Business Tips

The Basics of Hiring and Working with a Virtual Assistant

Virtual AssistantHiring and working with a Virtual Assistant presents interesting challenges compared to a regular full-time employee. However, there are many benefits to hiring a Virtual Assistant for your business. This is why many companies around the world have incorporated outsourcing services as part of the business development strategy.

Here are the basics of hiring and working with a Virtual Assistant:

1. Assess the Need for a Virtual Assistant

Before hiring a Virtual Assistant, determine if your business really needs one.

There are several reasons why a business would need a Virtual Assistant:

  • Streamline Costs.
  • Improve Productivity.
  • Introduce More Flexible Operations.
  • Provide Specialized or Highly- Technical Services.
  • Business Expansion.

Your business could have one or a combination of these reasons to justify hiring a Virtual Assistant.

Review your current business model, perform an audit of operations and evaluate which areas would potentially need virtual assistance service. Once you have validated the move to hire a Virtual Assistant, identify the skill needed and list down the scope of work.

2. Research on the Pros and Cons of Hiring a Virtual Assistant

If this is your first- time working with a Virtual Assistant, it would be advisable to research on the pros and cons of working with one.

Definitely, you will have to make adjustments in the way you collaborate. Working with someone you don’t share the same space with may make you feel unsure or vulnerable.

In addition to online sources, talk to friends or associates who have had the experience of working with virtual assistants. Find out how hiring the Virtual Assistant benefited their business as well as common problems.

Learning more about the virtual assistance service will help you moderate expectations and develop an approach of hiring and working with a Virtual Assistant.

3. Identify the Best Sources for Recruiting Virtual Assistants

You can recruit a Virtual Assistant from several online job communities or from Virtual Assistant agencies.

Among the most popular online job communities are Upwork, People Per Hour, Freelancer and Guru. These communities connect businesses with potential candidates called freelancers.

In order to use these networks, you have to sign up and create an online profile for your business. Then you can post a job advertisement for a Virtual Assistant. There are no sign up fees although if you want to upgrade the service, you have to pay subscription fees.

There are also Virtual Assistant agencies you can connect with to hire your Virtual Assistant. The advantages of recruiting through an agency include the following:

  • All Virtual Assistant candidates have been pre- qualified.
  • Virtual assistants in the roster have had prior experience or work history with the agency’s clients.
  • The agency can provide you with recommendations and referrals on their virtual assistants.
  • If the arrangement with the current Virtual Assistant is not working out or if she is not available, the agency can have her replaced.
  • You have a wider variety of skill sets to choose from when recruiting a Virtual Assistant from an agency.
  • Virtual assistants from an agency are more tenured because they are routinely assigned clients and in addition, undergo more training and skill enhancement programs.

4. Draw Up a Short- List of Candidates

Whether you are recruiting a freelancer or from an agency, never hire the first candidate that presents her application to you.

It’s not because the first candidate is the least qualified but you must always have a means to draw comparisons.

A good rule to follow is to apply a 20% Quality Assurance principle. This means that out of a pool of talent, only 20% are qualified for the position. Lowering the percentage makes the qualifying process stricter.

This means that it order to hire one Virtual Assistant you must draw up a short- list of 5 qualified candidates.

5. Design a Comprehensive Qualifying Process

The best Virtual Assistant isn’t always the one with the glowing credentials, most number of referrals and recommendations. Design a qualifying process that covers the following areas:

  • Technical Competence.
  • Fundamental Competence.
  • Behavioral Aptitude.

Technical competence refers to the candidate’s proficiency in the specific skill sets required of the job. Fundamental competence is the candidate’s basic understanding of the nature of virtual assistance work.

Behavioral Aptitude determines if the candidate is right-fit to work with you. Right- fit includes disposition, work ethic and general attitude. You can have a candidate who scores the highest for technical and fundamental competencies, but if your values don’t match, the engagement will fail.

Remember, the Virtual Assistant is someone you will be working with on a daily basis. There will be disagreements but the right- fit candidate is one who always has your best interests at heart.

6. Require a Test Period

Once the candidates are through the qualifying process, require each one to undergo a test period.

The test period could be as little as 2 hours or as long as one week. The purpose of the test period is to determine the best candidate for the job. Keep in mind this will be a paid- test period.

Conditions have to be set exactly as if the candidate is actually rendering service to your business. So be prepared to set aside some money to cover the test period.

Collate the results of the test period and evaluate the numbers carefully. In addition, assess your relationship with the candidate during the test period.

7. Set Your Expectations

When you have selected your Virtual Assistant spend an hour or so discussing work expectations.

As the client, always keep in mind that the Virtual Assistant is not a quick- fix or miracle solution to the issues that are affecting your business. In the first place, there is a Learning Curve to respect. It doesn’t matter how much experience your Virtual Assistant has; she will need time to grow competent with your business.

Second, it takes time to build a solid relationship and understanding with your Virtual Assistant. You will have to grow into the relationship and learn the best way to manage the engagement.

8. Establish Working Protocols

Although the Virtual Assistant may be working a thousand miles away, working protocols should be in place to ensure your standards and guidelines are met.

Set up your work flows and frameworks. Since work is conducted online, make sure the systems for project management, collaboration, file sharing and communication are in place.

Your Virtual Assistant can probably help you in this regard and even introduce improvements in your current system.

9. Schedule Weekly Meetings

Communication is very important in any organization.

For the Virtual Assistant, communication is critical. Without the benefit of shared space collaboration, it will be difficult overseeing the work of your Virtual Assistant.

Although there are online programs that can make you view their computer screens, filters exist in the virtual world that hinder communication and close collaboration.

Make it a point to schedule weekly meetings with your Virtual Assistant. Once a week will do; you can schedule it at the end of the work week. There is a three- fold purpose for the weekly meeting:

  • Address pending issues at work.
  • Prepare for the following work week.
  • Build the relationship.

10. Evaluate Performance

You should have measures in place that grade the performance of your Virtual Assistant.

The purpose of the performance evaluation is to keep track of the Virtual Assistant’s contributions to the business.

Every end of the month, schedule a performance review with your Virtual Assistant. The criteria should include the following:

  • Statistics- Percentage of tasks accomplished by the Virtual Assistant.
  • Accuracy- Number of tasks accomplished that were done correctly or accurately by the Virtual Assistant.
  • Work Ethics- General conduct of work; time- keeping, attitude and overall disposition.

Hiring and working with a Virtual Assistant will benefit your business regardless of size, scale or type of industry. But just like the regular full- time employee, you must endeavor to find the best fit candidate for your business.

Finding the best- fit candidate will take time and effort but these are investments that will yield high returns for your business in the years ahead.

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