The subject of hiring a virtual assistant usually comes up when a client is overwhelmed with back office administration and finds that she can no longer do what she does best—creating and implementing new business ideas.
I contacted one of my favorite colleagues who is an expert in Human Resources and asked her to share some best practices to use when you are ready to hire a VA. Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and on site HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks, to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on her expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive.
Please read what Margaret says about the process for hiring a virtual assistant.
As a business owner, you expect to work long hours and wear many hats. But, there comes a time when “enough is enough.” You make a decision to get some help. You need someone who can help you become more effective, more efficient, and help you grow your business exponentially, but someone who can also help you get your life back. In many instances, this could be a Virtual Assistant (VA).
So, if you think you are ready to hire your first VA you’re probably looking for some HR solutions to identify the right way to begin the hiring process. A lot of work goes into hiring the right virtual assistant, from making sure they’re the right fit for you and your company (and vice versa), to figuring out what types of tasks you’ll have them do to support you, all the way to training them in your processes and systems, according to the folks at EntrepreneuronFire.com.
Remember that hiring the best person takes time—you don’t want to fill the position with the first candidate you come across. He or she may seem like a good fit during the interview, but if you aren’t asking the right questions and going about the process methodically, you could hire a VA that is wrong for your company and one who will disrupt rather that organize your work flow.
But hiring goes beyond just finding the right candidate. There are things you can do during the hiring process that can sabotage your business. From being too vague in your expectations for the VA, to asking inappropriate questions, a lot can go wrong. So before you interview your first candidate, make sure you cover all your bases by following these tips. Keep in mind that these tips will apply if you are hiring a virtual assistant on a contract, as-needed basis or as an employee of your business.
1. Start with clear, specific job requirements. Developing a written task description will clarify in your mind what tasks and responsibilities will be assigned, what goals and objectives will be set, what value this new position will add to the business. A VA can do many things like handling your Social Media, Bookkeeping, Data Entry, Managing E-Mail, and even making cold calls for the business. You decide!
2. Create the Ideal Candidate Profile. The ideal candidate profile will keep you focused and objective. It should outline what knowledge and experience the ideal candidate should possess. Keep in mind that the knowledge and experience should be relevant to the tasks you will assign and the expectations you have for the position.
3. Develop an Interview Plan. The interview is the most important part of the selection process. It is a tool to determine the candidate’s qualifications, job-related knowledge, and personality. It is one way to predict on-the-job success based on past and present behaviors and a way to determine if the candidate is a good fit for your organization. Be prepared to ask specific questions. The quality of the questioning is more important than the number of questions.
4. Practice “defensive hiring.” Just as we drive our cars defensively, looking for hazards, observing other drivers’ behaviors, and anticipating emergencies, we need to hire defensively. Since 95 percent of employee problems are caused by 5 percent of the employees, it is wise to take a few precautionary steps in this important selection process.
- Prepare interview questions that require candidates to give examples of past performance and behaviors, demonstrate their skill level, motivation and competencies. If you are interviewing several candidates, ask some “core” questions of all candidates to evaluate them fairly. For a list of “behavior-based” questions check out our resources page.
- Conduct thorough reference checking. At a minimum, verify employment history and request a list of current clients the VA is working with. You want to verify that the skills the VA says he or she possesses exist and at what level the VA typically accomplishes for others.
5. Evaluate all candidates using the same criteria. This means that you have asked each one the same core questions, reviewed their prior experience, and evaluated the knowledge demonstrated during the interview (use a scorecard to help you here).
It is important to note that the best-qualified candidate is not necessarily the best fit for your organization. People are almost always hired based on appearance and skills and usually quit or are fired because of personality. Effective vetting of the VA candidates will increase your chances of hiring and retaining the right person.
Finding and hiring great employees takes time and is one of the most important investments a business owner can make. Find valuable HR Solutions and resources when you sign up for the MJ Management Solutions Blog articles.
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