We are very proud to say that the quality of our talent pool is improving every day and we believe we now have some of the most talented VAs in our industry working on Virtalent client accounts. But how do we know who to look for? How do we hire outstanding Virtual Assistants? Less than 2% of candidates are successful in securing a position with us so we are particularly tough!
The role of a VA is varied and quite different in many respects to that of a regular PA or marketing professional. For one, our entire team works remotely and do not have the structure (or politics!) that comes with a corporate office around them. Likewise, our team liaise with clients on a day to day basis and so not only need to deliver excellent work, but they need to be people-orientated and possess great project management skills too.
As you may have read recently, Virtalent’s name comes from the joining of “Virtual” and “Talent”. It is down to our Operations team to ensure those two aspects are married together perfectly in any Virtual Assistant we hire. We won’t hire someone talented without them being able to work well virtually, and we won’t hire someone who can work well virtually but doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to delivering excellent work!
Just like any application process, our initial checks focus on the previous experience and background that the applicant has according to their CV. At this stage we also ask them to complete an extensive application form which asks for their LinkedIn profile, details of their availability and to self-assess their skills in areas ranging from social media management to research.
We feel formal education is important, as more than anything it demonstrates ambition and the interests that the applicant has. It also shows us how focused they are on a long-term career goal. If they have studied Maths and Further Maths at A-Level, Fine Art at degree level and have since worked entirely in the travel industry, we may question whether they are focused on a career as a Virtual Assistant. Our best candidates demonstrate consistency and commitment in their CV.
Likewise, the previous professional experience a candidate can demonstrate is important. We only hire experienced professionals who are committed to a role with us for the long-term. A career change or break now and then is welcomed, but a dramatic career change every two years is worrying! Our recruitment team will not only look at what the candidate has done in previous roles, but how they approached the role and what specific aspects of the work they excelled at. We also look at the environment the candidate worked in. Was it a large law firm in Canary Wharf or a small start-up working out of a co-working space? These types of indications let us know more about the working environment they are usually drawn to and ensures we match them with a client with a similar working style.
Personality & Communication Skills
If we are impressed by the look of a candidate’s CV and application, our Operations Director will arrange an interview with the candidate. Many interviews simply ask the candidate to expand on their CV and are very rigid in their approach. Instead, we predominantly use interviews to allow a candidate to demonstrate their personality, confidence and professionalism. Everything from the way in which they respond to a question to how they finish the interview is noted. We hire friendly, proactive and professional team members who are confident in their own abilities.
Likewise, excellent communication skills are absolutely essential to the role of a Virtual Assistant. A VA must be able to communicate clearly to their client, ask for clarification when they are unsure and handle constructive criticism.
It is also important for us to know more about the candidate’s work space. It must be quiet, free from distraction and suitable to work in all day. We also check they have the necessary tools and equipment to deliver a high quality professional service. This includes:
- A high-speed broadband connection.
- A mobile phone that they are happy to use.
- A good, reliable laptop. This must be password protected and not shared with anyone else.
- A desk and adjustable chair.
- A quiet well-lit room with no distractions.
We also usually hire candidates who already work remotely (e.g. freelancers) or have done in the past.
The Devil is in the Detail
Across this entire process, it is often the little details that make or break a strong application.
- How quickly does the candidate respond to an email?
- How do they write and then sign off on an email?
- How detailed were their responses in interview?
- How was their CV displayed? (Did they sell “themselves” effectively?)
- How is their timekeeping?
- How proactive are they?
We receive many impressive applications which are later rejected because of silly mistakes or inconsistencies.
Background Checks and References
Another important part of the application process, if everything else has gone well, are background checks and references. Not only do we carry out our own internal checks, but as far as we know, we are the only Virtual Assistant service provider in the UK to submit successful applicants to independent identity checks carried out by a third party. Ours are carried out by Onfido who carry out checks on behalf of organisations such as JustGiving and BlaBlaCar.
We also contact the candidate’s referees where relevant.