5 Easy Steps to Hire a Virtual Assistant
Following our 5 easy steps to successfully hire a Virtual Assistant is among the most important transitions that you can make as an entrepreneur. Until you have someone on your team that you can delegate specific tasks to, you will continue to waste valuable time and energy on activities that don’t actually contribute to the growth of your business.
One of the key differences between a “solopreneur” (someone who is the only person in their business) and a business owner is a team. A business owner doesn’t do everything themselves. They build systems and hire people to do things for them. These are necessary steps to building a scalable business that continues to grow, even when they’re not working.
Hiring a team member is a critical step in making the shift from a solopreneur to a business owner – or as Michael E. Gerber, author of the best-selling business book The E-Myth would say: from working in your business to working on your business. Having other people on your team helps to free up your time so you can focus on activities that have the greatest impact on your business and income.
In this post, John Jonas from Onlinejobs identifies 5 easy steps to hire, well-rounded, talented, loyal and enthusiastic Filipino workers.
1: Attract the Best Candidates with a Great Job Post
This is where our post on How to Write a Better Design Brief can help you get started. What’s important is that the most qualified Filipino workers are attracted to well-constructed job posts. The following narrative will help capture the attention of talented workers with great attitudes and work ethic:
Include “hard” and “soft” skill requirements. (Hard skills are technical and specific to the job). They may include things like the ability to write, program, use WordPress, design websites etcetera.
Soft skills are related to personality and self-mastery and may include the ability to take direction, work under pressure work in teams, punctuality etcetera.
Make your posts clear and easy to understand. If your job post is overwhelming or confusing, applicants will not apply. If your job post is vague and lacks detail, applicants will not apply.
Be concise. Specify the job requirements and your expectations, Don’t include forty-six bullet points. There’s room for more specifications later in the interview process. If you ask for a multiplicity of skills in the job post, you label yourself as a demanding boss who insists on perfection in everything.
Make sure your posts are updated and relevant. Make the necessary adjustments if you decide to change the job’s title, qualifications or other elements. And if you fill the job, remove the post. I recently saw a job post requesting a Rock Star VA. The required skills were WordPress, SEO, Outbound and Inbound Sales Calls, Social Media Marketing and Design Work to make the business owner’s site look good.
That kind of person does not exist. Not in the Philippines, not in Australia, not in the United States or anywhere. Don’t get fooled into classic job post blunders. Keep your expectations realistic, and remember the four points above to make your job posts compelling, and effective!
Note: If you’d rather, you can bypass the needs to write a job post and browse resumes on the leading Virtual Assistant job site in the Philippines, OnlineJobs. Here you can make contact with a large pool of your hand-picked candidates directly. You will need access to a paid account to contact candidates either way (but you can cancel your account immediately after you hire someone, with no further obligation). This is my preferred way of recruiting.
2: Pick Your Favorite Candidates
Maybe they come from the group of Filipinos who responded to your job post. Maybe you found them on an OnlineJobs resume search. However, and wherever you find them, start with a big pool of 20–30 candidates.
TIP: Don’t narrow your list of potential workers prematurely. Sometimes employers will single out a candidate as ‘the one’ and only contact that one person. Then, when ‘the one’ never responds to their email, they feel frustrated and disappointed. Save yourself the heartbreak. Initially, contact a couple of dozen candidates. Remember: Filipinos are loyal. If they already have a job often they won’t respond to another job inquiry.
3: Email All of Them
If you’re contacting workers from a resume search, send an identical email to each potential candidate. Admit to the job seekers that you are sending a mass email, and apologize for it. Your initial email should acknowledge that you’ve read their resume and that you want to know more about them and their background. It should also describe the specific tasks you want to outsource.
TIP: Use a couple of sentences to brand your business. Like attracts like–talk about your values, your priorities and your mission statement. Mention that you’re looking for a candidate who respects those things too.
Make sure your initial email is brief. Longer, more complicated emails (and job posts) usually lead to fewer candidate responses. At the same time, do what you can to make your email stand out; often the best Filipinos candidates on OnlineJobs receive multiple job offers.
4: Send More Emails to Your Top Candidates
Questions, questions, questions are the key here. Now that you’re getting responses from your initial mass email (or job post), begin responding individually. Ask lots of questions, and expect lots of correspondence. Through this correspondence, you can gauge their English skills, test their punctuality, observe how well they follow instructions, ask for work samples and get a better idea of how they would fit into your business.
Here are examples of questions and requests to include in your emails:
- Do you already have another job? If so, where are you working and how many hours are you working?
- How much money are you looking to make?
- Have you worked for foreign employers before?
- How long have you been doing (state type of work you’re hiring for) work?
- Please send me a link to your OnlineJobs profile.
- Please send me three references and examples of your best work.
- Please write a paragraph of why I should hire you. Don’t send a list of your experience; describe it to me.
- When would you be available to start work?
- Do you have your own computer and Internet access? If you have access, how fast is your connection?
- Will you work from home or from an Internet café?
- Where are you living in the Philippines?
- Tell me how you would complete the following task (outline an office task that you are familiar with in your company).
Note: You won’t get responses from every candidate you email. And some will disappear during the email interview process. That’s why it’s important to keep your pool of potential workers broad.
TIP: DON’T DO SKYPE OR ZOOM INTERVIEWS. Some business owners like to conduct video interviews, but I don’t particularly recommend them. Filipinos are often uncomfortable with video conference interviews.
Most Filipino candidates speak Tagalog as their first language. They will be worried about understanding you; they may not be confident in their own speaking abilities; they will be worried you won’t understand them. This creates embarrassment on their part, even if they speak well. Or, it’s possible that they don’t have a laptop computer or a stable Internet connection. There are potentially many variables associated with conducting a video interview. Our recommendation is to avoid interviews by video and stick with email when you are conversing with Filipino candidates.
TIP: I know some employers who make requests in their posts, like “Attach a picture of a Koala to your email reply” (or something similar). Candidates who carefully read and respond to these requests help narrow the field for consideration. More commonly, you will get one of several responses to this kind of request:
They ignore it – not good. They were confused, thinking it was a mistake from your side. Ignoring your request can be a sign of things to come.
They fulfil their task – good. This is the most common response. They followed instructions even if your request seems a little odd.
They question it – best. Telling you that you have made an irregular request suggests that they are willing to question instructions. They’re willing to think about things and be bold. You won’t often have this response, but if you do, you may have just found your preferred candidate!
5: Narrow the Field
Eventually, you’ll narrow your prospects down to 2 or 3 (sometimes workers will narrow themselves down as they stop responding to your increasing numbers of questions). Here are a few tips to make you confident in your final hire:
Trust your gut. Your first impression is usually correct. Pay close attention to how you feel about the candidate. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Look for inconsistencies in resume vs. emails. Comparing what candidates say about their skills and experiences with what is on their resume or profile often show that the person has exaggerated or hasn’t been completely truthful. Be wary of any differences you may see. Also, watch for inconsistencies in their English skills in their resumes vs. email responses. Occasionally, candidates will ask a friend with great English to help them write their profiles. It’s easy to get a friend to help you write your profile; it’s not as easy to have a friend help you respond to 10 different emails.
Find out if they are working for other people. Speaking from experience, it’s really difficult for virtual workers to divide their time equally between two jobs, especially if they’re both “full-time.” Hiring someone who has another full-time job makes you vulnerable to being exploited. Be careful. It’s ok to hire someone part-time who has a full – time job. Just be aware that you’re their second priority.
Assess the timeliness of their communication. You want a virtual worker who answers emails promptly and turns projects quickly. If a candidate responds slowly to your recruiting emails, you can bet they’ll do the same in their work.
Look for attention to detail. If they only answer 3 of 4 questions you ask during recruiting, chances are really good they’ll only do 3 of 4 tasks you ask after they’re hired.
Review work samples. Ask for samples of their previous work. Nothing beats empirical evidence.
Look for a candidate with a good Internet connection. They’re working remotely from the other side of the world. This one speaks for itself.
Note: Internet speeds are slow outside of the major metro regions in the Philippines. Expect to find a 10-25mbps connection. For comparison, your connection at home is likely 20-1000 Mbps.
Note: If a candidate ever tells you that he or she doesn’t have Internet access or doesn’t have a computer and would like you to purchase one for them, don’t do it. It’s likely a scam. However, if the request comes from one of your long-term employed, well-trusted workers and they need updated equipment to improve their production, new equipment can be a good investment.