In ways hiring a Virtual Assistant presents more challenges than hiring a regular full- time employee for a brick- and- mortar business. For one thing, there is the absence of shared space collaboration. You may find it disconcerting working with someone in the virtual world and who resides a few thousand miles from where you conduct work.

A Virtual Assistant is also contracted which means tenure is not as firmly entrenched as an office worker covered with a full- time employment contract.

But one thing is for sure, hiring the best Virtual Assistant can take your business to the next level. It is a strategic decision that will allow you to reduce costs, increase productivity, improve quality of work and introduce flexibility in your business.

It may seem tedious, but the effort will be well worth it. Here are our top 5 tips for hiring a Virtual Assistant:

Identify the Tasks You Want Outsourced

High demand for virtual assistance work has opened up new opportunities in the industry for people with varied skill sets.

The days of virtual assistants confined to secretarial and personal assistant services are long gone. You can find a Virtual Assistant to manage any job, project or scope of work.

This is why the first step in hiring a Virtual Assistant is determining the tasks or services you want outsourced.

You have to be more specific in the qualifications and specialization of every applicant so you can find someone who fits the job description.

For example, if you need a VA to manage your Accounting, a sample task list would look like this:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Payroll
  • Preparation of Financial Statements
  • Preparation of Invoices
  • Preparation of Disbursement Schedules

If you are not sure of the tasks you want outsourced, you can start out with basic administrative services such as:

  • E-mail Filtering
  • Calendar Management
  • Phone Handling
  • Appointment Setting
  • Preparation of Presentation Materials

Once you are more comfortable and confident with the VA, you can slowly add more tasks or hire a second one.

Create a List of Skills You Want in a Virtual Assistant

Once you have identified the type of Virtual Assistant that you need for your business, create a list of skills you want in a VA.

There are 2 types of skills:

Hard Skills There are the skills that specifically pertain to the requirements of the job. In our previous example, the ideal hard skills for a VA that can manage Accounting work would be as follows:

  • Proficient in Spreadsheet
  • Prolific in Accounting Software such as QuickBooks
  • Knowledgeable in Financial Analysis
  • Good Typing Skills

Soft Skills These are the attributes that define your attitude and approach to work. Among the most sought – after soft skills are:

  • Leadership
  • Analytical
  • Punctual
  • Meticulous
  • Organized

The skills you have identified will become the bases for the qualification process in selecting the best Virtual Assistant for your business.

Qualify at Every Stage of the Selection Process

If you want to improve your chances of hiring the best talent, you should qualify at every stage of the selection process:

Talent Acquisition Stage

 Create a job post that has a specific instruction located at the middle or near the end of the content. For example:

“Write ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ at the upper right hand corner of your cover letter.”

The best virtual assistants are those who are meticulous in detail. They read instructions carefully to reduce the risk of making mistakes.

Applicants who fail to follow instructions should be disregarded.

Conduct Due Diligence

Once you have rounded up all the applicants who followed your prequalifying instruction, subject all of them to due diligence review.

  • Check their online profiles and identify potential red flags or irregularities;
  • Do a simple Google search to see if you can pull out any unsavory information on the applicant;
  • Check up on the provided links, portfolios of work or references.

Preliminary Interview

Round up the candidates who passed due diligence and schedule each one for an interview:

  • It must be an audio- video interview.
  • If you have the facilities, record the interview.
  • Prepare a list of interview questions. The list of questions must be a mix of those related to the resume, technical subject matter and focused on the personality.

If you want to take the selection process one step further, schedule a paid test period for your top 2 candidates. Everything else is hypothetical at this point.

A paid test period of no more than 2 hours per candidate can give you a better perspective of which candidate fits the bill the best.

Create a Short List of Candidates

As a general rule, never contract the services of the first applicant who responds to your job post.

It is not because the first applicant is the worst of the lot. But by hiring right away, you deny yourself the benefit of comparison through tests and interviews.

When you vet candidates in the different stages of selection, you are separating wheat from chaff. The continuous process of elimination improves your chances of hiring the best Virtual Assistant for your business.

You should arrive at a short list of 3 to 5 candidates heading into the interview stage.

Follow the 80-20 Rule

One of the biggest mistakes made by first- time clients is to hire a Virtual Assistant solely by virtue of his or her technical and fundamental qualifications.

Hiring the candidate with the most tenure, certifications and impressive credentials will not guarantee you the best Virtual Assistant.

What if that particular candidate turns out to be a head case and causes you more problems than productivity?

The 80-20 Rule advises you to hire a candidate based on 80% personality and 20% technical and fundamental qualifications.

The idea behind the rule is that anyone who is committed and dedicated to the job can be trained to achieve optimum proficiency.

But a person whose values, attitudes and personality traits are contrary to your own will never be productive regardless of his or her technical and fundamental qualifications.

The Virtual Assistant is the professional to whom you would entrust the services that are paramount to the success of your business.

At the core of every working engagement; whether brick- and- mortar or virtual, is a relationship between client and service provider. Trust is one of the cornerstones of a strong relationship.

You have to take the necessary steps to ensure your Virtual Assistant is not just a person who can manage his or her tasks but someone you can work with as well.