Nathan Sykes

March 17, 2021

Finding & Interviewing Excellent Virtual Assistants

We're currently working on a new micro-company here at Howdy Interactive, and a big part of that is putting together our virtual team. The assistants that help us run the day-to-day of our micro-companies are extraordinarily good at what they do. We specifically hire folks who can thrive as a manager of one - people who can recognize what needs to be done, and set goals for themselves. They don't need heavy direction to sculpt the nature of their work.

To clarify - we do set heavy direction anyway. That's the point of implementing the iron clad standard operating procedures that I wrote about on Monday. But people who are managers of one tend to care more about the work they're doing, and actively look for ways to improve our standards and procedures (instead of just executing them mindlessly, and just 'going through the tasks'). They're more invested in their work. It's just in their nature.

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All of our micro-companies use Upwork, and we hire exclusively off of the platform. We make it a point to feature our job posts, which allows us unlimited invitations. For all of our positions, regardless of the work they'll be doing, we hire virtual assistants that have a clear showcase of excellent work and communication.

This means that we set the following filters when we're inviting folks:
  • They've earned at least $10,000 on the platform
  • Their job success is 90% & up
  • Their hourly rate is fair, for the work they'll be doing
    • Too low of an hourly rate, and you can doubt their quality. Too high, it's not worth it.
  • They've billed at least 1,000 hours through the Upwork platform.
  • They're fluent in English.
    • If we're hiring a position that can only be filled by a VA in the USA, then we set this to native/billingual.
  • Their last activity is within two weeks

We allow applications to roll in over the course of 24 to 48 hours, and we narrow down our picks from there. We only hire top-rated/top-rated-plus freelancers - these are freelancers that have been vetted by Upwork for excellent work and an outstanding freelancer reputation. This saves us from having to vet freelancers that come in ourselves - it gives us more time to interview prospective candidates.

Our company interviews everyone by video. It doesn't matter what position they're applying for, or the role that they'll fill. It could be data entry, it could be sales, it could be bookkeeping. Having a video call as an interview allows us to gauge their interest, enthusiasm, and competency much clearer than a text or audio interview could. A lot of top-rated freelancers on Upwork say that our video interviews are one of the first times they've been asked to do so. It just goes to show that the majority of clients on Upwork are just interested in filling the position as quickly as possible, without making sure it's a right fit for their business long-term.

Our focus is on making sure that our virtual team of freelancers can interact and operate as close to a team of normal W-2 employees as possible. That means that not only do we focus on screening for competency in the task that we're actually hiring them to do, we need to detect their ability to work in a team, act as a manager of one, and be incredibly invested in the work we're asking them to do.