How to Find (and Work With) a Virtual Assistant

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With hybrid work becoming the norm, you’re probably more open to hiring remote staff than ever. So today, I want to share some of my top tips on how to find (and work with) a Virtual Assistant.

If you’re here looking for virtual staffing, that’s a great instinct.

Many leaders are realizing the constraints of limiting staff to a physical office, and that hiring a remote assistant can be an excellent solution for a hybrid or remote team.

I’ve been leading a remote team in different forms for over 25 years, well before it was the norm that it is today.

At first, we were a remote team because we didn’t have a building, meaning we all had to work from home. But more recently, I’ve been leading an entirely remote organization since 2015.

So, let’s dive into the key lessons I’ve learned over the last two decades.

How To Find a Virtual Assistant (VA)

The top advantage of finding a Virtual Assistant is that your search is no longer bound by geography. In an office, you’re limited by the ability of an assistant to be present, commute times, and more.

You can hire a Virtual Assistant who lives—literally—anywhere. That allows you to hire the best talent, and that’s one of the key ingredients to building a world-class team.

So, the question is, how do you find a Virtual Assistant?

I’ve had to approach this myself about a half dozen times in the last seven years while leading a rapidly growing company. And here are the two options I’ve landed on:

  1. Search for the assistant myself.
  2. Turn to BELAY for Virtual Assistant search and support.

3-Steps to Find an All-Star Virtual Assistant:

Step 1: Clearly Define Your Needs.

You must be clear about your needs and expectations to kick off your search for a Virtual Assistant.

Spend time evaluating your workload and pinpoint the areas where you could use the most support. Whether it’s scheduling, inbox management, research, project management, routine administrative tasks, or social media, knowing your priorities will help you find the perfect VA for the job.

Write a clear job description and create an application form to find candidates with the exact skills you need.

A lack of clarity when hiring creates deep confusion when the job starts.

Step 2: Narrow the Pool

Sometimes you get crickets when you advertise a position. Other times, you can get overwhelmed. I have an email list of over 85,000 leaders. Usually, when hiring, I email my list to let them know of any openings.

The last email I sent for an Executive Assistant generated 431 applicants. That can be overwhelming.

But, using an application form that allowed us to filter for particular answers, keywords, and responses instantly narrowed it down from 431 to less than 100 qualified candidates.

We reviewed 100 applications, selected the top 15, evaluated their personalities, and interviewed the finalists multiple times.

The process took several months, but hiring slowly is always better if you want a long-term working relationship.

Over a half dozen times in the last decade, though, as we’ve grown our team, I’ve also looked to BELAY to provide Virtual Assistant staffing.

This might be the best bet if you don’t feel you have the time or bandwidth to go through the vetting process yourself.

Here’s how my experience with BELAY has worked.

They get over 4,000 applications each month and do all the vetting from that pool. Impressively, about 2% of applicants to BELAY make it through. They’re incredibly picky, so you don’t have to be.

BELAY gives you a pre-vetted candidate, which saves you money and time. You don’t have to spend weeks or months reviewing resumes, interviews, assessments, and making a final offer. Everything is done in advance by BELAY so that you can start quickly, usually in a week or two.

Best yet, their approach is custom to you. BELAY’s approach is to match you with a Virtual Assistant who’s been trained and selected to align with your unique needs. In my experience, I’ve used them for both part-time (a few days a week) and full-time support.

And it’s easy to change if your situation changes. If you need more support, they can provide that. If you need to ratchet down, it’s as easy as an email away.

Step 3: Craft a Great Onboarding Experience

Onboarding a VA tests the systems of every organization. Much of the ‘system’ in a traditional office gets absorbed through conversations around the water cooler or impromptu meetings. In a remote situation, that can’t happen the same way.

So clear communications and transparent systems are your best friends.

Everything from your project management software to your communication (Slack, email, text, Zoom) must be more clearly defined than in a traditional office.

Clarity in onboarding creates an excellent experience for everyone.

5 Keys to Working With Your Virtual Assistant

Here are five tips to improve your relationship with your Virtual Assistant.

1. Develop a Communication “Triage” System

Since you won’t be working in the same physical space, it’s crucial to establish clear communication channels.

Almost every office today can access reliable communication tools such as email, instant messaging, or video conferencing. The challenge is most leaders need to use them more carefully.

To combat that, clearly state how you want to use each channel. Here’s what we do in our company:

  • Weekly One On Ones: Hold everything that isn’t time sensitive for a one-on-one Zoom meeting every week. Discussing things face to face can eliminate many back-and-forth emails, Slacks, or texts.
  • Slack: Use Slack for questions/decisions that await the weekly one-on-one. Expect team members to check Slack a few times daily to stay current.
  • Phone Calls: If it can’t wait, call. Most things can wait, though.
  • Email: We banned email for use between team members in our organization. It’s just too inefficient. We only allow emails to correspond with outside organizations. People on our team can only communicate with one another via email. See the other channels above instead.

That kind of clarity can make a big difference.

2. Set Crystal Clear Expectations (And Revisit them Regularly)

Things change once someone starts a job. So revisit the job description.

This will help them understand their role and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Regularly review and update these expectations as needed.

3. Trust and Empower Your Assistant

Nobody likes a micromanaging boss.

I’m a firm believer that micromanagement and lack of clarity go hand-in-hand. So many leaders micromanage because they’ve failed to be clear in expectations.

Trust and clarity are interrelated. The more precise you are about expectations and processes, the easier it is to release and trust your VA.

Give your Virtual Assistant the autonomy to make decisions and complete tasks without constant micromanagement.

When you trust their expertise and allow them to take ownership of their work, it will boost their confidence and productivity. That’s a win for everyone.

4. Do Regular Check-Ins

Schedule regular check-ins with your Virtual Assistant to discuss progress, address concerns, and provide feedback. These check-ins can be done through video calls or phone conversations.

Use this time to provide guidance, offer support, and recognize their achievements. Regular communication will help build a strong working relationship.

For the first month of a VA’s start, having a 15-minute daily check-in is a great idea. That kind of communication will solve many potential problems before they even happen.

5. Show Appreciation and Recognition

Like any other employee, VAs appreciate recognition for their hard work. Take the time to acknowledge their efforts and express your appreciation.

This can be done through a simple thank-you email, a shout-out during team meetings, or even small tokens of appreciation. Recognizing their contributions will motivate them to continue delivering high-quality work.

Conclusion

I’ve appreciated BELAY’s coaching on how much can be delegated to an EA, and their insights have helped me find even more time and freedom to pursue what I need to pursue: writing, vision-casting, and aligning our team.

These tips can establish a positive and productive relationship with your virtual assistant. Effective communication, trust, and appreciation are vital to building a successful working partnership, regardless of geographical boundaries.

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