Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Finding the perfect virtual assistant can be a challenge. You want to make sure you hire someone who is reliable, efficient and experienced. However, there are some red flags you should be on the lookout for when hiring, as I understand all too well having worked remotely in the hiring business for almost 20 years.
Knowing what to look for can help you avoid onboarding someone who isn’t the right fit for your business. Below are the most common red flags I have encountered during the hiring process when looking to onboard a virtual assistant (VA).
Lack of communication skills
As a virtual assistant, this person will most likely spend the majority of their time communicating with you via digital messages, so if they are not clear up front, they are most likely not a good fit for your team. Additionally, if you ask a direct question such as, “How long have you managed x, y and z?” and they respond with something that does not make sense like, “Yes, you should use that software,” then that can show a lack of attention to detail and understanding, both of which are very important skills to possess as a VA.
If your job candidate passes this first step, they should move on to an interview. This may be a video call or over the phone. Again, ask very direct questions that demonstrate a candidate’s knowledge and communication skills. For example, if your company uses certain software and your VA is required to be familiar with it, ask them a very specific question about how the software works — also ask them if an imaginary emergency scenario occurs, how would they fix that, taking you through the process step by step. Their answer will demonstrate their expertise and it will give you a chance to see if they can explain a complex process in simple terms.
While this may seem obvious, there are some subtle signs that someone is unprofessional which can later translate into how they work. This is especially important to notice if you are working with a remote team. One clear sign of unprofessionalism is if the person appears to be working during the interview. It is always important to clarify if they are just taking notes, but if they seem distracted and are typing while looking off-camera, this is a good sign they are not paying attention. If they are unable to dedicate a few minutes to an interview, they will most likely not have time to fully dedicate to your organization.
Another red flag is when someone shows up to an interview unprepared. The easiest way to spot this is if you ask the candidate to complete a task before the interview — such as reviewing your website or some company literature — and they show up to the interview having not done that at all. Some subtle signs appear if you ask them particulars about the job description and notice that they seem surprised or are unable to answer questions related to the job description.
Inability to follow instructions
This is an easy red flag to spot and ties into the communication and unprofessionalism examples given above. If you ask the candidate to complete a task and they do not do it or they do it wrong, this is not a good sign. Of course, everyone is human and makes mistakes. Second chances are always important on both sides. However, if the candidate continues to turn in subpar work that does not follow your company’s standard operating procedures, then that candidate may not be a good fit for obvious reasons.
A virtual assistant must be able to read instructions and be able to follow through with them. While a person may have good communication skills and appear to be very professional, they still may not be able to follow directions in the manner which your company provides them. It is best to find this out ahead of time by offering a short test project to the most qualified candidates.
Not asking questions
If a virtual assistant candidate does not ask questions, this could be of concern. Most people will have questions about their roles and tasks at some point and time. The person that works with your company should feel comfortable asking questions. If not, they may do their tasks incorrectly and cause more problems down the line.
While there are tips out there urging job candidates to ask questions in interviews, that is not overly important. Sometimes, companies do such a fantastic job explaining the position that candidates may not have anything to ask immediately. What is more important is that the person is able to ask questions when given directions. If something does not make sense, they should feel comfortable reaching out. Once more, giving candidates test projects or tasks before fully hiring them is a great way to see if they will ask questions and how they work with you on projects.
Related: Should You Hire a Virtual Assistant?
By keeping an eye out for these red flags, you should be able to better define your job candidate search to find the candidate that works best with your company.