19 Secrets to Hiring the Right Virtual Assistant

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.

But where can you find someone to handle these tasks? Enter the virtual assistant!

“A virtual assistant can take day-to-day items that cause stress, but are not actually that difficult, and get them done behind the scenes so you can keep working on the bigger things that matter,” explains Jess Ostroff, Director of Calm at Don’t Panic Management, a virtual assistance agency specializing in end-to-end Facebook management services for businesses.

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 virtual assistant.

When Hiring Virtual Assistants, Make Sure They. . .

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.

Have 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.

Take Ownership for 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.

Have 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.

Understand how Social Media Works

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.

Share 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.

Ask Questions About the Job and Responsibilities

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. “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.

Perform Well in 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. “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.

Excel at Time 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.

Mesh with Your 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.

Understand Your Target Audience

When you are trying to connect with your audience through social media or  any other approch, 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.

Remain Reachable

Staying connected is pivotal when you are working with a virtual assistant. 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?

Possess Specific Skills

Apart from possessing desirable interpersonal skills, the person must also have specific qualities to get the job done. Ostroff has a word of advice: “It’s important to determine your unique skill set, focus on that, and delegate the rest.” The idea here is to find the right balance in job allocation, and for that you need to select a person with the right skill set.

Take an Interest in Understanding Your Business

According to Ostroff, “Most virtual assistants don’t find reasons to become invested in your business. And you get what you pay for.” 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.

Show Intent 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.

Seek 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. Ostroff adds, “It’s also important to give ongoing feedback, both good and bad, so that your assistant can learn and grow.”

Keep 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 assstant will share updates to keep you informed about progress and help eliminate miscommunication.

Deliver a Detailed Project Report

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.

Anticipate 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. As Ostroff says, “The best virtual assistants are the ones who, after some time, can anticipate your needs and get to them before you even have to think about them.”

Assistant Image via Shutterstock 10 Comments ▼

Shubhomita Bose

Shubhomita Bose Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.

10 Reactions

  1. While all valid tips, it is crucial to understand that a virtual assistant is your partner in your business, as well as a fellow business owner .. so treat us with a bit of respect, not as your personal delegation dump. We are vested in helping our clients excel in their business so make sure that your values and business philosophies match. Together .. we can make better business together.

  2. These are great tips, thanks for sharing! One thing I wanted to add is that a VA can do much more than admin work and mundane tasks! In my experience I have noticed that when people hear of Virtual Assistants, they tend to think of delegating basic admin tasks. However, nowdays there are so many highly skilled and versatile professionals who choose to work virtually, and to offer much more than basic admin. In fact, at Worldwide101 our team of premium virtual assistants partner with successful business owners to provide business grade level assistance in the areas of project management, and marketing. Of course, I totally agree with your point that whether you decide to outsource admin work or business grade tasks to your VA, it’s all about finding the right VA with the right skill set to create a successful business relationship!

    • Absolutely, Sarah! My company, Don’t Panic Management, offers more than just basic admin work as well, and I agree, there are many different associations with virtual assistants… some great and some not so good! It’s our job to help educate the world about what we really do, who we are, and how we can help. Thanks for reading!

  3. Quite impressed with how comprehensive this article is. Thank you so much Shubhomita. Truly, VA’s are good companions for your startup business. And even if it isn’t and its a established, you can still gain a lot of benefit out from these dudes for a fraction of the costs compared to an onshore employee.

    One thing I learned throughout this whole process of outsourcing is you got to learn together with your virtual team member as you progress. And as time hones every skill of your VA’s you and them also build trusts with each other and that’s one of the most important thing you have to build with your VA.


    • Shubhomita Bose

      Thanks for your comment, Tom. I think trust is a very important factor when it comes to managing your relationship with your VA, mainly because you don’t get to “see” each other on a daily basis. To be able to rely on your VA, who is sitting in some other corner of the country/world, makes a big difference.

  4. Yani Lim Lacaba

    Impressive tips! As a VA, you should know your

    capabilities before applying for a job. Employers

    nowadays tend to hire more qualified individuals

    rather than hire beginners because it can save them a

    lot of money and time. I am sure to take note of these tips!

  5. Making sure they have all of this qualities or maybe just some of this well make you comfortable to hire a virtual assistant. Anyway thanks for sharing this article. It helps a lot of business owners that needs a virtual assistant.

  6. A well-written article, thank you for sharing.

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