In my last piece, I talked about the importance of writing job descriptions for Virtual Assistants. In this one, I’m going to talk about interviewing them. Yes, you read correctly: “interviewing.”
Just because you’re hiring someone to work remotely doesn’t mean you don’t need to interview them for the job. There’s only so much you can tell about a person from their online “profile” especially if you are price-shopping your tasks or project, and counting on others–previous clients and freelancer sites–to do most of the “qualifying” for you. Remember, the people who catch your eye may just be great marketers and self-promoters, but not necessarily a great fit for your business, or your project (unless you are hiring someone to market and promote for you).
How should you go about interviewing Virtual Assistants?
It depends what you need, and want. First you have to decide if you want a task-doer, or a partner. If the former–if you’re sure it’s just a one-off, or a series of one-offs on your to-do list–the following may not apply to you. However, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you may want to consider whether what you really need is a Virtual Assistant who works as a partner with you, helping you with a variety of tasks, longer-term–someone who can get to know you, your company, your clients, and be counted on to be there when you need them. After all, you’re going to invest time in getting them up to speed on your business, and your own expectations, and that’s not necessarily time you want to spend over and over with new people unless you have to.
So let’s say you decide you do want a partner, what should you ask? Here’s a list from successful VA–Susan Poirier, one of the best, and an inspiration to me– to get you started:
- Learn about them. Why did they get into the business?
- What struggles have they faced and how did they overcome them.
- What are their goals?
- Speak with their past and current clients.
- Read their online testimonials.
- Google them: what social media platforms do they use? Is their branding consistent? What types of posts do they write? Is their blog up to date?
- What personality traits present most strongly in their online communications?
- Do you feel that they are transparent and open?
Susan goes on to point out that to get the most out of your VA, you should be looking for someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, someone who is a partner in your success, not just “an automated task-doer.”
What I would add to Susan’s questions is a flexible mindset. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re only safe hiring people with tons of experience as a Virtual Assistant specifically. If what you want is someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, who thinks like a consultant, who cares about your business as much as about the piece of work they’re hired to do, take life experience, and other relevant work experience into account, and consider “newbies.” As Susan suggests, ask why they are doing this kind of work? In addition to consulting or administrative assisting background, do they have a consultant’s temperament? Do they have a good sense of humor, are they–for lack of a better word–“hungry” or driven? Is there ego in-check? Don’t assume the reason they don’t have a ton of credits to their name, or a deep portfolio, is that they lack the skills and experience to work for you. In fact, if you are a start-up, you are where most independent Virtual Assistants are, or recently were! See if there’s synergy there, perhaps you can help each other, share networks, cross-promote and form a better partnership, or even a long-term working relationship before they are in such high demand that you are competing for their time!
The bottom line is this: When interviewing a Virtual Assistant, assess whether it serves you better to hire a task-doer, or a partner, and if it’s the latter, ask the right questions to find someone who cares about your long-term success, perhaps even someone whose own success as a VA depends upon the quality of the relationship you’ll build together. Virtual needn’t mean “temporary.”