My Guide to Finding and Hiring a Virtual Assistant

hiring a virtual assistantSo far, my virtual assistant series has been one of my most “asked about” topic.  It seems like outsourcing and getting help is something that most online entrepreneurs (and offline business owners) have considered doing, but really didn’t know where to start.

So far, I’ve written about what tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant and how a virtual assistant has helped me, so I thought it was a good time to share how I found my virtual assistant and a guide to help you find one as well.

Since this has been one of my most popular topics, I’ve also created a total Virtual Assistant Guide to help anyone find the tools that they need to hire the right help and the right time.

Here’s my guide to finding a virtual assistant for your needs.


My Initial Virtual Assistant Search

I initially got interested in finding a virtual assistant because a company contacted me through this site.  I get a lot of product review requests, but I was intrigued by the pitch to review a virtual staff finding service.

For reference, there are two main ways to hire a virtual assistant.  First, you can directly find and hire one through sites like Elance and oDesk, or as mentioned by a reader.  Second, you can use a recruiting service like Virtual Staff Finders (which I highly recommend), who charge a fee upfront and will find you qualified virtual assistants that match your unique needs.

Anyway, back to the request I received.  It intrigued me because I was starting to consider a virtual assistant, and they wanted to chat about my needs regarding a potential virtual assistant.  The only trouble was, at this point, I didn’t know what my needs were. But it gave me a goal – figure out what my needs were.


Identifying My Needs and Creating a To-Do List

While every business and blog is different, I tried to figure out what I would even have this person do everyday.  It was actually a challenge because I had to be comfortable with outsourcing it, while at the same time being able to train someone to do it.

To start, I began making a list of what I did for my sites.  Here’s what I started with:

  • Daily Tasks
    • Social Media Promotion
    • Social Bookmarking
    • Web 2.0 Blogs
    • Blog Comment Management
    • Email Management
  • Weekly Tasks
    • Carnival Submissions
    • Advertiser Management
    • Keyword Research
    • Identifying Guest Post Opportunities
    • Bookkeeping
  • As Needed
    • Research Projects
    • Content Curation
    • Idea Creation
    • Updating Old Posts
    • Transcription

Now that I had a list of what I did, I was able to more effectively leverage a virtual assistant recruiting company to find my ideal candidate.  I took this list to the company that reached out to me and told them I was ready to look for a virtual assistant.  They got the process started for me.


Lessons Learned from Not Using a Reputable Recruiting Company

Figuring out what I wanted from a virtual assistant was probably the most value-added task that I did prior to looking for a virtual assistant – and it really helped me in the selection process.

The process went like this: I sent in my requirements from the list above, and the company came back to me several days later with three candidates to interview that they thought would be a good fit for my requirements. However, when I looked at the resumes, I was pretty disappointed.  I actually felt like none of the candidates met my requirements.

Not giving up, I decided that I would interview the candidates.  Maybe my thoughts had to do with some doubt about outsourcing?  Maybe I wasn’t ready?  Maybe one of the candidates would blow me away?

So, I emailed the recruiting company’s HR director and setup an interview.  It is very common practice that the HR Director speaks to you first, then connects you to a candidate, and stays on the line while you chat.

So, upon setting up a time, I get on Skype ready to interview my first candidate, and they didn’t show up…how disappointing.  I waited for 30 minutes, but I knew that this just wasn’t right.  I wasn’t happy with the resumes to being with, and now this just made me not want to do it.  So I backed away from searching for a virtual assistant for a while.


Going With a Great Virtual Assistant Recruiting Company

After putting together my list of tasks that I was going to outsource, and even after being disappointed, I felt that a virtual assistant would still be very value-added for me.  So, instead of going with an unknown company, I decided to go with Virtual Staff Finders.  It is pricy – $395 – but they have been used by some of the biggest names in online entrepreneurship, and so I felt like there was a level of competence there that I didn’t get with the prior company.

Just like last time, I sent in my task list that I had put together when considering requirements for the job.  This time, however, Virtual Staff Finders came back with three excellent candidates, and their HR Director wrote a personal email that explained why she felt that the candidates matched my criteria.  Amazing – she read my requirements and screened the candidates ahead of time.

Like before, I scheduled my interview on Skype and got ready for the interviews.


Interviewing a Virtual Assistant

This time I put together a solid set of interview questions so that I could easily compare the candidates in the interview.  Here are some of the questions I asked my candidates during the interview, and I also have a copy of my full virtual assistant interview guide available for you to use if you would like.

Some of the questions I asked included:

  • What experience do you have in the following areas or using the following tools (I utilized my task list that I created to finish this sentence)?
  • What is your work experience and experience being a virtual assistant?
  • What is your preferred method of communication?

All of these questions are key to understanding your virtual assistant and seeing if they would be a good fit for you and your business.

I interviewed all three candidates and found one that I really jived with.  She interviewed very well, and we had a good rapport from our conversations and had a similar style for communication.  She also had experience doing exactly what I was looking for in a virtual assistant, which made it a great fit.

I ended up hiring her and onboarding her as my virtual assistant, which I will discuss more in my next article!

What questions would you ask a virtual assistant candidate in an interview?

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  1. Robert, that was a very enlightening post, especially on your prep work (to do list/interview questions). As dumb as it sounds, I tried using a virtual assistant with a different venture and I went the “read my mind route”. Since nobody could pinpoint exactly what I needed (and I didn’t take the time to figure it out) I would up doing it all myself. I think I’m ready to give it another shot.

    Questions for you. Where do your VA’s live? What’s your experience with the time difference if any and how you two work? Mind if I ask how much per hour or month you pay?

    • Mine lives in the Philippines, which actually works really well because everything happens essentially overnight. I wake up the next day and things are done.

      I currently pay $250 per month for my VA, which is considered part-time, or 20 hours per week. That is plenty for the tasks that I currently need done.

      • In those 20 hours, is she able to complete all of the daily and weekly tasks you outlined in your post? Is she only responsible for some of them?

        Also, your interview guide is pretty good, why don’t you make it a post or a page so it can be better ranked by Google and whatnot? I can’t be the only one who would find it helpful.

  2. Great post, I am very interested in the kind of procedures you have your VA follow.

    I use a lot of VA’s to execute my work. One thing that I do is NO INTERVIEWING. I find hiring fast/firing fast, within the first week, if they aren’t clearly working out is the best way to go.

  3. This was an awesome post and guide. I have used VA’s in the past and you definitely get what you pay for. I am looking for another one – a qualified and responsible person I can actually trust and will def be using this post as a resource. In the end for me the cash outlay wasn’t a lot but I lost a lot of time explaining and correcting – almost doing twice as much work as I would have alone.

  4. Robert, this is a nice guide. I can actually use this as a basis for improving the client intake I have on my own VA biz. Feedback like this is golden!

    I’m curious — what is your communication style like when working with a VA?

  5. Great post.
    I’ve hired a number of VA’s via oDesk.
    A quick tip on using oDesk.
    You will get lots of folks applying for your VA job (up to 50 or so).
    Many apply without reading your full job description.
    Towards the bottom, I always tell them that they should first reply with their favorite color so that I know that they’ve read my job description fully.
    Those that don’t I delete right away.
    If 30 apply, approximately only 10-15 will have followed the instructions, so your work is cut in half!

  6. Thanks for the interview questions!

  7. Hi,
    thanks for the very useful post. Do you ask for a CV or resume of the VA before interviewing, to help with streamlining candidates ahead of the interview?

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