6 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Hiring a Virtual Assistant is similar to hiring a regular employee. The only difference is one works in the virtual world and the other works in a physical office. Therefore, if you plan to hire a Virtual Assistant it only makes sense to implement the same approach as you would when hiring an office-based employee.

Using Virtual Assitants

Here are six mistakes to avoid when hiring a virtual assistant:

1. Failure to identify the need

There are two types of entrepreneurs. One is the entrepreneur who plans ahead and tends to over-think his situation. He may decide to hire a virtual assistant because he thinks his business will gain significant traction within a few weeks. He worries that his present set up will not be sufficient to accommodate additional volume. So he hires a virtual assistant within a week and prepares the business for expansion.

The second entrepreneur is the one who has no idea what his business needs. He tends to blindly follow the advice of others without validating his decision. So he hires a virtual assistant simply because another entrepreneur shared his successful experience.

In both cases, the virtual assistant will be under-utilized because the entrepreneurs have no idea why they hired one in the first place.

Before you start recruiting candidates for virtual assistance position, identify the reasons why you need to bring one to your team. Otherwise, you will have no idea on what skills to look for, the qualifications and the scope of work to be assigned.

2. Lack of a qualifying system

Entrepreneurs who hire a virtual assistant on the basis of the Curriculum Vita may be in for a rude awakening. The C.V is an important reference to qualify a candidate but it should not be the only criteria. In fact, it should not be the main criteria.

And it is not enough to draw conclusions based on the preliminary interview. In order to find the best candidate, you must have a qualifying system in place. Here’s a system you can try:

  • Preliminary Interview
  • Fundamental skills test
    • MS Word
    • MS Excel
    • E-mail handling
    • Basic letter writing
    • File management
    • Phone handling
  • Technical skills test
    • Practical test on specific job requirement
    • Oral competency test
  • Behavioral profiling
    • Analogical Reasoning
    • Situational tests
    • Check up on social media accounts

From the outset, this system looks tedious but it covers the three (3) important components for a candidate: Technical, Fundamental and Behavioral.

3. Hiring the first candidate

A big mistake made by entrepreneurs is to hire the first candidate they come across. It is not because the first candidate is not qualified; but you need a pool of talent to cross-reference qualifications.

When hiring a virtual assistant, accumulate a short-list of 5 to 7 candidates. Try to make their experiences as diverse as possible. Do not just focus on candidates who have the experience that your business requires. Why? Because most of these candidates are already set in their ways; they have a system in place and may be hesitant to follow yours.

4. Absence of Quality Control measures

If you hear people say they have had a bad experience working with a virtual assistant, find out first-hand why it was so. It is easy for entrepreneurs to blame the virtual assistant but in every arrangement, there are two parties.

And in every story, there are two sides.

Most arrangements do not work because quality control measures were not established. The virtual assistant, while experienced, works with the client’s guidelines as reference. And there is the matter of the Learning Curve to be respected.

As the client, you have to be on top of your virtual assistant’s performance especially at the start of the engagement when the Learning Curve is steep. Always measure the performance of the virtual assistant and discuss the results regularly. The purpose is to constantly improve.

5. Lack of communication

Some entrepreneurs will assume that the biggest flaw in a virtual assistance arrangement is a lack of communication. They will point out to time zone differentials and the inability to share space that hampers communication lines.

These observations have no basis and are in fact, contrary to the advantages of working with virtual assistants. When you make the decision to hire virtual assistants, you have acknowledged the power of digital technology. There are several online programs you can use to regularly communicate with your virtual assistant regardless of time zone. Here are just a few:

  • WebEx
  • Asana
  • Salesforce
  • Skype
  • Viber
  • Google Hangout

With the exception of WebEx and Salesforce, these programs are downloadable and free. If you run business online, you must have collaborative software in place. Otherwise, you will not be able to manage your business effectively and efficiently.

6. Overlooking cultural and social differences

Since 2010, the Philippines and India have been competing for the top spot in global business outsourcing. Both countries are great resources for online talent including virtual assistants. For 2012, India recorded the highest number of online workers but is closely followed by the Philippines. According to online job market giant Elance, 1/8 of their freelancers are from the Philippines.

If you decide to hire virtual assistants from these countries, you can be assured of high quality work at more affordable rates. But to make the engagement work, you have to be familiar with their cultural and social nuances.

A person’s culture represents his country’s history. The values, norms and mores have been passed down generations. You should not expect the candidate to compromise their practices unreasonable for the sake of the job. Be mindful and respectful of their practices and accommodate these in your schedule. The key to making this work is to plan the schedule ahead of time.

As you have just read, the process for qualifying a virtual assistant should be the same as when qualifying a regular office employee. Perhaps a virtual assistant needs more open communication channels but the value of maintaining close communication with your regular office employee also holds true.

You will find great value in having a virtual assistant on-board your team. But always take time to find the best-fit candidate for your business.


Author bio

Felix works with Outsource Workers, a company that helps entrepreneurs find the perfect virtual assistant for their business. You can find more of his posts on Twitter.