After much trial and error, I’ve found what I think is the winning combination of qualities that I am looking for in a VA. Some qualities you are able to filter through the contractor search function and and others you have to gauge by yourself through responses to your job posting. Either way, I’ve had some success with this approach recently and I hope you can too.
So, here’s my list of top qualities to look for in a winning VA:
1. Analytical Thinking
The problem I was having previously was that I would get applicants who would look fantastic on paper but would perform terribly once hired. They would thoroughly answer the questions in the job posting, have some relevant experience, be very courteous and responsive etc. But, when I tried to assign them a new task, they would have trouble grasping what it is that I was really looking for. They would waste time (and money) doing the job the wrong way and making me have to go back and explain things over and over again.
Then, I started screening applicants based off of their scores on the oDesk Analytical Skills test and it seemed that something clicked and the applicants suddenly ‘got it’.
In general, I correlate analytical skills with smarts, resourcefulness and ability to figure things out which is very much what I am looking for in a VA. This isn’t to say that there aren’t very smart and resourceful contractors that do not take the analytical skills test. But, since I’ve started filtering applicants based off of their scores to the analytical skills test I’ve seen a huge spike in the quality of applicants that I review which saves me a ton of time. Analytical skills is not the only thing that I need in a VA, but filtering applicants based off of analytical abilities has greatly increased my efficiency going through the hiring process.
2. English Skills
This one might be a bit obvious, but depending on what you need a VA for, English skills are more or less important. For me, I am looking for a VA who can communicate flawlessly in English for social media, emails, article writing, as well as ease of communication with me. I’ve experimented with VAs with less than perfect English and while they are generally a bit cheaper, they just aren’t able to help with everything that I need them to.
There are a few ways that you can determine the English skills of an applicant and I like to use a combination for maximum effect. First, I’ll ask applicants to ‘correct the following sentence and place it at the top of the application’. Anyone that fails to do this or fails to do this correctly is quickly weeded out. Next, I’ll ask applicants questions in the job posting and follow up questions aimed at eliciting longer answers. The longer their responses, the better you are able to gauge their English as well as writing abilities. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll chat with them over skype. Again in the skype interview, I just try and get the applicant talking which will show you how effectively they are able to communicate. Some applicants are able to write very well in English, but fall short in verbal communications so the skype interview is necessary.
You can also ask applicants to take different English language tests, but I think that can be a bit overkill and I’ve had success with the above approach.
3. Attentive and Responsive
These aren’t so much skills, but are definitely necessary for a VA. While you can’t gauge how attentive and response an applicant will be on questions on a job post, you can get a sense by how quickly they respond to your postings/follow up questions. It is for this reason that I engage candidates at least a few times via oDesk messager before speaking with them over Skype. If it takes someone 1+ days to get back to you, that’s a bad sign that they will not be responding as quickly as you need them or not often working the hours that you need. On the other hand, if someone responds to your messages immediately, they are more likely to be attentive and responsive once hired.
By filtering applicants based on their scores on the analytical skills test, English abilities, and how attentive and responsive they are I’ve been able to quickly find some great VA candidates. Do you have similar or different approaches to vetting applicants? Have you tried this and did it work for you? Let me know in the comments!