The other day I was scrolling through a Facebook group for small business owners when I came across a post from the CEO of a nonprofit.
Her organization was growing, and she felt that it was time to bring on a virtual assistant (VA) to help out with some of the administrative tasks that she no longer had time for.
The problem was, she had no idea where to start, or how to choose an appropriate VA. Hiring someone for a virtual role was much different than hiring someone for an in-person role that she'd interact with face-to-face each day.
So she took to the group to ask, "What are your thoughts on how to vet applicants?"
Several people responded, in a variety of ways. Many responded simply pitching their services, while others provided more in-depth feedback about the things that should she look for and questions she should she ask to distinguish a great candidate from a "not-so-great" candidate.
"Ask for referrals."
"Just look at their Facebook page."
"Ask what skills and programs they know."
"Ask them how long it takes them to complete certain tasks."
"Ask them how many clients they currently have to see if they have time for you."
Many suggestions were given, but what I failed to see most people mention was to assess the VA's ability to communicate.
Sure, they can have every skill on the list checked off, but if they couldn't effectively and share ideas/concerns with their client and others on the team, what good was it?
When assessing a VA for your business, remember that "all that glitters isn't gold."
Many (although not all) virtual assistants are independent contractors. This means that they work on their own schedule, provide their own resources, and often times have more than one client.
As a team member who is not required to be "on the clock" 100% of the time as would an employee (unless of course, that is in your agreement), their ability to communicate and overcome roadblocks and challenges virtually could make or break the relationship between a client and their virtual assistant.
When setting up a discovery call or "interview" with a potential virtual assistant, take the time to ask about their communication style.
Ask how they typically manage conflicts and misunderstandings, and ask for an example of when they had to do so.
Pay close attention to how they answer questions and how they respond when faced with a difficult question.
Ask about what their overall goals are in THEIR business, and how they will help you reach the goals in YOUR business, should they end up working with you.
I once had a client who brought on someone who was great on paper for an role in his company. From her conversations with him, she knew her stuff and was incredibly enthusiastic about the role. Based on her background, she had everything that he thought he wanted...or so he thought.
When it came time to get down to business and work with him, he found that she wasn't what he wanted at all.
When she didn't understand something, instead of discussing it with him and finding ways to overcome the challenge, she blamed others and said that it wasn't her responsibility to know. When given feedback about her work, instead of taking it as an opportunity to learn and use the feedback to do better in the future, she took it personally and shut down.
Her inability to communicate with him about his and her needs, expectations, and challenges ultimately led to her poor performance in a role that they both thought she was a perfect fit for. Needless to say, she only lasted a couple of months.
At the end of the day, a VA will be a key part of your business and someone that you will depend on greatly to keep the wheels turning, day in and day out.
When assessing a VA for your business, remember that "all that glitters isn't gold." Take the time to look beyond the portfolio, get to know them, and make sure that their communication style aligns with what you need to establish and maintain a successful and lasting business relationship.
After all, you want someone who you can truly consider a part of your team...not just another person to add to your payroll.