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Virtual Assistants: How to Vet a Remote Worker

As an entrepreneur, growing your business means hiring those who can help you thrive.  This can be expensive especially when you’re just starting.   Many companies will turn to contract work, specifically a virtual assistant.  A virtual assistant is someone who works remotely, often from their home, on tasks one would give to an administrative assistant.  These tasks can include database entry, responding to emails and phone calls, bookkeeping, running social media – all necessary work to move forward but they all take a lot of time.  Having someone take over this work can be extremely useful, and cost-effective when the person is a contract worker, but how do you vet a virtual assistant?  The following steps will help you understand how best to determine if a virtual assistant will be an asset and how a third-party company like CNet Technologies can help.

A Different Approach to Hiring

Hiring a virtual assistant is different than hiring an assistant that comes to your workspace every day.  Because they work remotely and often from home, they may be completing tasks at odd hours or in chunks throughout the day.  They are also likely to have more than one client, unlike an assistant that comes into the office Monday through Friday.  They are a contractor and may have divided time and resources.Virtual Assistant word map

The employment of a virtual assistant is much more akin to hiring a handyman for a rental property, and so there are some different questions you’ll want to ask.  According to Your Gal Friday there are three key inquiries:

1)    How much time do you have to devote to my business?

2)    Do you outsource your work?

3)    Can you provide references from current clients?

Prior to hiring a virtual assistant, you’ll want to assess your needs and try to average the hours per week you’ll need from that person.  If the virtual assistant has more than just you for a client, then you’ll want to make sure that you are still prioritized.  Even if the assistant is juggling multiple clients, you shouldn’t feel they are more important than your business.

Knowing who you're working with is essential to a healthy employer/employee relationship.  In a standard office setting, this question would make little sense, but virtual assistants can often be a part of a team of people that complete the work you need to have done. Be direct about this, especially if you’re uncomfortable with multiple people having access to your business.  In this case, you can always request only one person works with your company, and if they’re unwilling to oblige then move on to the next candidate.

Most interviews request references of previous employers or coworkers, but with a virtual assistant, it’s more like reviewing a vendor.  In some cases, a virtual assistant may have a profile on a website like UpWork specifically for working with remote employees or have a website of their own to showcase their skills.  You can read the reviews of the virtual assistant’s work and testimonials from current and past clients.  

Assessing Previous WorkA virtual assistant illustration

These testimonials and reviews bring up another aspect of this unique hiring process – looking for red flags as well as giving space for an explanation on bad reviews. Per DELEGATE it’s best to ask questions about negative reviews regarding the virtual assistant or the agency they work for.  In a standard hiring process, the only information you have is from background checks and the potential employee.  There are strict laws as to what a previous employer can say about a former employee, and the references will be picked by the person you’re interviewing.  In essence, they have control over putting their best foot forward.  Because reviews can be left on a virtual assistant’s profile, you may be getting biased or skewed opinions.

The best way to assess a virtual assistant’s previous and current work is to ask questions as well as review their portfolio.

Asking questions allows the virtual assistant to explain their side of the story.  It may be that a negative review was given based on the agency rather than the worker themselves, or the expectations of a client went well beyond what was initially agreed upon.  

If a virtual assistant doesn’t have much in the way of reviews or testimonials, then their portfolio should be robust with examples of previous work or verifiable skill sets.   What a virtual assistant puts out to promote themselves showcases their work and their work ethic.  A lack in both portfolio and previous clients could mean that they are green or that they’re not dedicated to the job.

Background Screening: Risk from both sides (and how a third party can help!)

Running a background check on a virtual assistant is different from hiring a standard employee. One of the main things to remember is that the virtual assistant has to be just as wary of a background screening as you are – it’s their personal information that could end up in the wrong hands if they don’t choose their clients wisely.  Your company has the same issue though, so some screening has to be done.  Because of this mutual risk, a third party like CNet Technologies may be the best solution.

So, what is the best approach?  The advantage of working with a virtual assistant is, as mentioned previously, they will have client references and testimonials to help determine if they will be a good fit.  You’ll want to verify their previous employment and client history as well as education and skills.  On top of that, you’ll want to make sure the remote worker is still able to work in the US.

As a growing company background checks can take a lot of time that you don’t have.  By allowing a third party like CNet Technologies to handle your pre-employment screening you:

1)    Free yourself from the stress of screening employees.

2)    Can trust in a company dedicated to screening employees with experience and proven methods.

3)    Put space between yourself and the candidate in question if findings are negative.

Screening employees is necessary to running a good business and working with a virtual assistant has its own unique set of challenges.  However, trusting a third party like CNet Technologies will allow you to overcome these challenges easily and hire the best person for your growing company.  Download our free guide today and see how CNet Technologies can help with your employee screening needs.

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