I’ve had a virtual assistant, often several, for the past 7 years. I fell in love the concept of delegation the moment I heard it quantified on the IBMA podcast, and then gobbled up every piece of content I could get my hands on—the best being Tim Ferriss’ now legendary The Four Hour Workweek.
That passion for delegation and working virtually led me to start Zirtual.com 5 years ago. Today, though I’m no longer involved with the company, I still am an avid virtual assistant user and crazy-delegator.
I was thinking this morning as I completed my morning ritual that everyone talks about what you *should* look for in a new hire, but just as important is what you *don’t* want.
- Prone to gossip / drama. This one seems obvious but is a KILLER. I have had amazing virtual assistants, and I have had crappy ones. The worst offenders aren’t people who make grammar errors or send something in late, they are people who feed off gossip and conjecture. Since your assistant is close to most things you are working on, this can be absolute poison in any business.
- Dishonest. Again, an obvious one, but often something people don’t try to screen out early. I have used the question: “what would someone who likes you least in the world say about you” as a hiring question. Here’s the gist: if someone can’t think of anything, or says some bull like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” they are either (a) lying or (b) painfully unaware. If they answer realistically “my ex would say I’m a selfish B” then you know they are honest.
- Lack of initiative. A good virtual assistant reacts, on time, to everything you ask of them. A great assistant is proactive and takes the initiative.
- Not detailed orientated. In your hiring process, make sure there are very specific asks, e.g. the brown m&m clause made famous by Van Halen. This allows you to tell immediately, without much time invested on your part, if someone pays attention to details or not. If they do not follow every instruction, no matter how small, early on—do not hire them. It only gets worse, trust me.
- Ego. Serving others requires a lack of ego, because like it or not you will deal with people who have egos and need to know how to navigate their a-hole-ishness. A good leader should strive to have no ego as well, a great book on the topic is The Tao of Leadership. Ego in a virtual assistant is easy to spot when you first correct them on something, an ego-less assistant will appreciate the feedback and make a note, someone who is tied to their ego will have an excuse or prickle at the correction.
- Someone who sees this as a “pit stop”. Often working as an assistant, virtual or in-person, is a great way to learn a business and grow into other roles in the future. That being said, this should NOT be your assistant’s motivation. If it is, you’ll lose that person far faster than you think and have to start the whole process over again. Look for someone who is actually a fan of this type of work, people who love what they do do it incredibly well. Being a virtual assistant allows for a lot of freedom and creativity. My best virtual assistants have always been the ones who have several other creative side projects going that fulfill them in addition to their “job”.
That being said, I want to give a shout out to the several virtual assistant and creatives working with me today:
Kate: you rock my socks.
Martine: thank you for always being so detailed!
Joy: your dedication is amazing.
Valerie: you spur us on creatively!