organizes and connects members of a virtual world, you will still have to deal with filters and barriers.
It will take some time to give trust and confidence to someone you don’t see. That is why virtual assistants work on a performance basis. They are given milestones to accomplish as a pre-condition for payment or continued tenure.
If you hire a Virtual Assistant from another part of the world, you will have to contend with social and cultural nuances. It is very important to gain knowledge on their practices and behaviors to moderate expectations. Otherwise, you may risk misunderstanding and miscommunication.
- Identify your business objectives
There are many reasons why entrepreneurs hire virtual assistants. Each reason is directed at accomplishing an objective. Therefore, you must identify your objectives before hiring a Virtual Assistant. Is your objective:
- To reduce cost of business?
- Increase productivity?
- Expand the business?
- Organize non-essential tasks?
- Address areas that need specialized skills?
- Introduce efficiency?
- Improve flexibility?
Your objective could be one or a combination of many. Identifying your objectives will help you fine-tune the qualifications you need for the Virtual Assistant.
- Create the scope of work
Once you have identified the skills you need for your Virtual Assistant, the next step is to create the scope of work.
Keep in mind that the scope of work isn’t just a “to-do” list in Word format or Notepad. It is a professionally done, well thought-off and accurately constructed document that carefully defines the responsibilities of the Virtual Assistant.
It is an official document of your company which is subject for revision or amendment in the course of the engagement. The scope of work is a key document to avoid misunderstandings and to arrive at immediate resolutions.
Another reason why some virtual assistant engagements fail is because the entrepreneur assumes the candidate has the experience to know what he is supposed to do. Experience is a great thing to have but everyone regardless of tenure needs to go through their Learning Curve.
Put it this way if your business retails car parts do you believe a Virtual Assistant with five years experience in the real estate industry can start off as if he was an expert? He will need time to learn your business, the industry and develop an understanding of your customer base.
The scope of work is there to guide the Virtual Assistant through your process.
- Identify your sources for talent
The most popular avenue for sourcing virtual assistance candidates is the Internet. You can find prospective candidates by opening a client account in one of the many online job markets.
These online job markets connect virtual assistants with potential clients. The growth of these online job markets have corresponded with the growth of the virtual assistance industry. As the industry grew to accommodate greater demand for online services, the position of the Virtual Assistant began to evolve.
No longer are virtual assistants limited to secretarial or personal assistance work. There is a Virtual Assistant available to manage any job that can be conducted online. Eventually the title “Virtual Assistant” became synonymous with freelancer, telecommuter and home-based worker.
Among the most popular online job markets are Elance, guru.com, peopleperhour.com, fiverr.com and freelancer.com. These online job markets have millions of virtual assistants as members. Each one with different skill sets and levels of experience.
You can also hire the services of a Virtual Assistance agency. There are many agencies in the Internet offering Virtual Assistant placement services. The biggest advantage of hiring an agency is that they have a wide pool of talent. Most of these have been pre-qualified and rated by former clients. You have more assurance on the quality of their work. And with an agency, if the engagement does not work out they can readily replace the Virtual Assistant.
But be careful when using these online services. As wide, deep and far-reaching the Internet is; risks in the form of scam artists exist. Always do your due diligence before hiring any candidate or agency.
- Shift your focus on the behavioral
Selecting the best candidate as your Virtual Assistant goes beyond the information detailed in the Curriculum Vitae.
This is a current reality which most entrepreneurs cannot quite grasp. They base their decision to hire primarily on the CV without giving much thought on other factors that are crucial for a successful working relationship. And the operative word is “relationship”.
Having the most impressive portfolio, the most recommendations and highest certifications will not assure you of the best working relationship. It all has to do with personalities. CV aside, does your candidate’s personality fit yours?
If you are one who values discipline, you may not be fond of a Virtual Assistant who does not fulfill his work schedule. If you value respect and integrity, you may not want a Virtual Assistant who directly communicates with your client and by-passes you entirely.
Remember this truism: anybody can be trained provided he is committed and dedicated to the process. But if someone has the wrong attitude, he will not contribute to the success of your enterprise because he only cares about his interests.
When selecting your ideal Virtual Assistant, focus more on the behavioral component. Your Virtual Assistant should be the one you could work with every single day. Your values do not have to exactly the same but they should at least mirror or complement each other.
Here are ways you can assess his behavioral profile:
- Determine his line of reasoning by giving situational questions.
- Engage him in regular conversation and find out his views on today’s most compelling issues.
- Evaluate how he conducts himself in interviews; is he always on-time, does he get easily pressured, does he organize his thoughts carefully before giving answers?
- Check his social media posts. Social media is an effective tool for due diligence because it gives people a false sense of entitlement. His interactions in social media will give you an idea of who he is outside the virtual world.
This is not to say that you should not test for technical and fundamental proficiency. Of course you should. But do not be blinded by numbers and achievements that have been identified on paper. Even if he does not score the highest numbers, the one who fits your personality will work harder to improve his performance.