Most business owners have felt the pain associated with the costs of a bad hire. Not only is there the actual money leaving the bank account, but there are also other costs. They include lost opportunity costs, training time, efficiency, stress on yourself and existing team members, and so much more.
We often realize (thanks to the gift of hindsight) that we could have done a better job screening prior to hiring.
Hiring a virtual assistant (or any virtual professional) is the same as hiring a W2 employee. We owe it to ourselves—as well as our team and our limited resources—to allocate the time needed to perform a thorough screening.
Prior to doing any of the screening ideas suggested below, it would be useful to determine what your non-negotiable items are based on the type of work you’re hiring for. You’ll want different skills (and software) from a graphic designer than what a bookkeeper likely possesses. And naturally, you’ll want better security protocols from a bookkeeper than you would require from a graphic designer.
Assess your results based on what’s most important for getting the job done successfully and maintaining a good ongoing working relationship.
What are some ways to screen candidates prior to hiring?
- Find and review social media profiles and publicly shared content (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.).
- Look for testimonials from other clients on LinkedIn, Facebook and the provider’s website. Try to pinpoint specific examples that showcase their skills and personality.
- Review the website. Does it look professional? Do the services listed match what you’re hiring for?
- Check the WhoIs information for the URL. How long has the domain been registered? It will give you some insight as to how long the provider has likely been in business.
- Check the Wayback Machine. Does the history coincide with the WhoIs data?
- Ask for references for similarly completed projects. Talk to those references and ask the important questions.
- Do a Google search on both the provider’s name and their business name. (Unfortunately, we probably all have a horror story of a purchase gone wrong that we could have avoided if we had just done a simple Google search!)
- Referred to the provider by a friend? Ask that friend for specific feedback about the traits and skills that matter most to you. An applicant might have a splendid sense of humor or a way with dogs, but those traits probably won’t help get your work done.
- Ask to review their standard agreement and/or contract. Then carefully review it.
- What payment options and terms do they offer? It may be challenging to hire someone who only wants a wire if you only pay people through PayPal. (Additionally, sending money to providers in a different country can be a huge hassle!)
- Do they respond in a reasonable amount of time? Are their emails clear and easy to understand?
- If time allows, assign a low-risk task. (pay them for it, of course!)
- Always consider asking what security protocols are used, especially if they will have access to sensitive information. Do they use free WiFi without a VPN? What password manager do they use? Is the password manager one that’s been involved in a data breach?
- Create (and ask!) a list of questions that are relevant to the task.
- Consider having an unbiased third party perform this list. They will be emotionally removed from the outcome.
- Have them do a “second interview” with existing team members.
- Do they seem positive and motivated? Do they admit when they don’t know something?
- Clearly outline the needed skills and deliverables, and assure they have the tools needed to do the work.
- Capture the highlights of the conversation, and then follow up in writing.
- Sleep on it.
It can take awhile to find the right fit. Don’t get discouraged. As with dating, don’t feel pressured to say “yes” to the first boy or girl who flatters you. Most importantly, pay attention to your intuition!
All of this will take some time…but isn’t it worth it in the end if that means you have less turnover and you hire the best fit?
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