How I interviewed a virtual assistant for my team

I’ve written before about virtual assistants and how having a partner — someone who has skills to complement yours, who owns their own business assisting others, and who works from their own office — can be a boon to solo entrepreneurs.

After wasting more hours last year than I like to admit by trying to format my own email newsletters and e-books, set up my own shopping cart, and compare online class registration systems, I admitted that I was working WAY too far outside my expertise, and that I really had to get help.

This month I’ve hired a virtual assistant, and I’m really looking forward to this working relationship. Though a virtual assistant is not an employee, the process of choosing one is very much like a hiring process. I wrote a complete description of what I need, how many hours per month I want the person to work, what my business is about, and what my working style is like. (For example, in dealing with complex issues, I really dislike email. I need to pick up the phone and have a short conversation with the other person rather than spend hours writing an email that addresses all the variables in a complex problem.)

When candidates emailed in response to my request for a proposal, I reviewed their websites and blogs — all of them, including those that weren’t directly related to their VA business. Then I scheduled times for interviews with the final three. Here are the questions I asked each of them:

  • How long have you been a VA?
  • What was your last job before starting your VA business?
  • Do you use a Mac?
  • What days & hours do you work?
  • Tell me about your experience in helping clients with e-commerce.
  • Understanding that there is a lot of variability among the projects you work on, can you give me a range of long it takes you to set up a landing page? format an ezine? set up a new shopping cart for one product?
  • Do you have any services you recommend  or prefer to use for shopping cart? blog platform? web host? autoresponder?
  • Do you take a referral fee when you recommend platforms to your clients?
  • Tell me about a recent client success.
  • Tell me about a recent client challenge and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me how you charge — hourly rate? monthly retainer? arrangements for extra hours?

Each interview took about 40 minutes (10 minutes longer than I had expected). All three were fully qualified, but by the end I felt that I had a good sense of which of these candidates would work best for this project at this time.

One final note: I took the time to write to the two that I didn’t choose and let them know that I wouldn’t be needing their services at this time. After all, I had asked for information, and each of them took the time to compose an email response and then clear their schedule to talk to me. They deserve the courtesy of a final decision. I hope more people adopt this standard of communication. I continue to be surprised by the solo entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes that request proposals, then fail to follow through to a final decision.

Have you hired someone recently? Do you want to? Write your experiences here.

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7 comments so far

  1. Katherine Krebs on

    Hi Margaret, A very nice article! Thorough, helpful and plain-written.

    Thank you for including the “courtesy step” of notifying those you did NOT hire. Civilized.

    K.

  2. […] Link: How I interviewed a virtual assistant for my team « New Leaf News […]

  3. Cindy Greenway on

    Margaret, congrats on all the prep work you did to finding the right VA!

    I thought I’d just add that it’s very beneficial for the Virtual Assistant when the client shares their short and long term business goals, their immediate priorities and what the ‘perfect’ VA looks like — i.e. what hours they work, how they communicate etc.

    By sharing these details, the VA can start thinking ahead of how they can help you build your business and achieve your goals.

    Thanks!

    Cindy Greenway
    http://www.HotSkillsVATraining.com

  4. Collette Schultz on

    Great to get feedback from those that use VAs. Great topic.

  5. Leslie Nipps on

    What great timing, Margaret! I am just about to hire my first VA. This is great advice.

    Leslie Nipps
    NLP & Family Constellations Practitioner
    http://www.leslienipps.com

  6. rogerromon on

    Hi there, am glad you found one good VA. I found those issues myself when i wanted to hire a VA. i didn’t do a good job the first time but the second round, i was clear on my expectation and had my checklists. Sites like Proresource also offer free templates on interviewing VA’s at http://www.proresource.com/freetemplate.html.

  7. priestnovykh on

    Hi I do my business with this very professional personal assistant


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