How to trial your potential Virtual Assistant

January 7, 2021


About to hire a new virtual assistant but not quite sure if they are a great fit for your biz? Here’s how we test our potential virtual assistants just to be sure they’re right for us…

Why test potential team members?

A few reasons. 

  1. Simply because someone may interview very well but turn out to be a crappy employee. 
  2. We also find that Virtual Assistants – who are often from the Philippines – can be shy during an interview and it can be difficult to gain a good understanding of their skills. 
  3. We also find that testing your standout or shortlist VA candidates is far superior to a second interview. 

Confession: Lately, we don’t even do any interviews and just go straight for the test. Or test first and then interview the standout candidates. 

Why? 

One time I was testing two VA’s. One had the task completely done perfectly and a whole SEVEN hours before the other had even started. Obviously we hired the quick-starter even though she wasn’t my front runner initially. Imagine if I didn’t test them both. I totally would have hired the wrong candidate! 

You want to know how your potential hire is going to perform (honestly who really cares how well they interview) and there is no better way to assess them than with an actual task that they would need to perform in their role.  

Testing for traits vs skills

We like to test for specific personality traits that may actually not have anything to do with the role. We are testing for characteristics that will make the candidate a kick-ass employee who will be able to learn whatever it is that we need them to. 

  1. Ability to follow directions & pay attention to detail
  2. Initiative and problem-solving skills
  3. Tech skills 

If we are hiring for a role that requires specific skills that we want the applicant to already have, – like video editing or photoshop – we include instructions in the test that will assess those specific skills while still assessing the 3 traits above. 

Two parts to the trial

We have two parts to our trial. The first is designed to assess the VA on the 3 traits and the second part is more focused on a specific task that candidate might need to perform if they were hired for the role. 

Part 1 – This part will test them! 

We like to begin with asking the candidate to setup lastpass and using that to gain access to a system or program used in our business. . 

Simply having the VA begin with needing to access a specific program or software can be enough to assess the traits we are looking for. 

How? 

  • If they are terrible at tech, for example, they won’t even get past this first step. 
  • If they have crappy initiative and problem solving skills they won’t try and troubleshoot their issues and come straight to you to solve their problem. 
  • If they ignore any mention of lastpass and instead ask you for a username and password… you know their attention to detail might be an issue. 

Sometimes we find out all we need to know just from this first part alone.

Part 2 – Ask them to complete a role-specific task

Ideally, you’ll have an actual Standard Operation Procedure for them to follow. 

For a general Virtual Assistant here are some test ideas…

If you have SOPs:

  • setup a webinar
  • format and post a blog post in wordpress
  • Create a page in wordpress using thrive architect
  • Setup a podcast show notes page

If you have no SOP’s then have them do something which they could find instructions for on youtube or google. Such as:

  • Create a specific canva image and upload it to a blog post
  • Edit an image in photoshop
  • Setup a brand new wordpress website (visionfind.com ask their candidates to do this and I love this idea. A great way to test my fav 3 traits). 

TIPS: Choose a task that is somewhat relevant to the role. That is achievable and that won’t take longer to accomplish than your set time for the task. 

Try and trip them up

But only just a little. But don’t be a jerk about it. Add in one or two small instructions that only those who have great attention to detail will pick up on. (That’s why the email template below contains so many little steps.)

Set limits

One mistake I made early on was forgetting to set a deadline or a time limit in which the candidate had to complete the test. Not ideal. 

The time limit is the actual amount of hours that you expect the task itself to take from start to finish (be generous). We usually give our candidates two or three times the amount of time they would be expected to complete the task as part of their role. Once the time limit has expired they need to stop and explain where they got to.  

A deadline is the frame of time that is acceptable for the VA to start and finish the test in. This could be two or three business days depending on the scope of the test. Any submissions not received by the deadline automatically exclude that candidate from going further with your company. 

Oh and you need to pay them!

No one wants to work for free. Be kind and pay your potential employees for taking the time to do a test. 

I like to pay around the same as the hourly rate would be multiplied by the time limit I have set for the work. 

Get their paypal email and it’s a simple transfer. 

Here’s an email template (tweak as necessary especially the yellow bits)

This is the email template that I use when testing Virtual Assistants. It’s long and quite involved on purpose – I’m checking for attention to detail, remember! I have also shown some examples of how specific I am with the instructions I give.

Hello [First Name]

Thank you so much for expressing interest in our role. Below you will find instructions for our test. Please set aside [insert number] hours to complete the test. Your deadline to complete this test is [insert time and date]Here is your mission!

1. Follow this procedure to complete [Insert task (ideally link to a SOP) here]. The outcome of this task is [name outcome]. Here are some details that you will need;

• I will share the logins for the programs that you need via LastPass. You will receive an email from LastPass. To accept the shared logins you will need to have a LastPass account. You can create one for free.

• In PART 1 of this SOP it asks you to collect the name, time and other details for the webinar. For the purpose of this trial, YOU can make this client info up. Pick a date and time in October 2020. 

• In PART 7, step 16 DO NOT make that campaign ACTIVE. We're just practicing so we don't need it to be live :) 

• Ignore PART 8, you don't need to do this part 

• Ignore the steps in PART 9 that talk about switching ON the scheduling, we are just practicing so don't need this to actually be sent to anyone 

• You won't have access to Asana so don't worry about that part 

2. Once you are finished, record a loom video sharing your screen and show me what you have done. Keep the video to under 5 mins. 

3. Email me your loom video once you're done. And also, tell me any improvements you can suggest or mistakes that you found in the procedure. If you get stuck or find mistakes along the way, keep going anyway and tell me about it at the end. 

*BONUS POINTS - If you can tell me why PART 9 is not quite right :) 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

• You have up to [insert number of hours] hours to complete this trial. Please let me know how long it took you.

• If you don't complete this task in the allocated hours, stop, do a loom video showing me where you got up to and email it to me. 

• You will be paid [insert number of hours] hours at an hourly rate of [insert hourly rate] per hour for this trial. Please email me your PayPal email address. 

• Take your time and pay attention to the instructions. 

Some of these tasks you will have never done before. We don't expect this to be done perfectly the first time but we do like initiative, attention to detail, and for our team to show good problem-solving skills. Demonstrating this will help your chances of being successful with this role.

Good luck!

Assess the results

You’re not looking for perfection. There might be errors. Your standout candidate might have royally messed something up. But assess how well they responded to issues. Did they try and problem solve? Did they use their initiative? Did they communicate well with you. Did you like working with them? 

Make a decision

Don’t overthink it, you’ve done reasonable due diligence so go ahead, hire them (or keep looking) and see how they go! If you use a company like visionfind.com to hire your VA’s they have a great replacement guarantee if it should all go pear-shaped but odds are, using this process you’ll be fine!

Wanna Keep More Of The Members You Get?