Let’s face it, nobody can do it all! For today’s business owner to be truly successful, you need to be able to outsource some of the administrative, or non-revenue generating tasks (and many times some of the revenue generating ones) so that you can focus on your core business. While the thought of interviewing potential candidates is very uncomfortable for many, having the right plan and questions in place will make it go smoothly and successfully.

I admit it; I am really tough when it comes to interviewing candidates; so you really have to impress me to get the next level. I think it’s important to present top notch Virtual Assistants to your clients, after all, they have paid me good money to find their ideal VA and I have no intention of letting them down!

So here are some of the ways I have learned over the years to test candidates when interviewing and hopefully they will help you in your search.

Test #1 Can they follow direction?

The first thing I look at when someone applies for a job is did they follow the directions in the email or job posting. This is extremely important because this will show you how your future VA will handle tasks delegated by you.

1. Did they follow the directions per my email?
2. Did they answer all of my questions or just the ones they wanted to?
3. How are their communication skills, do they come across as polite/professional/personable? This gives you great insight into how they would represent your company

If they don’t/can’t follow direction, they are no good for you; this is a great way of screening out at least half your candidates.

Test #2 Do they have the right experience?

It is important to ensure that your potential VA has the experience you require and that you can verify that they have what they are advertising on their resume. Here are some examples of things to look for:

1. Social Media. If the person claims strong SM skills, check them out online
a. Are they active on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin?
b. Do they have the stats to back it up?
c. Are they following a great deal many more people that follow them?
d. Are they regular contributors on FB and Twitter, or passive?

2. Type: Do they have solid experience in the area that you need. Many VA’s will advertise a wide range of services, so make sure they have solid experience in your specific need.

3. Time: Do they demonstrate the extent of experience that you would like to see?

Test #3 Initial phone interview

When I am setting up a phone interview I will contact people either through email or phone.

When I contact them through email, I am looking to see how professional they are with me,

1. Are they considerate when we are trying to set up a time that suits both of us?
2. Do they get back to you in a suitable time frame or does it take them a few days to get back in touch? I’m not expecting someone to check their email every 5 minutes (In fact I vote against doing that) but I do expect them to check their email twice a day especially if they have applied for a position.
3. Is their email set up in a professional manner or is it a Gmail or a Yahoo account? If they are a serious professional VA, they should have a professional looking email set up through their website ****@live-hire.com.

When I contact someone through the phone to set up an interview, I am listening to see how they answer the phone.

1. Do they come across as being polite and pleasant on the phone, are they happy to hear from me?
2. Once again are they flexible when it comes to scheduling a time to suit us both, again we are both business owners and their time is as important as mine but they need to be somewhat flexible.
3. Is there a background noise – kids, dogs etc. If you are looking for someone to answer your phone, you don’t want to hear anything in the background.

Should the candidate answer the phone in a manner that causes you to eliminate them immediately, here’s a quick tip to end the call quickly- - Make up a question, “I’m so sorry I forgot to ask what rate you were looking for, were you looking for FT or PT or this position has some evening work, are you available. Okay great, thank you so much for taking my call, we’re still going through our applications/resumes and we’ll be in touch with you shortly. THE END

Test #4 The interview itself

During the interview, it is important to listen to what the person is NOT saying as much as what they are saying. Keep an eye out for these signs:

Listening Skills

It is a natural pitfall in interviews to ask a question and then have the answer take a direction other than answering the question directly. As the interviewer, always remember the question that you asked and make sure it gats answered directly- even if you have to redirect the interviewee to get there. If you need to redirect a LOT - this is not a good sign. It is critical that your VA has great listening skills; this will have a huge effect as to how they will handle YOUR clients or directions. Look for positive signs- are they listening to your business needs, are they taking notes throughout the interview and asking you meaningful questions at the end? If these skills are not being demonstrated during the interview, it is definitely a black mark.

Using Initiative

Remember that you are hiring a business owner to assist you in running your own. This person should show strong presence and initiative during your discussion. Ask them about their business, how/why they got started, difficulties they have faced. These are all good indicators of their initiative.


Make sure the candidate demonstrates knowledge of the required subject matter. If someone replied to your posting for a VA with Social media skills, as well as knowledge of Aweber and administrative responsibilities, they should automatically know that through the questions you ask, you are trying to find out what their experience is with social media, Aweber etc.

Example: What are your top 3 favorite skills?

Their answer should include social media and newsletters in the top 3. If a candidate did not include the skills from the job posting in their top 3 – another black mark.

Asking questions

In this type of business relationship, the candidate should be very curious. If they have not asked many questions during the interview, invite them to do so at the end. They should want to know a lot about your business, how you do things, expectations of your VA, working conditions as far as required schedule etc. There are a great many details that need to be understood before a VA and owner will work together. This relationship is very much a 2 way street. If the candidate is not requesting this information, they are not for you.

The best VA’s out there are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.

Author's Bio: 

Gráinne is the CEO of Live-Hire, a Virtual Business Match Service. Live-Hire works with its clients to match them with the most suitable support person for their specific needs. Live-Hire provides Virtual Assistants for individual projects, part-time work or full-time, ongoing business support.

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