Deanna deBara is a freelance writer and business owner who started out with zero clients and zero income and took her business to six figures—all within two years of launching. And a huge part of that growth? Hiring the right team. In this post, the former recruiter breaks down the step-by-step process for finding and hiring the best virtual assistants in the digital space.
How to Hire a Virtual Assistant for Your Business
The most successful entrepreneurs and business owners know that it takes a village to build a successful business. If you want to take your business to the next level, you need to hire the right team.
Not that long ago, your talent pool was limited to your immediate area. But thanks to technology, you can hire the best person for the job, whether they’re 10 miles or 10,000 miles away.
Hiring the right digital team—and, in particular, the right virtual assistant (VA)—can completely revolutionize your business. The process can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t done it before. You’ll need to consider: Where do you look for talent? How do you know if someone is the right person for the job? How do you manage the interview process when your potential assistant is on the other side of the globe?
Luckily, finding the right VA is all a matter of following the right process.
Let’s take a look at a step-by-step breakdown of how to find and hire the best talent online:
Step 1: Know where to look for a VA
The first step to finding the right online team?
Knowing where to look.
There are a crazy amount of websites advertising freelance talent on the web, but not all freelance sites are created equal. If you want to find the right VA, you have to know where to look.
When it comes to VAs, there’s no better place than Upwork. With over 14 million active users, Upwork is the internet’s largest database of online talent, and a huge percentage of that talent specializes in administrative work. And with virtual assistants all over the world, there’s amazing talent at every price point—so finding a great assistant that fits your budget won’t be a problem.
There are other sites that have a decent amount of VA talent (like Freelancer.com or Onlinejobs.ph), but it’s definitely a narrow talent pool. If you want to cast the widest net, stick with Upwork.
Step 2: Write the perfect job ad to find the right VA
The next step to finding the perfect VA is writing the perfect job ad.
The biggest mistake you can make when writing a job ad is making it all about you: what you’re looking for, what you need, and what you expect from your new VA.
But if you want your job ad to attract the right talent, it can’t be about you. It needs to be about them.
The whole purpose of your job ad is to attract the right talent. So think of it like an advertisement—and the product you’re selling is the job. Your job ad should highlight the benefits of the position. Do you offer flexible work hours? Are you offering any special training? Do you have an especially awesome work environment? Whatever it is that makes the job special, make sure its front and center in your job ad.
Remember: the best virtual assistants have plenty of opportunities. Your job ad needs to sell them on why your opportunity is the right one for them.
Step 3: Use the “screener trick”
Two of the most important qualities you need in a virtual assistant is attention to detail and the ability to follow direction.
And there’s an easy trick you can use to determine which candidates possess those two qualities without ever reading their resume or cover letter—and that’s adding a screener question to your job ad.
Somewhere in your job ad copy, add a specific instruction for candidates to follow. So, for example, you might say “Send a copy of your resume using the subject line ‘Resume from [your name] for VA.’”
Adding this simple line of text will show you which candidates have attention to detail (since they read the entire job ad) and know how to follow direction and will allow you to immediately eliminate the candidates who don’t. This can save you a ton of time in the screening process.
Step 4: Take a test drive
You wouldn’t commit to a five-year lease on a car before a test drive, would you?
So why would you commit to a long-term relationship with a virtual assistant before trying them out?
Test projects are a great way to get a feel for whether a candidate is a good fit before making a hiring commitment. Once you’ve narrowed your options down to a few quality candidates, assign each of them a sample project. It’s helpful to give each candidate the same project so you can compare apples to apples, and you also want to make sure the test project is in line with what they’d actually be doing once they’re hired. For example, if you need a virtual assistant to handle research, give them a small research-based test project.
One last thing about test projects: make sure you pay your candidates for their test project. It’s not fair to ask people to work for free—and if you do, it might give a negative impression of you to the best, most experienced candidates.
Step 5: Interview
Once you get your test projects back, you should have a pretty good idea of which candidates you want to work with. Next, all that’s left is the interview.
When it comes to interviewing people online, keep things short and sweet. You basically just want to get a feel for someone’s personality, and whether their personality is going to mesh with yours.
Some things you’ll want to hit on during the interview process include: their experience as a VA, their comfort level with the technology your business uses (like QuickBooks for bookkeeping, ZenDesk for customer service, or Asana for project management), and their availability.
You also want to get a sense of their organizational skills, so if you can, schedule a video interview. If they claim to be super organized but their home office or bedroom is a complete disaster, they might not really have the chops for the job.
Step 6: Make sure your assistant sticks around
So, you’ve hired an amazing virtual assistant. Congratulations!
But finding and hiring the right talent is only the first part of the equation. Now, it’s important that you manage your amazing virtual assistant in a way that keeps them around.
Here are a few best practices for keeping quality talent on your team:
Invest in their growth: If your VA feels like there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow within the position, they’re more likely to stick around.
Be consistent: If you tell your VA you’re going to give them 20 hours of work per week, make sure you’re delivering on that promise.
Respect your assistant’s personal life: Don’t expect them to work off-hours or to respond to emails on weekends, unless that’s explicitly part of their contract with you.
Schedule regular check-ins: Meetings to discuss their progress and how they’re enjoying the position will help you stay on the same page. That way, if they have any concerns, you can address them together, sooner rather than later.
Hiring online can be a challenge. But with this step-by-step guide, you have everything you need to find the right virtual assistant—the assistant that’s going to help take those repetitive tasks off your plate, so you can concentrate on taking your business to the next level.