5 Mistakes to Avoid when Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Over the last two decades the Virtual Assistant industry has experienced exponential growth and an evolution. More people are crossing over from the physical world to the virtual world to soak up demand for services and enjoy the conveniences of working at home. Statistical evidence points to the benefits virtual assistants bring to the business and validate their viability.

But not all virtual assistants are the same. Given the volume of virtual assistants available worldwide, you are sure to meet challenges in hiring your own. The best way to overcome these challenges is to be aware of the mistakes you can make when hiring a Virtual Assistant.

Here are five (5) of them:

1. No clear reason for hiring a Virtual Assistant

Businesses hire virtual assistants for many reasons but the top two are to save up on costs and to increase productivity. There are other reasons such as to gain flexibility, allocate more free time and reduce work stress.

Ask yourself: “Do I need these for my business right now?” If not, are there potentially other reasons you require virtual assistance?

There are entrepreneurs who hire virtual assistants because they want them in place before the business goes to expansion mode. While this is commendable in terms of preparation, it may end up as a needless expense if expansion mode is not within sight.

Then there are entrepreneurs who hire virtual assistants because they’ve “heard of them” and the benefits they contribute to the business. A friend or an associate may have shared his experience and Mr. Entrepreneur decides to hire one without knowing for sure why he needs one. Eventually, he ends up disappointed because the ROI was insignificant.

Make it a point to have a clear reason for hiring a Virtual Assistant. Include it in your Business Plan and validate it with clear-cut objectives. If you want your strategy to succeed, it must have purpose and commitment.

2. Not selecting from a pool of talent. 

Let me put this in another way: Do not hire the first candidate who applies for the position of Virtual Assistant.

No, it’s not because the first candidate is the least worthy applicant. But you must always have a set of bases to compare candidates with. And this means having other candidates in the selection pool.

A comprehensive selection process includes three stages:

a. Preliminary interview. This is the stage where you seek to uncover the details indicated in the Curriculum Vita and online profile. You should look for someone who knows his experience like the back of his hand. The interview should be free-flowing; there must be an exchange of ideas and opinions. If it sounds rehearsed, that is a red-flag.

b. Testing. Once the candidate satisfies your interview criterion, subject them to three types of tests:

  • Basic Skills. These include typing, comprehension, Internet navigation, e-mail management, calendar management and organizational skill.
  • Technical. This refers to the specific skill set required for the job. For example, if it’s for social media ask the candidate to design a 6-month campaign strategy for a client.
  • Personality. There are standard Psychological tests you can use plus customized situational tests to determine their process for reasoning.

c. Due Diligence. Always check on their references and recommendations. Find out first-hand from those who have worked with them how the experience was. You should also check on their social media accounts to have an idea on who they are when they are not working.

3. Unrealistic expectations. 

Every individual has his level of Learning Curve to overcome. It doesn’t matter how experienced or tenured the candidate is. You have to respect the Learning Curve because it takes time to acclimatize to a new skill.

For example, if you want to hire a Virtual Assistant to set appointments for your residential carpet cleaning business, consider first what her previous experience was. If the candidate was an appointment setter for corporate insurance it would take her some time to become natural in the new industry. Thus, it would be unrealistic to expect your candidate to assure you of nine appointments per week in the first month.

Despite the potential benefits, you should always moderate your expectations. Allow the strategy of virtual assistance to grow and nurture within your system.

5. Being unmindful of cultural and social nuances. 

People who decide on becoming virtual assistants have their own set of experiences which influence their values. Learning to work with virtual assistants is no different from learning to accept your co-office workers. Except that you are separated by the virtual world.

This reality is magnified ten-fold when you work with a Virtual Assistant who is from another part of the world. For sure, language barriers will exist. Even if the candidate is from a part of the world where English is the secondary language, there will be barriers created by:

  • Diction
  • Tone
  • Application

You will need to be familiar with how the Virtual Assistant speaks and applies the English language.

Another matter you should be mindful are cultural norms. Virtual assistants from the Philippines are very spiritual and family-oriented. They may not work during certain holidays, religious days of obligation and days of the week to spend time with their families. As an example, Good Friday is observed as a special religious holiday.

5. Failure to create a comprehensive job description. 

You may not attract the right pool of talent without a clear and comprehensive job description.

For example, if you are looking for a Virtual Assistant to handle your transcription work and your job description read:

“Need a transcriber who can transcribe documents for my business”

Chances are you will attract a good number of candidates who are NOT qualified for the project.

With reference to the recent example, a comprehensive job description would include the following details:

  • Type of transcription: legal, medical, close caption, business?
  • Level of accuracy: minimum 95%?
  • Parameters: Minimum 750 lines per day? 120 minutes per 1 hour audio?
  • Years of experience: 2 years? 5 years?
  • Availability of certifications or proof of advanced training
  • Highest level of attainment with current employer: Head Editor? Trans-Editor? Team Leader?
  • Required Turn-Around Time or TAT: 24 hours? 48 hours?

Hiring a Virtual Assistant is the first step in taking your business further. But do not be blinded by its purported benefits. While there are several statistical data to back up the value of hiring virtual assistants, keep in mind they are people too. They have their own individual personalities, capabilities and nuances that you have to deal with.

Approach hiring your Virtual Assistant the same way you approach your business: with purpose, intent and commitment. 

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