How Much Experience Should a Virtual Assistant Have?

Updated: 10 Aug, 2021 | Bill Peatman

If you're looking for your first virtual assistant to take on your administrative tasks so you can get more done, you're probably looking for someone experienced enough to help you figure out how to work together. Many executives aren’t sure about to work with a virtual assistant if they haven't done so before. There are similarities, of course, to an on-site admin, but working with someone requires some different skills, and you'll want to vet for those skills.

Don't Get Too Excited About a Long Track Record

A virtual assistant may send a resume with years of experience and a long list of clients. Before getting too excited about what’s on the odometer, though, there are some important questions to ask:

  • How many of those clients were virtual?

  • How many clients can or have you supported at once?

  • What were the reasons clients selected you?

  • Why did the clients (or you) choose to move on?

Here's why these questions matter:

  • Working remotely requires different skills than minding the office door. More on that later.

  • If you're hiring a part-time assistant (which most are), you need to know how available they will be.

  • It will help you to understand what the candidate's stand-out value is.

  • High turnover could be a red flag for poor performance.

Know What Kind of Experience You're Looking For

Many executives start searching for a virtual assistant by looking for people with experience using the tools and technology they use in their business. That's because the executives don't want to train people on how to use platforms like email, calendar, expense apps, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.

It's easy to see why executives want tech experience, but if you're looking for a long-term partner to help with your administrative needs, a better question may be, "do you like to learn new technology." This is because:

  • No one will have experience with all your tools.

  • New tools arrive all the time that increase productivity, and you'll want someone who can and learn the latest technology.

Soft Skills Amplify Remote Work

Let's get back to the topic of what skills are critical for remote virtual assistants. Out of sight often means out of mind, and if you're both in that state, not much work will get done, and you'll both be frustrated.

Here are some of the so-called soft skills that make remote work successful:

  • Organization—probably most important because this is what your hire a virtual assistant for in the first place, to keep you organized and enable you to be more productive!

  • Communication—you and your assistant will both need strong communication to set expectations for performance. If you're not clear about what success means for the tasks you're handing off to an assistant, the assistant could flounder.

  • Feedback—closely related to communication, you will both need to be eager to give and receive feedback. Your assistant should welcome both correction and praise, and you should be open to your assistant's ideas because you want to benefit from their experience.

  • Responsiveness—you will also need to agree on appropriate response times for email, chat, voice mail, and other messages.

  • Collaboration—this is especially important if your assistant will be working with other members of your team. The best virtual assistants are easy to work with and play well with others.

  • Decision-making—you will want your virtual assistant to be able to make independent decisions based on your processes; otherwise, you'll be micromanaging.

  • Time-management—this is critical for virtual assistants that are supporting more than one client. You want to be confident that they manage their time well and will meet your deadlines.

  • Resourcefulness—you don't want to have to hold your virtual assistant's hand, especially when you're not in the same office. A good assistant takes the initiative to solve problems and improve processes over time.

Technical Experience Plus Leadership Experience

Virtual assistants plan and coordinate all of your work activities. Managing your world requires experience beyond tools and technology. The role involves a mix of leadership and decision-making to identify and anticipate your needs and work with you and others to meet those demands.

At Prialto, experience with the skills listed above is paramount. Tech skills are important but are easier to learn than skills like communication, resourcefulness, and collaboration. For more information on what it’s like to work with a Prialto virtual assistant, download our guide.

Discover how a virtual assistant can boost your productivity,

About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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