Hiring the right remote virtual assistant is much tougher than most entrepreneurs initially think. Forget the fact that they’re often continents away from you, which presents its own set of challenges. Remote assistants are just like any other employee you hire – some are good and still others are a nightmare waiting to happen.
Like Tom Hank’s Forrest Gump character famously said “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” If you’ve ever hired employees before, it’s quite likely you’ve pulled a bad apple or two out of the bag. That’s why I’ve decided to compile a list of criteria I’ve developed to find the best virtual workers, with the least amount of downtime and aggravation.
Can they pass a trial run successfully?
Before hiring anyone, you need to have this question firmly planted in your mind. All the tips that follow will help you narrow down just how well they can perform overall, but never hire someone until they’ve shown their basic competency via one or two trial projects. Unless you’re hiring someone with a God-like reputation that’s beyond refute, insist on hiring people who have the confidence to show their muster before requiring you to put your money down.
Experienced freelance assistants will certainly be accustomed to providing some basic tasks on spec, before you commit. Most large service providers will generally offer a short trial run to assess their services – or provide money back guarantees if you’re not satisfied.
Assess their communication skills
Don’t let poor communication, or a complete lack of ability to communicate in your preferred language be the elephant in the room that’s never addressed. Grammar issues are fine, as long as you’re not tasking them with responding to company emails or writing cornerstone content for your website.
However, you’ll always be frustrated if your remote assistant is constantly making mistakes because they don’t understand you, or you’re making bad decisions because they can’t get a message across to you properly.
Carefully weigh their ability to ask questions
With few exceptions, very few entrepreneurs want someone working for them who just takes a set of instructions and never asks questions. Simple data entry tasks and email sorting aside, even the most well-laid set of instructions will require some level of clarification.
Those who never need clarification aren’t likely concerned with the quality they deliver and thus, don’t really care if they’re working for you tomorrow or for someone else. Conversely, someone who requires too much clarification, or asks outright dumb questions about the most menial of tasks, aren’t likely to deliver quality and will require too much babysitting to be worth your time.
Assess their level of experience pertaining to common tasks you’ll give them
Even simple data entry requires skills using Excel or other spreadsheet software. Since you’re trying to ease your own workload by hiring an assistant, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is training someone on how to do the basics of whatever tasks need doing.
If industry-specific experience is needed, you may need to adjust your budget to hire people with broader ($$$) skill-sets.
Do they come recommended with solid references?
Empty testimonials mean nothing, regardless if they’re located on the service provider’s website, online forums, or even seemingly legitimate video reviews. Look for reference sources that have real social media accounts attached to them.
Best, if the service provider or freelance assistant can provide you with phone numbers to call and talk to past clients, you have an even better chance at striking gold (or at least not striking out entirely!)
Look for flexibility in the plans offered
You may need just one remote assistant now, but what about a month or two from now? The time a remote assistant frees up will allow you a lot more time to innovate and make positive shifts in your business. Also, when using a service provider, you need to have the flexibility to “fire” those who aren’t working out and be able to hit the ground running with someone new ASAP.
You’ll also want the flexibility to float between paying hourly rates and making obligatory part/full time contracts. Once you find someone good, or you find you need someone to dedicate more time to your business, you’ll likely want to work out a way to keep them focused on your business. Last, varying jobs require varying skill-sets and you’ll want the option to be able to source people with those skills as the need arises.
Check out prospect’s social media presence
With free tools like Google Translate available at the click of a mouse, any entrepreneur can easily check to see if a remote virtual assistant in a foreign land has any clue how social media works. This can be invaluable if part of their job will be helping with social media efforts.
Also, you can dig deeper into their personality to see how they treat others, how they value their work, and even get a better feel for their educational and employment background before taking the plunge and hiring them.
Are they a leader or a follower (and does that matter?)
Some assistants will just want to do the work assigned to them, and that’s fine. Unless you’re the type of person who benefits from other people’s experience and values feedback when someone else sees you do things less efficiently than you could be.
Looking for a go-getter with real experience can save you loads of time and money with the suggestions they make, and the ability to help you implement new ideas.
Looking for a great remote assistant?
There are many out there to choose from. Make sure you start the relationship by asking a lot of questions, and never be afraid to put off hiring someone to do a little more research. This is a big decision and rushing it could lead you to even more headaches, rather than fewer!