The last thing you want is to hire the wrong virtual assistant. Not only will this be a waste of your time and money, it may end up being necessary to fix work or even do some damage control, depending on the work the virtual assistant will be doing for you. Then, you’ll have to start the entire hiring process from the beginning again.
One of the best ways to avoid a bad experience is to ask the right virtual assistant interview questions. This will allow you to assess the experience and abilities of candidates and also find out if your personalities are a good match. In addition, it’s a good idea to run a virtual assistant skills test. This will show you if candidates are being truthful about their abilities.
Common Interview Questions for a Virtual Assistant
The exact virtual assistant interview questions you should ask may depend on the role you’re looking for. All the same, most employers find that these common questions are useful for assessing candidates.
1. What Are Your Areas of Expertise?
There are many different types of virtual assistants. VAs range from general virtual assistants, who carry out mostly administrative tasks, to specialists focusing on areas including bookkeeping, graphic design, and sales. However, even general virtual assistants often have an area of expertise — this could be social media, correspondence, or even answering calls. It’s important to find someone who specializes in the exact tasks you want.
2. How Did You Become a Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants come from a variety of backgrounds. Often, they bring valuable experience from positions they had before working as a VA. Plus, asking an open-ended question like this gives candidates the chance to elaborate — and you may find out something interesting.
3. How Long Have You Been a Virtual Assistant?
If you want to save money and only need someone to perform basic tasks, it’s fine to hire a candidate who has never worked as a virtual assistant before. However, if you’re looking for high quality or fast completion of tasks, several years’ experience will be valuable.
When you ask this question, though, bear in mind the VAs’ answer to the above. Some candidates may be just starting out as virtual assistants, but they could have relevant experience that makes them even better qualified than someone who has been working as a VA for several months.
4. Which Tools Do You Like Using?
Experienced VAs will have used multiple tools for things like time tracking, scheduling, file sharing, and graphic design. Finding out which of these your candidates like the most will give you a better idea of their working styles. Plus, if a candidate names many tools, you’ll know that you’ve found someone with a diverse background.
It’s also worth asking candidates if they have experience with the specific tools you want to use. Bear in mind that if a VA knows how to use a wide variety of tools but not the exact one you need, this candidate will likely be able to learn how to use new tools fast and with minimal training.
5. What Security Measures Do You Use?
If your VA will be handling sensitive information, it’s important that a candidate has security measures in place to protect data. This may mean a two-factor authentication on crucial apps, only using private WiFi connections, and up-to-date anti-virus and malware software.
6. What Hours Do You Work?
This is an important question no matter who you’re hiring. You may assume that VAs in the same timezone as you will be available during business hours. However, people often choose to work as virtual assistants because of their flexibility. Some candidates may have other commitments or simply prefer to work early morning or late evening.
You need to consider how important it is that the VA will be working at the same time as you. Do you need to chat with your virtual assistant on a regular basis or will scheduling a weekly call be sufficient? You may even be able to send your VA tasks with a deadline without needing to talk at all.
7. What Is Your Availability?
Even candidates who work the same hours as you will not always be available. Top virtual assistants often have a number of other clients. This means they’re not always able to answer calls or messages immediately. If you often have urgent tasks, it will be worthwhile finding a VA with flexible availability.
Note that it’s useless simply asking virtual assistants how many clients they have. A virtual assistant could have five other clients who need just two hours each of work a week or only two clients who require 10 hours each week.
Before you start interviewing your virtual assistants, you should know how many hours you need a week (or month) and how you’ll distribute these hours. You can then ask candidates if they’re able to commit to your schedule.
8. How Do You Prefer to Communicate?
It’s great to find someone whose communication style matches your own. If you like to chat over video call, you may not work well with a VA who would prefer to send short messages over Slack.
9. How Do You Prioritize Your Work?
Organization is one of the most important skills virtual assistants can have — especially VAs with multiple clients. Find out how candidates decide what tasks are the highest priority, how they avoid taking on more work than they can handle, and what they do if they realize they are unable to meet a deadline.
10. Why Do You Want This Position?
Depending on the complexity of the tasks, you may receive interesting answers from VAs to this question. Of course, if the job is mostly data entry or another repetitive task, you shouldn’t expect a VA to be too excited. In these cases, candidates will usually just be looking for extra income.
However, if you’re offering skilled work, candidates may say that they would enjoy doing the tasks or that they want the opportunity to grow. Alternatively, some candidates may be interested in your industry or in the type of work you do, particularly if you are a startup with an innovative idea or a non-profit.
11. How Do You Want to Progress with Your Career?
Career virtual assistants are always looking to learn new things and refine their current skills. Many will have a clear idea of what they’d like to do next. It’s useful to know this, as you may be able to train your VA to carry out additional activities. The virtual assistant will be extra motivated and will likely charge less than someone who is already experienced in the task.
12. What Would You Do If You Received an Assignment That Didn’t Know How to Complete?
At some point in their careers, every VA has the experience of receiving an assignment they’re unsure how to complete. The best candidates will tell you that they would try to figure it out on their own first, but that they are not afraid to ask their clients for clarification or further support.
How to Conduct a Virtual Assistant Skills Test
Only once you’ve narrowed down candidates to a short list of the best should you offer a skills test. Some ideas include the following, although you should always test just what you actually need.
Proficiency in English
Hiring a virtual assistant based abroad is a good strategy to find a lower rate. However, you need to consider if the VA has sufficient English for the job, particularly if you need someone to respond to messages or answer calls on your behalf.
You can easily find a free English test online to give your VAs. Alternatively, you could request the VA to transcribe a short audio file — this is particularly useful if you will need transcriptions.
You’ll most likely need a native English speaker if the job involves proofreading social media posts, blog content, or emails. Check if candidates are up to the task by providing them with a short text that you’ve edited to introduce errors and ask them to correct it.
It’s a good idea to ask virtual assistants to perform some simple tasks in the software you’ll be using. You can do this to evaluate skills, attention to detail, and accuracy all in one. For instance, you could request candidates create a document to your specifications, sort data in Excel, or complete a mini task in project management software.
If the job involves any research, create a short task that requires the VA to find out a few key facts. This could involve searching for information through a Google search or on Amazon. The second is especially applicable if you’re looking for an Amazon virtual assistant.
Interview questions and virtual assistant skills tests are never infallible. It’s also worthwhile hearing from VAs’ other clients (past and present). If you hire through a freelancer platform, this is particularly easy, otherwise you’ll need to ask for references. Finally, it’s always a good idea to start a virtual assistant on a temporary contract before you commit to a long-term relationship.