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How to hire a virtual assistant for startup success?

Tips for startups looking to hire their virtual assistant for the first time

In the long run of business there comes a time when it gets tough to manage all the stuff on your own. Does it sound similar to your situation? Is your family life suffering because of it? Feel like your spending your time on a lower value task?

All those small and daunting time-consuming tasks interfering with your creativity can be a thing of the past. It’s time to hire a (VA) virtual assistant. Virtual Assitant in short ‘VA’ is a highly skilled self-employed and independent team providing support to you.

In years, virtual assistants have left a remarkable mark on the way business used to work. VAs, nowadays, are high in demand by companies. Before, “How to hire a Virtual Assistant for Startup Success?” one of the essential things to know is how is it going to be beneficial for you?

You may find yourself thinking about the “Bigger Picture,” and the voice inside tells you “I can do more important and productive things” if I had an extra helping hands without burning my pocket.

Some key benefits of working with VA are;

    1. Economic savings- VA only gets paid for the hours served. You do not need to pay any extra benefits nor required to pay additional bills which include, office space, internet, and utilities.
    2. Saves time– Virtual Assitant are highly skilled so that you will cut down your time on the extensive training. A professional VA will need almost zero monitoring. You can always ask for reports at the end of the day.
    3. Knowledge– You want to expand your team immediately but have a knowledge gap. VA can solve that problem for you. VAs are in general guys who have formal experience of few years in the field.
    4. Reduces workload– Employees will come and go that’s the harsh reality. They will leave for a better opportunity or personal reason or sometimes for no reason at all. Hiring is a strenuous job that increases unwanted workload. The VA company takes off the burden from your shoulder.
    5. Eliminates drama– People are different. Your team comprises of individuals. Individuals have their own opinions, a way of working and nature. Having a group under the same roof may sometimes create unwanted tension. Virtual assistants work from home so you will avoid the mess.

These are some of the common reasons why people went from traditional in-house staff to the VA model.

Make sure to make a list of things you want to delegate to the VA as it helps you in defining the scope of work. Finally, you want to verify you have covered all the things you want to hand over so you can focus on the critical side of your business. Good VAs will help you grow your business. Finding the right candidate starts with you. You want to work out brick and mortar of the job and requirement it entails including knowledge, skill set, etc.

The template at the bottom will give you a necessary start.

    1. Budget – You can get VAs at dirt cheap hourly rates, but there are VAs with a high price tag. The quality of VA is proportionate to the amount. You can get good VAs offshore managed by the company on your behalf for $6.
    2. Job Responsibilities – Before hiring VA you need to be crystal clear about the tasks you want them to perform. It is critical because it can cause a lot of headache and subpar jobs if it hasn’t been defined. It will help you refine questions and requirement for the position. If done right it will help you choose crème de la crème. The tasks, be it daily or weekly, should be mentioned clearly. For example, incoming calls during business hour, email communication, booking flights for you, research work.
    3. Work Schedule – Mention the time you want your VA to show up for work. You need to take into account extra time for a team meeting, providing feedback, etc.
    4. Experience – A simple task may not need a high level of expertise; however, a complicated job such as researching will need a decent amount of experience, preferably a year or two.
    5. Incentives -Money talks. Nothing can be more motivating to an employee than incentives. You should define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and attach it with incentives for achieving it.

Your preferred form of communication – You might be busy with a lot of things. For example, you are most of the time in a situation where you can not take calls, and you would prefer a mail or a text. You should always provide an alternate way of contacting you in case of an emergency.

Once done, its time to post the job.

After posting you will start receiving applications from the interviewees. If you are hiring a VA instead of the company, there are additional processes with it. You will want to identify not only a person with skill but with a will.

You will now want to focus on hiring someone with following personal qualities and here are some of the questions to vet out the wrong hires

      1. Reliable– When hiring someone off-premises a lot is at stake. You want to have a person you know you can rely on, without a shadow of a doubt. You don’t want a person who disappears at the peak hour of business. You don’t want someone who quits a job without giving you notice for higher pay.

There are a few things you can check on the résumé of a person to prescreen it. You want to check how often has the person quit the job. If a person seems like a job hopper the chances are he will not stick with you for too long. It is also a clear indication if things go wrong which happens in every business the person will quit instead of working with you to find a solution.

During the one on one interview, you should ask reasons for quitting previous jobs. You should drill the candidate until you are satisfied. A simple question such as “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” will tell you a lot.

2. Accuracy– You are paying your VA to save your time if you have to go back and re-check whether they are doing it right it won’t make sense. You can not afford to make mistakes. You don’t want t to have someone in your business who keeps on repeating the same mistakes.

Humans make mistakes, but you want to make sure your VA avoids one those are critical to business and can cause a huge setback.

To test their accuracy you want to go through their résumé to find if there are any grammatical errors, typo, etc. If there are any, the guy is not a fit, as CV is one of the critical documents and if someone is reluctant to proofread before submitting it, you can guess the answer.

The second approach, ask questions such as:

          • Tell me about a time when you made a mistake in your work. How did you find it and what did you do to solve it?
          • What tools do you use to ensure that there are no mistakes in your work?
          • A customer/client sends over a request, and you don’t understand it. What do you do?

3. Accountability– The behavioral component is the most important in VA. It’s important to find someone whom you can trust and is honest. While you are more busy attending the important matter yourself, you want your VA to carry out the high quality work on your behalf without dodging responsibilities.

You can ask a question like, “How would you describe yourself?” “What is your biggest accomplishment?” “What is your dream job?” These questions help you uncover the true personality up to an extent.

4. Resourcefulness– You don’t want to be bothered with a small technical question for which the solution is readily available on Google. Sometimes you might run out of ideas; you need a team member who is upfront with you and shares the feedback. Having someone who keeps on asking the same question repetitively instead of noting it down, is a wastage of time.

You want your VA to be street smart and try to solve as many things as possible on their own. You don’t want to babysit.

A good VA is a problem solver.  You can play roles with the candidate. Give them one pet peeves moments of your business and ask what would have they done in your place.

5. Pressure handling– If you are in the business, it’s obvious to have fluctuation. Sometimes there can be crises of the workforce, overload of work or the time where all the task are equally essential to finish under a short deadline. Under such circumstances, you want someone who can handle the pressure and is similarly motivated to deliver.

Questions like “How do you handle the pressure?” “Explain one scenario where you were able to work under pressure?” are some good starters.

6. Ability to multitask – As a small business, your resources are often limited. Having a team member who can multitask, is a bonus. At this stage of time, you want a jack of all trades. A simple question such as “Can you multitask? Or, do you prefer to handle one project at a time?”

The whole interview process will take approximately 10 – 15 minutes.

Once the VA is hired

Finding a VA is only one part of the process. You need to have a proper onboarding process to make sure the relationship is successful. Your onboarding process must consist, a minimal of following:

Setting clear expectations – You will like to set expectations. “I want you to do an awesome job” is not setting expectation but failing to set the expectation. I cannot reiterate enough setting up KPI is crucial. KPI is setting up an expectation which can be measured to make sure everyone is on the same page.

New Hire Orientation– It should consist of companies value and goals. Why should they be proud of being part of the team? Defining what actual problems are you solving? Etc. If there are other team members in your team a video call with everyone is a great start to make them feel home.

Training- An experience VA will have a low learning curve compared to a fresher. In any case, you want to give your VA training on systems you will be using, the reports, etc. to make sure there is no confusion.

Remember a stitch in time saves nine.

Constant communication– As a business owner you may be busy with a lot of things. There are times when you are unreachable. You want to assign someone senior, if any, as an alternative. If none, you want to define clearly a protocol to follow in such scenarios.

Reports: It is always a good habit to ask your VA to submit the report EOD (End of the Day). It is not only to make sure they are doing their task but cross-check for error.

Team Huddles– To keep your VA updated and motivated at least have one group meeting in a week. Remember your VA is at the forefront, and if their jobs need a lot of customer interaction, it is an excellent way to collect customers feedback.

Is this your first time hiring a VA?

No worries. VA companies are perfect for you in this scenario. They have experience in understanding the client’s requirement and a pool of talented people.

They have their HR team to vet out the wrong ones from the right. Some VA companies, including ours, hire freshers. They have their training dept lead by an experienced trainer. These trainers work with them day in and out to make sure they meet the client’s standard.

The recruitment process includes a proficiency test. Every candidate goes through a predefined test that meets industry standards. Some additional screening is added based on the client’s business requirement, too.

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