You know you want to hire a virtual assistant, but how do you make sure your job description is attracting the right candidates?
Writing job descriptions isn’t exactly at the top of most people’s list of favorite things to do. They can be kind of stuffy and boring and very jargony in a way that only HR people can understand.
The great thing about running your own business, though, is that you don’t have to get wrapped up in HR-speak.
When you’re ready to hire a VA, you’ve got a great opportunity to think about your business in a new way. You’re bringing on a team member, and you can envision how you want that member to fit in and contribute. And YOU get to decide how that will look.
Before You Write Your Virtual Assistant Job Posting
As you think about the job posting for your new VA, get clear on what exactly you want this role to do for and within your business.
The more you understand what you plan to hire out and why, the more successful your search will be. Think about well-defined roles such as inbox management, customer service, or social media management.
If you’re unsure about what you want or think would be best for you, but you’re pretty sure that bringing someone on is the first step toward improving things, don’t be afraid to mention that in the job ad.
The more specific you can be, the better, but it’s also not unusual for someone to say “I need someone to help me with administrative tasks but I’m not 100% sure what that will look like yet.” There are plenty of virtual assistants who can respond to that call!
When it’s time to get the job description written, here are some things you’ll need to include:
1. Your Business Information
The more you’re willing to share about yourself and your business, the more detailed the applications you receive will be.
Many virtual assistants know who their ideal clients are, and once they can identify you as one, you’ll have a docket of great VAs to interview.
As much as you’re comfortable, share about your business’s mission, who (or what) you serve and what your business goals are, especially as far as this role is concerned. It also helps to give an idea of the size of your business team.
Is this the first time you’re outsourcing, or do you already have some people working with you regularly?
2. The Scope of the VA’s Work
This is one of the most important things to include, and it will probably make up the bulk of the job posting.
The scope of work lays out exactly what you do (and don’t) want done. It covers everything from responsibilities of the role, to software to be used, to how many hours per week or month you want the VA to work.
You’ll also want to mention what the future of the role looks like. Is it a short-term thing (like help with a specific project), an ongoing partnership, or even something that will get someone “in the door” with lots of room to expand the role or even advance?
What’s the required experience you want your new virtual assistance to have? For some, this might be a software, a specific skill, or familiarity with a certain industry or school of thought.
You should also mention how firm these prerequisites are.
Are they truly required, or are they “nice to have”? Would you be willing to work with someone who doesn’t meet all the requirements if they’re otherwise a good candidate?
This is also the section where you want to include any set hours you want your VA to be available, any software or skills you want them to have and whether you’re willing to provide training for the right person if they happen to have a gap in any of those areas.
I want to be very clear that you need to specify what skills and experience are actually required for your business.
The more “requirements” you have, the more limited your candidate pool will be.
Many virtual assistants will respect your stated requirements and choose not to apply, even if they would actually be a good fit. For that reason, you need to be sure that your requirements truly are requirements. Otherwise, you might miss out on the right person.
4. Your Timeframe
It’s very helpful to mention when you want to make the hire and have your new assistant actually begin work. It’s pretty “clean” and easy to start on the first day of a month, for example, but that’s certainly not required. I’ll offer a little more advice on how to do this well in a bit.
That said, if you’re just beginning your search and you plan to take your time, consider all your options and maybe plan have someone join the team in about two months (after you’ve done all that due diligence), mention that. And if you need someone yesterday, mention that, too.
If you’re looking for short-term help with a specific project, you can mention how many months you want the assistant or when you anticipate the project wrapping up.
Another thing to think about is whether or not you want to do a trial period.
I like recommending trial periods (and I’ve used them myself both in my own work and in my outsourcing) because they give you a safe way to decide whether someone is the right person for your business without having to “get married” before truly getting to know each other. It’s an escape hatch, in a sense. (Usually two weeks is a long enough trial period to know if someone is going to work out, but a 30-day trial period is also typical.)
5. Specific Info about Your Work M.O.
Think about some things you might want your new VA to know about working with you.
Do you send emails at midnight? Are there specific hours you do and don’t work? Do you travel a lot and/or are you in a different time zone or country? Are you having trouble staying afloat? (If so, you’re making a good move by bringing on a VA!)
6. How to Submit Applications
One of the most important parts of your virtual assistant job posting is the section where you state how you want the applicants to submit their information.
Generally speaking, most people will either ask for applicants to fill out a form online or they’ll ask for submissions to come in via email to a specified email address. (If you want your potential VAs to get in touch via email, you may want to set up a separate email address for them to use so you don’t flood your regular inbox.)
This is also the section where you’d state any additional information you want the VAs to send in. This might be anything from fee rates and structures to a specific subject line or a goofy question to answer within their email (as a test to see how well they follow instructions).
Making the Application Process Transparent
One of the best things you can do for yourself and for the applicants is to be very specific about when you’re going to stop accepting applications, what the next steps are and your anticipated time frame for making a decision.
Laying this out makes it easier for any candidates to decide whether or not your particular position will fit within their current work schedules. It will also make your life a lot easier because you’ll get substantially fewer follow-up and late applications.
It sets very clear expectations about how you conduct your business, and it will also help weed out any applicants who aren’t very good at following instructions.
Some sample language you can use:
We’ll receive applications between ______ and ______. We’ll shortlist by ______ and we’ll conduct the interviews between ______ and ______.
We hope to have the role filled by ______.
This Ain’t Your Average Job Search
Even if your business is very “businessy” and plugged into the corporate scene, there’s one thing you need to know about this new arena you’re entering:
This is not corporate world.
Virtual assistants are exactly that – assistants who work for you virtually. Working online is a new way of working, one that many people aren’t very familiar with. But if you’re going to enter this online world, you need to understand a few things about it.
First, shed any expectations you have about what this job description should “look like.”
Cover letters and resumes are obsolete these days, so don’t ask for one. (Instead, ask for a portfolio, samples, or a website. You could also ask for references and testimonials if you want.) These days we’re encouraging VAs to apply via a video pitch, which can serve as a great introduction to the person behind the application while giving you more information than any cover letter could.
Second, leave location behind.
It doesn’t always make sense to require a VA to be in a certain physical location when all of the work is being done online. It’s within reason to ask your virtual assistant to be available at a specific time or range of hours each day (as long as it’s truly necessary and you are paying for that time), but location shouldn’t factor in.
Third, because this is all conducted virtually, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do some “sleuthing” and reading between the lines.
Does an applicant follow all the instructions you give? Do they take initiative and offer proactive answers or do you have to ask repeatedly to get the information you want? Are you comfortable with their communication style? The application process will give you a lot of clues about what your work life together will be like, so pay attention to everything.
Have Fun With It!
The last piece of advice I can offer as you prepare your virtual assistant job posting is to have fun with it. If you’re a fun, funky company, let it show. If you’re a solopreneur with a wry sense of humor, let it show. If you thrive on energy and creativity, let it show. You get the idea!
Bringing on a virtual assistant is an exciting time for your business. You’re growing and expanding, and this is solid proof of that. Plus, VAs are a great investment in the business, so make a good choice from the start and you’ve got nowhere to go but up.
If you’re ready to bring a VA on board, but don’t have the time to do the screening process yourself, VA Finder will help you bring just the right candidates straight to your inbox.