Consider when hiring a virtual assistant

These are topics to consider when hiring a virtual assistant. “Virtual Assistants” are being used more and more by startup CEOs. You can hire a VA from any continent! Consider time zones and their impact. The hourly cost can be modest or high depending on your needs. Many VA’s have degrees. Some have excellent experience. Www.Upwork.com is one potential source of VAs.

The meaning of virtual assistant (VA) has evolved. Be sure that you and your VA have the same task groups, tempo of engagement and experience requirements in mind. Some virtual assistants wish to create a robust, long term relationship with a startup.

Here are criteria to consider when interviewing a Virtual Assistant.

Professionalism

Did you sense a professional in the first few seconds of your interview? Do you want them to be the one to call your customers or stakeholders? Do the work samples reflect an appropriate level of professionalism? Do you have spontaneous needs for instant response? Or do you always plan ahead? Which style will work in this case? How might you test the candidate?

Time zone

Do you and the candidate live in time zones such that the time difference will align with your desired turnaround and tempo of engagement? Is your startup located in more than one time zone or do staff relevant to this VA frequently travel to other time zones?

Availability

What turn-around time do you need? Are you flexible? Is the candidate? Is your workload for the VA steady or variable? For most startups it will be variable. Are you hiring them full-time? Will the VA subcontract? Either way; can they cope with the changes typical of startup work environments? Many VAs have several clientes at the same time. As they acquire more clientes they may judge you to be most expendable. So they may cancel when it is very inconvenient. You can split your tasks between two or three VAs to insulate your startup from these problems.

Communication

How will you communicate?  What methods do you prefer? How often will you call, text or email? Which will the candidate accept? How often? Are you hiring one person who helps you or one who subcontracts? Do you care?

Types of tasks

What do you need to have done? On a regular basis? Less often? Do you expect them to make cold calls? Is the candidate comfortable with your list of tasks?

Multi-Tasking

Startups are always operating close to the edge. All staff, advisors, consultants and VAs need to be able to multitask in a relaxed way. You need to understand how well a potential VA can multitask.

Test/Trial

Test the VA candidate. Better yet; hire them for a one week trial.  Consider how you might evaluate each of the relevant following areas.  Do not test for something that does not matter.

  • Professionalism
  • Impact of time zone differences
  • Preferred ways to communicate (both yours and theirs)
  • The type of work that will be central to success for this relationship
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Availability/turnaround
  • How can you test for the type of responsiveness that you need?
  • How do you see your startup as being unique?  So … what else is key to consider when hiring a virtual assistant for your unique startup?

How do you feel about the quality of the results?  Are you being fair?

Their References

Ask for three references. Call and ask a few questions.  The questions can help you gauge respect for the candidate and to consider topics relevant to your startup’s situation.

Conclusion – consider when hiring a virtual assistant

The best virtual assistant candidates will know what you wish to consider when hiring a virtual assistant.  They will want to be in a relationship with your startup, and make it their business. This is well beyond the relationship with a temporary worker. You need shared understanding of the VA´s job description.

For more information about managing your startup; please search this Blog or review the White Papers under our Publications tab.

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4 Responses to Consider when hiring a virtual assistant

  1. The availability of a virtual assistant can really be a problem because sometimes I’m having problems communicating to them everything that I need to have done. If they receive my request too late and there’s no time left to do the task once they receive the message; its a problem. Giving the candidates trial tasks is the best method of knowing if they’re fit for the work, this takes a long time though.

  2. Though we at first had some success with overseas VA’s, I would also recommend sticking right here in America. The time difference was a plus because work often got done overnight, but there were cultural issues that were sometimes not understood with our instructions and we later learned that some of the work was being farmed out to others.
    One tip from experience: every time you email the VA with a task, ask for a simple “received” email when they get it and a “completed” email when they finish the work. This is a small simple thing that ensures clear communication channels!

  3. I think this is the most difficult task for the any CEO. As you described, time zone and tempo of engagement are the most important factors to consider when hiring a VA. I think a week or 10 day trial will be the best option to start your journey. Thanks for the article 🙂

  4. This was interesting. I could see all of the potential problems with having a virtual assistant. Communication and trusting the VA are also essential components of the relationship to keep the work running smoothly and accurately.

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