How to Contract a Virtual Assistant

When you first contract a virtual assistant, it is important that you have clearly defined expectations – what you intend delegating to the virtual assistant, and what outcomes you expect from them. Keep in mind – you don’t hire a virtual assistant, you contract with them. While it may seem like semantics, there are legal implications when you use the word “hire,” rather than “contract.” Virtual assistants are not employees, they are business owners, just like an attorney (and we all know you don’t hire legal services, you retain them).

The core strengths of virtual assistants differ, and even with an all-rounder you may still find that they perform certain tasks better than others. This is especially true when the tasks depend on a fair amount of technological know-how, and while a web developer will certainly be quite knowledgeable about WordPress, they might not have extensive experience managing search engine optimization (SEO) and content writing.

Even if you are not planning on advertising for a virtual assistant, but instead intend searching through Google and various Virtual Assistant directories, you should still draw up a rough job posting. This helps remind you of what it is you are looking for in the ideal candidate: from the number of hours you expect to use them for each month, to specific skills and competencies.

Finding Potential Virtual Assistants

Once you have defined your expectations, and compiled a rough job posting, you can begin searching for suitable virtual assistants. Many top virtual assistants have their own websites, so you can use a properly worded search phrase on Google to find some leads, or you can turn to sites such as Elance, Guru, oDesk, Freelancer or Simply Hired’s virtual assistant job board. Overall, these bid-for sites are laden with foreign labor with much undercutting and re-outsourcing service providers. Avoid them.

However if you do go this route, contact all suitable candidates, and then schedule interviews as each one responds to your initial communication. Even though a virtual assistant is not an employee, you should still interview each candidate to ensure they are a suitable fit for your needs.

Interview and Skills Test

Including a skills test with the interview can be very beneficial especially if you intend delegating technical tasks to your virtual assistant. These could include:

  • Installing WordPress
  • Adding content to an existing WordPress site
  • Installing, modifying and activating plugins
  • Creating and editing a database
  • Writing code in a specific programming language
  • Performing several tasks in a specific software program

For the actual interview, use a combination of email and Skype. Beginning with email, allows you to eliminate unsuitable candidates based on the level of professionalism displayed in their correspondence with you – language used, spelling and grammar – and how quickly they respond to your email messages. Ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 for each skill and competency you require, and then test their actual ability for any they rate high.

Once you have eliminated candidates you feel are unsuitable you can switch to interviewing the rest via a Skype video call. Having a ‘live’ conversation with someone allows you to get a better sense of their personality, and can serve to confirm what you have already established through the written part of the interview. Are they confident and comfortable speaking with you, do they exhibit any uncertainty, and do they take charge of the conversation or simply wait for you to do the talking? An ideal candidate will ask you almost as many questions as you ask them, while also being able to confidently state what they require from you. An often overlooked question is that of availability; ask each candidate when would they not be available each year due to holidays and other commitments.

An essential step, once you have contracted a virtual assistant, is to politely notify all the other candidates, and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. Keep the details of other candidates that you were happy with, since you may have the opportunity to partner with another virtual assistant as your business grows.

Interview Checklist

As you interview each candidate, work through the following checklist to guide you in choosing the perfect virtual assistant:

  1. Does their experience match your requirements?
  2. Did they respond to all your email messages quickly?
  3. Was all their communication with you clear, professional and grammatically correct?
  4. How well did they rate themselves for each skill set you require?
  5. How well did they perform on any skills test you assigned to them?
  6. Did they complete all tasks on the skills test in a timely manner that met your expectations?
  7. Are they available for the minimum number of hours you would require each month?
  8. Is their hourly rate within your budget?

About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:

logo1bAt Out of the Office, we are committed to providing earth-friendly administration and offer ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, and offering creative solutions for your business success.

Image credit: geralt | CCO Public Domain