Most executives start thinking about hiring a virtual assistant (VA) when they reach a point where their business growth is limited because they spend too much of their time on admin work. It's a good wall to hit because it means your business is growing. The next step is to offload the admin work to someone with the skills to do it for you, maybe even better than you can do it yourself.
Enter the virtual assistant.
Virtual assistants are more popular than ever because everyone is more accustomed to remote work. Hiring a virtual assistant can be a fast-track to increased productivity and accelerated growth—if you get the hire right. You don't want to end up with someone that takes more right of your time than they give back. If you're considering hiring a VA, this article will help you ask the virtual assistant interview questions to get an assistant that will be more help than hassle.
Questions to Ask Yourself
One of the biggest pitfalls in hiring a VA is that many executives don't know what skills and experience they need. So, start by interviewing yourself about what exactly you want your assistant to do. Ask yourself these questions:
- What tasks do you want the VA to take on? The answers should inform your job description.
- What tools and technology will they need to know?
- How much time do you expect them to need to get these tasks done?
- Do you care if they are onshore or offshore?
- How much time and effort are you willing to invest in management and training?
The last question is critical. Even the most experienced virtual assistant will need some initial training. You have to get your processes and preferences out of your head into theirs. The best way to do this is to document that information in advance. Now, let's go on to the interview questions.
Basic Virtual Assistant Interview Questions
Start with the basic information you need to qualify a virtual assistant candidate. You can skip the questions that are probably on the candidate's resume or application like:
- How long have you been a virtual assistant?
- What tools and technologies do you know?
- What types of businesses have you worked for?
- Are you familiar with X (the tech that you use)?
- What are your working hours?
- What are your salary expectations?
You can prescreen for this information before the interview and excluded candidates that don't meet your basic requirements.
Beyond the Basic Virtual Assistant Interview Questions
Now that you have some qualified candidates that meet your expectations for experience, tools, technologies, hours, and salary, it's time to ask questions that will determine if candidates are a good fit.
1. What is the best way for us to work together based on your experience?
This is a great starter question for a couple of reasons:
- It acknowledges that you're looking to the VA to be an expert at what they do. You lead with respect for their professionalism.
- It sets the expectation that they know more about being a VA than you do, which is why you're hiring them.
- If they don't have best practices learned in the course of their careers, beware.
2. What are your most outstanding skills and capabilities?
You want to know where the VA's strengths lie and whether they have skills and experience with what you want most. If your primary point points are CRM data entry and maintenance, you need someone who knows how to do that.
This question can also help you tell you what areas of work will require the least oversite on your part.
3. What do you enjoy about being a virtual assistant?
This question helps you find out of the candidate is passionate about work. While you might think you're handing off tedious, repetitive work to someone, most good virtual assistants enjoy what they do and can tell you why. Often, it's not so much about specific tasks but about being able to help executives grow their businesses.
This passion is especially characteristic of offshore VAs who have a lot less opportunity to engage with business leaders in their home markets. Most love the chance to work with U.S executives.
4. What was the last productivity tool you learned?
It's not so much about the tool but the love of learning. Few VAs are going to walk in the door with expertise in all your platforms. Even if they do, new apps come along all the time. The best VAs love learning new technology and putting it into practice.
Bonus question: Ask them how they learned the new tech. If they took the initiative to learn it independently for their professional development (e.g., they didn't have to learn it for work), all the better.
5. How many clients do you support at one time?
This question is about availability and reliability. The VA should have thresholds that show that they know how much work they can handle and still do a great job. Of course, it depends on how much time you think you need, but someone who has supported executives should know their limits.
6. What are your guaranteed response times?
An excellent virtual assistant should have established response times to provide a predictable service similar. This question is similar to the question above. It shows whether the VA knows how to manage time.
Pro tip: It can be helpful to define response time via communication channels—faster for chat messages than email, for example, so that you can prioritize communications.
7. What security measures do you use?
If you're trusting your virtual assistant with sensitive information, you need to know what kind of security measures are in place. Freelance workers are a growing target for hackers.
They should have up-to-date antivirus software and use a VPN to encrypt communications and a firewall to prevent intrusions.
8. What do you do when you get stuck?
It's bound to happen. Either due to incomplete instructions from you or when facing a new type of task, a virtual assistant will encounter new problems they haven't faced. That's okay. They should be able to answer this question with a defined process. "I don't know," won't cut it.
9. What are your preferred communication channels?
Ultimately, the answer to this question should be, "whatever channels you are most comfortable with." Still, the virtual assistant should have an idea based on what's worked for them in the past.
If you prefer email as the primary channel, they should be okay with that. But be open if they suggest a different way of managing communication based on experience.
10. What do you like to do outside of work?
The virtual assistant is interviewing you too, and they will want to know if you are concerned about their life outside of work. The VA will be a part of your team, and you should treat them like you do other employees.
One of the benefits of hiring an offshore virtual assistant is that you bring cultural diversity into your organization, which has proven to make businesses more innovative and more profitable by bringing fresh ideas and to the table.
11. What questions do you have for me?
Experienced virtual assistants should have plenty of questions! They should want answers to many of the same ones you asked—how do you like to communicate, what are your preferred response times, etc.
They should also want to know how they will be evaluated, your criteria for success, your management style, your business goals, and your core values. If a VA doesn't show any interest in the quality of their experience, that should be a concern. They should want the role to be a good fit as much as you do.
The Value of a Virtual Assistant
A good virtual assistant can be a lifesaver for a busy executive. Admin work is important, or you wouldn't be doing it yourself, but it is not core to your business.
Most executives spend about 16 hours a week on day-to-day tasks like setting up meetings, planning travel, filing expenses, entering and maintaining customer data, invoicing, and processing payments.
Delegating these tasks can reap huge benefits. Use these virtual assistant interview questions to someone you can trust with these tasks and unlock your productivity and so you can take your business to the next level of growth.
Consider Outsourcing Your Virtual Assistant Search
There are multiple ways of hiring a virtual assistant, including outsourcing the entire effort to a managed virtual assistant service provider. Managed VA services hire, train, manage and pay virtual assistants, setting them up on your tools and processes, so they show up ready to work on day one. Backup VAs ensure continuity, and you get a proven productivity partner with no added management lift. VAs work in secure facilities with enterprise-level device and network security.
Prialto has offered managed virtual assistant services for more than ten years. To learn more about working with Prialto, download this guide.
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.