Mistakes to Avoid when Hiring a VA
If you are a micropreneur, chances are you are reluctant to relinquish control over your business. However, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in need of a hiring a VA.
A Virtual Assistant can be of great help for alleviating those repetitive tasks that eat your productivity. They can allow you to focus on growing your business or developing the product. However, a bad decision can end up costing you a lot of money, time. It can also cause you a lot of frustration, eventually having to fire that person.
Hiring a VA is not as easy as posting a job offer and choosing between a list of candidates. In order to find the right candidate, there’s some work to do.
In this article, I want to share my experience hiring a VA. Hopefully, you will be able to avoid some of the mistakes I made, and get an awesome VA that really helps you grow your business.
Finding the Right Virtual Assistant
Before even starting to look for a candidate, you need to do some initial work to figure out what would be the perfect VA for you. Let’s go through the right steps for doing so:
Build a WishList
Mistake #1: Hiring a VA without a clear idea of her chores.
To begin with, think exactly what you want to achieve by hiring a VA.
Do you need help with the administrative tasks of your business? Are you overburdened and need someone to alleviate your workload? Do you need someone to take care of your emails?
Once you have the main concept clear, you need to write down a list of tasks your VA will be taking care on a daily basis. Be as descriptive and exhaustive as possible. It’s best if you write it down like you were describing them to a friend, for example:
My VA will…
- Read my emails. Answer those that can be answered. Filter down those that need to be read by me. The goal is progressively finding my way out of reading and answering email.
- Conduct some market research. I need my VA to look for new customers for my knitting business. My VA will need to learn about the knitting business and where to find customers.
- Contact potential customers. Send them emails. Call them if necessary.
- Manage my Newsletter. Take care of greeting new subscribers. Sending me reports on the progress of the mailing list and topmost posts and articles.
- Manage my CRM. Add new customers and keep the data organized.
Understanding Your WishList
Mistake #2. Not defining a set of skills and requirements for your candidates.
You might be surprised how different this list is once you have reviewed it from your original idea. Don’t forget to have realistic expectations for your VA. Remember that even a full-time VA cannot (and shouldn’t) take care of your whole business. Hiring a VA allows you to focus on your business, not leaving it in someone else’s hands.
At this point, having a look at your list, you will be able to tell if you need to hire your VA part or full time.
Also, you might write down the required technical skills for your VA. These skills can be extracted directly from the skillset you specified. Did you describe a skill that requires using software like mailing tools, marketing services, office suites? Perhaps your custom software? All these skills translate to requirements for your VA.
Write a Good Job Description
Mistake #3. Writing a poor job description.
Now that you have a clear list of the requirements and skills for your VA, you are ready to write the job description. The list you wrote is just the starting point. There are also some things you might need to consider:
- General requisites for your candidate: you may have some desired characteristics for your candidates that have nothing to do with their skills or knowledge. You may find yourself more comfortable working with some kind of people. While it’s not usually a good idea to rely on subjective biases, if important, write them down.
- Language: the language is important. Trying to communicate with a VA that’s not proficient in your language may lead to frustration and a bad working relationship. If you need someone who is fluent in English, don’t forget to clearly specify so in the job description.
- Timezone: the timezone is also important. Perhaps your business requires your VA to work on office hours, or you need to have instant access to your VA when you are working. In these situations, you should consider hiring a VA that’s close to your time zone.
- Culture: finally, you should consider the social and cultural aspects of your candidates. If you are a woman, you might find some problems working with a VA coming from a misogynist culture.
- Internet connection: you are probably used to insane internet connection speeds and remarkable signal coverage. However, if you are hiring someone from developing countries, you want to make sure you’ll be able to contact your VA when you need it.
Finally, once you have your job description ready, review it and try to make a mental image of a candidate. Do they look like your perfect candidate? If not, you need to tweak your list or job description.
Where to Look for Virtual Assistants
Mistake #4. Letting someone else hiring your VA.
There are many places out there where to look for virtual assistants. There are places like virtualstafffinder.com or brickworkindia.com where they prepare a selection of candidates based on your requirements. However, in my experience, these sites are generally expensive and don’t guarantee you a good selection of candidates. My suggestion will be to find the candidates yourself.
There are other places like freelancer.com, guru.com or upwork.com where you can easily open a profile and start looking for candidates. I’ve found these places more useful, as they allow me to do a precise filtering of candidates.
Hiring a VA, the Process
Mistake #5. Not looking for candidates yourself.
Now it’s time to send your offer to the platform(s) of your choice. Once you have your job description published, you shouldn’t just be okay with being contacted by freelancers that read your job proposal.
You should actively perform an initial search of candidates based on some parameters (the hourly rate you can afford, the skills you need your VA to have, your preferences for countries or regions for your VA, etc).
That search will hopefully give you an initial list of candidates. Reach out to them and share your job offer. Don’t just copy and paste your job proposal or say something like “hello, this is my job offer, interested?”. Instead, write a short summary (3 lines max) of what your job position’s all about and ask them if they would consider applying for it.
Now I’m not saying that you should dismiss any applicant that contacts you directly. However, filter those as you would filter the ones that you are searching for actively.
At the end of this process, you’ll end up with a list of candidates. Now, narrow them down to just three. This initial group will be the one you’ll be interviewing.
Interview the Candidates
Mistake #6. Not interviewing the candidates via video conference.
You must interview your candidates via video conference. I cannot stress this enough. Ideally, you will meet the VA face to face, but that’s not probably going to happen. However, you should try to interview your candidate via Skype, Hangouts, FaceTime, or your favorite tool.
If that’s not possible, aim at least for an audio conference.
The interview will also give you a hint on your candidate’s internet connection. Imagine the worst scenario you may face in your business. Then, imagine yourself trying to reach your VA over that internet connection.
If you are having trouble interviewing that candidate due to connectivity issues, you may need to consider how you are going to quickly communicate with your VA when you really need it.
Mistake #7. Forgetting to write notes of the interviews.
Don’t forget to write all your impressions about a candidate down. Have a notebook or notes application at hand when conducting the interviews and write down the relevant stuff. You may also want to describe if the applicants were there in time, or if they looked cooperative and eager to work… all that information is easily forgotten later.
Some other things to consider here are the non-verbal language. A lot has been written about this. Check for signs of nervousness or hints that your applicants are feeling uncomfortable when you ask them about their expertise. That may give you a clue of lack of experience or knowledge on some areas. However, take into account that all aspirants may feel nervous and uncomfortable when being interviewed. Thus, don’t be so picky when judging your interviewee.
Choosing the Right Candidate
Mistake #8. Hiring a VA without being 100% confident of your decision.
When you finish conducting the interviews, it’s time to review your notes and your impressions about the applicants. In my experience, your personal gut plays a very important role here. Consider what you’ve seen, heard and written, and decide which is the right candidate.
If you were not able to find the perfect candidate in the initial group, it’s time to choose the next three of your initial list and repeat the process. If you are in doubt, it’s better to spend some more time interviewing a new group than hiring the wrong applicant.
When you make your final decision, it’s always nice to write back to the rest of applicants. I like to thank them for taking part in the application process. Explain to them that you have chosen another candidate, but say something nice about them. You never know if you will need them as secondary VA in the future, or you may need to replace your current VA.
Working with your VA
After hiring your VA, your work is not done. Especially at the beginning, you will have to teach your VA your way of working. She will need to adapt to how you manage your business and what you expect from her.
Initially, there will be a mandatory learning curve for your VA. You will need to teach her a lot of things relevant to your business. Eventually, the VA will tune into you and she will start being productive and helping you get the most out of your business.
This is a complex topic, worth an individual post, so we will discuss it in depth in a separate article.
Where to go from here
In this post, I share some common mistakes I made when hiring a VA in the past, alongside some best practices and recommendations for conducting the hiring and interviewing process. The goal of this post is helping you hiring a VA that’s the perfect candidate possible.
Do you have additional tips or suggestions? Want to share your experiences while hiring a VA? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!