When Prialto first opened its Manila center, we began interviewing candidates for virtual assistant positions. As the Country Manager, I have always been tasked with overseeing the hiring process in conjunction with several key colleagues.
Initially, we only cared if they spoke fluent English and could have helpful conversations. Over the years, I’ve found that it definitely takes a lot more than English fluency and decent conversation to support high level executives on their journey to achieve increased productivity and lasting success.
Recently, I've read several articles that discuss the various interview questions you should pose to a virtual executive assistant. Most of these articles suggest asking how the candidate likes to communicate or how they like to handle certain tasks.
But questions like these miss the mark entirely.
Below, I share four questions that we ask candidates who are interested in becoming Prialto virtual assistants, and I give explanations to help you understand why we ask these particular questions.
Here are four of my favorite questions to ask during interviews that usually help me find the right virtual executive assistant in a very large talent pool.
1. If you had your own assistant, what skills would you like s/he to have?
I ask this in order to determine what (soft) skills a candidate finds most valuable to bring to the table before we've even trained them on the best practices for working with US-based executives. At bare minimum, candidates should prize:
- meeting/exceeding deadlines
- setting expectations
- time management
- being a team player
- follow through
Getting a virtual assistant to answer this question during the interview actually has long term effects. Since a great virtual executive assistant will always go back to what they answered and hold themselves accountable to it, we can use their answer as a coaching tool if/when performance needs improvement.
At the end of the day, if you don’t know what a good assistant should bring to the position then it will be very difficult to be one.
2. How do you approach a task or process you’ve never done before?
There is such a wide range of tasks and processes that a virtual executive assistant can be asked to accomplish. Even for a managed service provider like Prialto, we can’t teach our virtual assistants everything. Therefore, it is essential that every candidate know how to be resourceful.
Once hired, our training regimen is set up to test how well a person is able to handle tasks when no step-by-step instructions are given. While this test comes after a new hire is brought on board, the question still serves to weed out candidates who are likely to fail before they even start.
3. What does “going above and beyond” mean to you?
To be able to go above and beyond for our executive clients (aka members), it takes being able to spot opportunities and be prepared to do what's necessary when those opportunities arrive.
Being so proactive that you can rise to any challenge is a lot easier said than done, so if a potential candidate can answer this question with ease and give examples of when they’ve gone above and beyond then we all win!
4. What is your goal for your member as a virtual executive assistant?
I like asking this question. It's my favorite of the four. Because if their answer is in the ball park of "for my member to be successful" then everything else should fall into place.
Often times, we find skilled candidates who would make incredible virtual assistants...but they are more concerned about their own personal career goals than our company, our teams, and/or our members. For us, that individualist professional drive will never be a valuable fit. Member success leads to virtual executive assistant success every time.
If a candidate cannot own that, it's best for our long-term business success not to hire them.
At Prialto, our virtual assistants are the core of our business. If they deliver poor service, our members don't stick around. So, we pride ourselves on hiring for, and continuously developing, the professional skills and proactive characteristics outlined in the article above.
To be successful, candidates seeking to become a Prialto virtual assistant need to bring various traits to the table outside of the more traditionally marketable skills highlighted on a resume (such as expertise in "x" and experience with "y"). The traits we are looking for in a virtual executive assistant should inspire loyalty in our members, keep members coming back, and cause them to refer us to their networks because they can count on our exceptional virtual assistant services.