Fully Booked VA Blog

5 Tips to Help You Test a Virtual Assistant

When business owners use Horkey HandBook’s VA Finder services, we ask them to fill in a questionnaire.

This usually gives us enough information to take back to our professional virtual assistants to ensure that we find the best fit for both sides.

Often, business owners tell us how excited they are to start working with a VA. But every once in a while, we hear some concerns regarding choosing the “right” person for the job.

That’s understandable, of course.

Since VAs and their clients work so closely together (often it’s just the two of them running the entire operation) it’s unnerving for business owners to think that they might not have made a good choice.

And especially in an online work context, with deadlines and deliverables galore, it’s easy for stress to creep up if collaboration doesn’t go smoothly. Not to mention that onboarding a VA, and getting them up-to-speed with how you run your business, takes time, energy, and sometimes even money.

Everyone is going to say that they can do the job, but a minimum of due diligence is always a good idea.

That’s why you may consider coming up with a few methods to test a virtual assistant before you start working together.

Here are our tips for how to vet a virtual assistant.

1.Hide a test in the job posting.

If you’ve ever read a job posting which specified that you had to use the word “goldfish” in the subject of the email application, then you know what we’re talking about.

The person who wrote the job description didn’t have a particular affinity for goldfish. It was just a test to see which applicant was paying attention, and who was good at following instructions.

So when you’re writing your next job posting for a VA, you can take the liberty to insert a little challenge and see who is really taking the application seriously, or who’s just skimming the post and sending generic emails.


2. Examine their portfolio.

If the VA candidate is already a pro at what you want to outsource to them, and they can prove that they master that skill, don’t feel offended if they’re not inclined to take further tests.

That VA might even be doing you a favor by not wasting your time.

We’re going to be honest here.

A professional VA who is in high demand will not take the time to jump through hoops just to prove to you that they can do the same task they’re already doing day in and day out for other clients.

If someone is really good at using a particular piece of software, or excellent at putting together a social media strategy, they will showcase that skill on their website and add it to their portfolio. And that’s where you should be looking.


3. Test a virtual assistant on what you really need done.

We’re often inclined to believe that we should find someone with more skills than we actually need.

Ask yourself this question: What are the skills that somebody must have in order to help me run my business?

A good way to categorize the skills you want a virtual assistant to have is:

  • Core skills – these would be indispensable; without them, your VA would not be able to perform their duty. These are your “must have” skills.
  • Supplementary skills – these are not mandatory, but they’re desirable for the success of your business. Let’s call them the “nice-to-have” skills.
  • Bonus skills – these would make a real impact in your business performance. If your VA performed these skills, you’d probably have to compensate them more, but it would be worth it.

The trick is to limit your testing to core skills.

For example, if all you want your VA to do is to help you manage your inbox, don’t ask them to come up with a social media plan for you. Instead, check that they know how to do proper inbox management tasks, such as creating new folders, labels, or auto replies. You can even check if they know how to create and share a Google document.

If you need your VA to manage your calendar, you can have them send an invitation to your calendar of choice. That’s a good enough test that will tell you if they have the basic skills you’re looking for (and yes, one of the skills tested will definitely be their ability to research how to do the task).

You get the gist. Make sure you test on something small and specific.

4. Test the waters with a trial project or a trial period.

We’re big fans of trial runs around here, and we recommend them to the VAs who take our 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success course.

A trial period will give you a taste of what it’s like to work with someone without having to fully commit to the collaboration for an indefinite period of time.

Your trial can be as short as two weeks and it can last up to two months. But make sure it doesn’t drag on too much. Nobody likes to deal with uncertainty for too long.

Once the trial period is over, you should have a good idea of whether or not your pick for a VA was a good one.

The other great thing about trial projects is that you can do them with more than one person.

For example, if you want to hire a VA to take care of graphics, and there are three candidates you’re considering, you can ask each of them to create ten sample images. Then you’ll be able to see which one has the right skills, and see which set of graphics aligns with your brand.

You can also set up the projects in different ways for different people. For example, one VA can create the graphics for your social media, while another one can create the images for your newsletter.

Please make it your policy to always pay for trial projects, whether you’re using the end product or not. Virtual assistants invest time and skills in fulfilling the project requirements so they should be compensated fairly.

5. Remember that everything is “figureoutable.”

Don’t test for the sake of testing.

We’re all professionals here, so there’s no reason why you should waste somebody’s time (and your own) if there’s no need to do that.

The skills that you should definitely look for in a virtual assistant are what we call soft skills. The ideal VA should be someone who is a fast-learner and proactive in doing research to find the best solutions for your business. If they are resourceful, they can learn everything else on the job.

You want to find a good fit, but you also want someone whose skills are complementary to yours. You don’t want a clone of yourself, but someone to fill in the gaps. Therefore, the VAs should be allowed to solve problems their own way, even if that way is not the way you would have done things.

Other details to consider.

We’ve already mentioned some of these details in this post about hiring a VA, but paying attention to them is important if you want to find a team member who is a good fit for your work style.

Think about these things as you read through each application:

• Did the VA follow the instructions in the job posting?
• Are they communicating clearly and timely?
• Would you feel comfortable having them represent you or your business?
• Have they shown any initiative?
• Would you be happy to have this person on your team, or would it be more of an energy drain?

And while you may be super-focused on how a VA will impact your business, please keep in mind that there’s a real person at the other end of this exchange. Treat them with respect and professional courtesy. And always listen to your gut.

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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