I have previously hired technical and admin staff in a small business environment and always found that a custom list of task-directed questions or tests were a great way to help differentiate between candidates.
The questions and tests were determined ahead of time and were always given in the same way and with the same time limit. It’s amazing how much easier the hiring process becomes when based on what people can actually do rather than what they say they can do.
Strangely I did not use this approach when hiring my own first full time VA – doh!
I was excited to find someone with the (apparent) technical skills and English abilities at a low hourly rate that I assumed things would be fine. I was wanting to complete an online project quickly, and so years of face-to-face hiring experience were ignored by not skill testing the VA.
A big mistake!
Not surprisingly, I had to let him go a week later, after receiving too many dumb questions and having no deliverables to show. Nice guy, great attitude, but he simply couldn’t do the job.
Second time was different however. I re-ran the same ad, but this time removed the rate of pay and substituted “based on experience” and also added a requirement that a short skills test would be required.
My simple test would check their ability to understand and follow directions written in English, their level of technical ability and overall responsiveness by the time taken to complete the task. By omitting one or two items in the instructions, I was also able to see how well they could interpret the overall task and still be able to achieve the desired result.
Using the same approach I had learned from real-world (offline) experience, I wrote a detailed and specific list of tasks to be completed on one of my live domains, as these tasks would be typical of what I would require them to do when hired. I told each applicant that they would have 48 hours to complete the test, but sooner would be better.
This time there was no guessing or uncertainty about the guy I chose, as he had clearly demonstrated he had both the technical and language abilities needed to do the job.
So what’s the lesson here?
The process of hiring (or managing) people online can greatly benefit from your offline experience. A virtual contractor or virtual assistant is still a human contractor or human assistant, and it pays not to let the online workspace distract you from that.
The old adage still applies: hire slow, fire fast.
What mistakes have you made when hiring your Virtual Assistants? Please leave your comment below.