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 working 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 remote requires some different skills and qualities, and you'll want to vet for those skills.
Virtual Assistant Experience That Matters
A virtual or executive 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 virtual assistant (which most are), you need to know how available they will be if they are juggling multiple clients.
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 and small business owners start searching for virtual assistants by looking for people with experience using the tools and technology they use in their businesses.
That's because they don't want to train people on how to use platforms like email, calendar, expense apps, word processing, spreadsheets, chat services like Slack, social media platforms, 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 tasks, 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 learn the latest technology.
Would you want to hire a virtual assistant that has email management experience but lacks the most important skills to manage your inbox well?
Recommended Reading: 5 Myths About Virtual Executive Assistants Busted
Skills Virtual Assistants Need
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 top virtual assistant skills and qualities that make will make your hire successful:
Excellent organizational skills are probably the most important skill to look for because this is what you hire a virtual assistant for in the first place, to keep you organized and enable you to be more productive!
You and your assistant will both need to use exceptional communication skills to set expectations for performance. If you're not clear about what success means for the tasks you're handing off to a virtual assistant, the assistant could flounder.
You'll also need them to be able to communicate with others if you have them answering phone calls, managing social media, or scheduling appointments.
Closely related to communication, you will both need to be eager to give and receive feedback. Your virtual 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.
You will also need to agree on appropriate response times for email, chat, voice mail, and other messages in order to complete tasks on time.
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.
You will want a virtual assistant who is quick thinking and is able to make independent decisions based on your processes; otherwise, you'll be micromanaging. The ability for them to prioritize tasks is a critical skill.
Effective time management skills are critical for virtual assistants that are supporting more than one client. You want to be confident that they manage their time well, rely on self-motivation, and will meet your deadlines with minimal supervision.
You don't want to have to hold your virtual assistant's hand, especially when you're not in the same office. An effective virtual assistant takes the initiative to solve problems and improve processes over time.
Writing and Typing
This goes along with communication. A good virtual assistant will be able to communicate effectively through written words over email, messaging apps, and other projects you have them do.
They don't need to have a master's in journalism, but they do need to have solid writing skills to make things clear.
Desire to Learn
Look for someone who loves learning new skills. They'll help push your business forward in a multitude of ways. The more they understand, the more valuable they will become, especially if you're using tools or processes with a high learning curve.
They need to show up when they say they will and be able to meet deadlines you set. If your administrative assistant is going to make you more productive, reliability is a must.
Virtual assistants need to pay attention to client's requests, questions, and concerns, ensuring they fully understand the intent behind the communication before responding or taking action.
Attention to Detail
You need someone that is detail-oriented, especially when they're managing schedules, creating reports, handling sensitive information, working on data entry projects, email management, PowerPoint presentations, or website maintenance projects for you.
Nice to Have Technical Virtual Assistant Skills
While technical skills can be taught easily to the right candidates who possess the important skills above, there are a few administrative tasks that will make the virtual assistant candidate more desirable such as:
Social Media Management
Having a virtual assistant that knows how to manage your social media accounts can be taught, but finding someone who understands each platform and its nuances is beneficial to take over your social media management.
Having your virtual assistant take over project management can be a huge lift for you. While this skill can be taught, many people really excel and will help push things along quickly.
They don't need to be your technical support, but they must be comfortable with how to use computers efficiently. Decent typing skills go a long way when working on word processing or data entry projects.
A solid working knowledge of apps such as Google Docs and Microsoft 365 is needed in just about every role.
Recommended Reading: Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant
Technical Plus Leadership Experience
Virtual assistants plan and coordinate all of your work activities. Managing your business 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 virtual assistant skills listed above is paramount. Tech and computer skills are important but are easier to learn than skills like communication, resourcefulness, time management, and collaboration.
Virtual assistant services with the skills you need
Searching for your next virtual assistants? Learn what it’s like to work with a Prialto virtual assistant.