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Hiring a virtual assistant: The process
Hiring a virtual assistant can completely change the shape of your business in a lot of ways. I know it did ours.
A virtual assistant can help you become more effective, more efficient, and help you grow your business exponentially. They can also help you get your life back.
Do you feel like you have big ideas for your business, but no one to actually help you implement them? Have you been working 10 or 12 hour days just to keep up with everything, and yet you still don’t feel like you’re actually keeping up?
There is a long list of tasks that your virtual assistant can help you with, starting with all those little things you do to try to keep control over your business, when all you’re really doing is letting your business control you.
But hiring a virtual assistant isn’t an overnight process that starts one day and is complete by the next morning.
A lot of work goes into hiring the right virtual assistant, from making sure they’re the right fit for you and your company (and vice versa), to figuring out what types of tasks you’ll have them support you with, all the way to training and getting them on board.
Currently, our team here at EntrepreneurOnFire consists of myself and John, and three virtual assistants, two in the Philippines, JM and Jess, and one in India, Adeel. And let me tell you: we LOVE our team!
Because John and I are both big believers in what having a virtual assistant can do for you and your business, and because we have successfully hired multiple virtual assistants for EntrepreneurOnFire, I wanted to share the steps we took to make it happen so you can do the same.
Over the next several days I’m going to be publishing a 3-part series on hiring a virtual assistant.
I’ll not only going to talk about the #1 resource we use to hire our virtual assistants (and the one book you MUST read if you’re thinking about hiring a virtual assistant), but I’ll also share the questions we asked them during the interview process; how we knew they were the right fit for EntrepreneurOnFire (and vice versa); how we got them onboard and what types of tasks we delegate to them; and finally, how we’ve established such a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship with them.
This first post in the 3-part series is going to focus on THE PROCESS. So, let’s dive in and look at what it takes to hire a virtual assistant!
Our Virtual Assistant resource
Chris Ducker’s Virtual Staff Finder is the resource we recommend when hiring a “general” virtual assistant because it’s the resource we’ve used to hire our own virtual assistants – so we know it works!
Chris and his team deliver excellence in everything they do. One look at VirtualStaffFinder.com and you’ll see for yourself: Chris is about value and helping others create the Virtual Freedom that he discovered the hard way.
And while we’re on the topic of Virtual Freedom, anyone who is thinking about – or who is in the process of hiring a virtual assistant MUST read Chris’ book, Virtual Freedom, which goes into detail about how to work with a virtual team.
What else is so great about Virtual Staff Finder?
Well, the one-time, upfront fee is 10x worth the incredibly hard work Chris’ team puts into finding your top 3 candidates for you. I repeat: his team finds your top 3 candidates for you.
Their search is based directly on what you tell them you’re looking for. Did I just hear more time knocking at my door?
Let’s be real: doing a search for a virtual assistant can be exhausting – I know because I’ve done it before. Who can you trust? Who is truly qualified for the position?
Would be nice to have someone else do all that searching for you, wouldn’t it?
What’s more is that Chris’ team provides you with suggestions all throughout the process, like virtual assistant salary guides, job description examples and a list of suggested questions you can ask your candidates during the interview process. They even provide proficiency tests and recommendations from the virtual assistant’s past employers.
The time this will save you and the peace of mind it adds to the entire process is, in my mind, priceless.
There are of course other options out there in addition to Virtual Staff Finder. You can also post your job on sites like oDesk and TopTal, which allow you to find a virtual assistant who is much more specialized in one area, but you’re on your own when it comes to searching through candidates.
The questions we ask
If you do end up using Virtual Staff Finder as your resource, then they’ll provide you with a template of questions they recommend you ask during the interview.
A few of the questions below overlap with the ones they recommend, but here are all the questions we asked our virtual assistant candidates, in no particular order:
1. Confirm that they understand the pay rate and the hours they’ll work
When hiring a virtual assistant, you’re likely hiring someone who isn’t in the same time zone as you. Therefore, if you need your virtual assistant to work the same hours as you, then that might end up being a “graveyard” shift for them. Making sure you’re both clear about the time of day, and the amount of hours they’ll work per day, is very important.
You’ll also want to confirm the pay rate just so no one is surprised when the 15th of the month rolls around! Quick tip: we pay our virtual assistants via PayPal on the 1st and the 15th of the month.
2. Tell them about you and your business!
They may already know some information about you and your business from the job description, but introduce yourself and really let them get to know you and what you’re up to in your business. How long have you been doing what you’re doing? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you looking for a virtual assistant?
3. What are their other commitments?
We knew right away that we wanted a virtual assistant who could fully commit to the EntrepreneurOnFire team full time. Meaning, we didn’t want them to have other contracts with different companies.
The reason for this? FOCUS.
We want our virtual assistants to be – and feel – a part of our team. John and I put all of our focus and energy into our content and our community, and we want our virtual assistants to do the same.
If you’re looking for someone who is part-time, then this might be too big of an ask, and in some cases, you may simply not care one way or the other whether or not they have other commitments. That’s okay, too!
4. How long were they at their previous job for, and why did they leave?
This is a pretty commonly asked question across the board because the answer could mean the difference between the right virtual assistant and the wrong one.
5. What are their hobbies?, and Do they have a family?
I think getting to know your virtual assistant on a personal level is important, and knowing more about their personality not only shows them you care, it could also be something that translates well into the work space.
6. How do they handle difficult situations, like when they might have questions or not know how to complete a task?
I’m not a micro-manager, and I don’t ever plan to be one. The point of hiring a virtual assistant is so they can handle a set amount of tasks so you don’t have to. I want to know that whoever I’m hiring has the drive and the personality to look for answers if they don’t have the answers themselves, or to research things when they have questions.
Now this isn’t to say that we don’t have a 100% open door policy. JM, Jess and Adeel all know that if they ever have any questions for us, they can ask us any time. But there is a big difference between someone who gives up right when they hit a rock block, and someone who actively looks for solutions.
7. Why do they want this job?
Plain and simple – yet effective and very revealing :) This is one of the questions where I feel like I either connect with the candidate, or I don’t. If someone cannot express why they want the job that I’m offering, then for me, that means they’re probably not the right fit.
Knowing they’re the right fit
Once you complete the interview process, sometimes you’ll just know.
If you’ve ask the right questions, then by the end of your chat you will know whether or not you and your candidate are the right fit for one another.
This part is important. Hiring a virtual assistant is no different than hiring an employee to be a part of your team. It’s not a one-way street where you make sure they can give you what you need and that’s it. You also need to be sure that you’re the right fit for them.
Not sure how to do that? Ask them! And then, ask them again.
Also, you can usually tell by the way they communicate with you during the interview. Did they seem comfortable talking with you? (Take into consideration whether or not the customs and culture are different where they are.)
Knowing what you know about yourself and your “faults”, do you think this person will be able to put up with you? (Serious question)
How did they respond when you told them about you and your business? Interested? Bored?
The three interviews I did with the candidates Virtual Staff Finder sent me all went very well. Each candidate was well-qualified for the job and seemed very nice. However, when I met with Jess I just knew that her personality, her passion and her drive were exactly what we were looking for. I was glad she felt the same way about us :)
All said and done, the entire process from when I submitted my information to Virtual Staff Finder until Jess was starting her first day on the job at EntrepreneurOnFire: approximately 1 month.
My biggest tip for someone jumping into the process of hiring a virtual assistant?
Be ready to go at it full steam. If there are times when you’re not available to respond to Virtual Staff Finder, or if it takes you a while to get the interviews scheduled once you have your candidates, those are all things that will delay the process. Or, if you go with oDesk or TopTal, you need to really spend time writing out your job description and reviewing applicants to keep the ball rolling.
Once you hire your virtual assistant, the fun really begins :) Getting them on board, deciding which tasks you’re going to delegate, and going through the training process also takes a lot of time. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about all of these things in the next post!