How to Find and Hire Reliable Virtual Team Members - Tega Diegbe

How to Find and Hire Reliable Virtual Team Members

As your business grows, so does the need to find more people. You can’t always be wearing different hats. Eventually, you will need to step into the shoes of the CEO instead of trying to do everything in the business. There will come a time when you will need to hire virtual team members to grow your team.

You will need to find trustworthy people who can “replace” you in the business.

I’m doing air quotes because as a business owner, you will never be truly replaceable in your business. What you do is you move up a level from being the person that’s doing to being the person that is managing the doing and then move up another level to manage the managers and on it goes to the C-suite Level.

I used to believe that I could do everything myself in the business (sometimes I still do). But after trial and error, I realised the importance of team members and STRONG documented processes. You can read all about my experiences  in managing own virtual team here.

You can't do everything yourself, Tega

What to Expect

In this blog post, I will be talking through the process of how you can find and hire reliable virtual team members for your business. You will be shown how this process works and the results you can get from it. And hopefully at the end of this blog post, you will be motivated to actually go out and give this process a try. 

Let’s go over what we’ll be covering today:

  • Some Common Hiring Mistakes
  • The Process
    • Building the funnel
    • Identifying your WHO
    • Identifying the WHAT
    • Creating the job post
    • Creating basic automations
    • Conducting Phase 1 & 2 tests
    • Conducting interviews
    • Making the job offer

As we go through this, you’ll notice that I don’t really I don’t use the term virtual assistants. In my experience, that term has been generalised too much. I see people who are not traditional virtual assistants call themselves virtual assistants and end up devaluing how the market views them.

And on the flip side, you see people that are actually virtual assistants. But because everybody else calls themselves a virtual assistant, they have this somewhat price war going on where they raise their fees to match specialists. 

I have been able to build a couple of businesses through the process I am writing about now, and I will talk about the businesses later on.

One of these businesses is a podcast management company. 

I was able to find a podcast editor to edit the podcast audio, and a writer to create the show notes. I also have someone on my team who just makes sure that the podcast is loaded according to the SOPs that we have in place. 

Once we get a client onboarded, my team then gets to work based on the systems and processes we have put in place. This gives me peace of mind and the freedom to work on more important aspects of the business. Such as finding more clients. 

At the height of that businesses’ success, it was making approx $2,000 a month, and my involvement was minimal. This is LARGELY thanks to the team we have in place. 

And by following this process, you too will be able to hire reliable virtual team members to achieve similar or BETTER results for yourself. 

IT’S TIME TO BUY BACK YOUR TIME

As business owners, our time is limited and precious. 

Time is of the essence

Outsourcing allows you to buy back your time by hiring help to do the work for you. You may think that outsourcing is too expensive, but it’s actually very affordable because the price of labor is cheap IF you know where to look. 

As a business owner, there’s no reason why you should be spending your time doing things that you don’t want to do. Especially when you can find somebody else who can complete the tasks better and most times quicker than you. 

You can then use that saved time to do the things that you’re good at, that you enjoy or GROW the business.

Before you take the first step into hiring your first virtual team member, you need to be wary of some of the common mistakes other people are making.

Common Mistakes I See People Making

By sharing these mistakes with you, I hope you will learn what NOT to do whenever you go out to the different websites or job forums to hire your first virtual team member.

Here are some of the common mistakes I see people make

  1. Looking for “unicorns”
  2. Hiring contractors or freelancers
  3. Hire the wrong person/people
  4. Not accounting for the experience gap and/or skill gap
  5. Inflated wage expectations without the skills to command those wages

Let’s go in depth with each of these mistakes…

Looking for “Unicorns”

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make. 

What is a “unicorn”?

A “unicorn” is this idea in a business owner’s mind of someone who can do EVERYTHING the business owner does. They believe that when they find that person, life will be perfect. That person will be able to do everything in their business, and then they can stop doing those things.

I’ve made that mistake myself. 

As long as you have the chance to delegate work, people will continue to make this mistake if they are aware that finding a unicorn isn’t the best way to go. This is because people don’t really think about the bigger picture of what they’re trying to achieve.

And even if you do find a unicorn, you simply can’t pass on everything to them while you go rest on a beach somewhere without a care in the world. Chances are you will come back to no business because everything will go haywire, or your unicorn will take your clients/customers and start their own business!

Hiring Contractors or Freelancers

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with hiring contractors or freelancers. 

But the problem for small business owners hiring contractors or freelancers is akin to something that my American football coach told me whenever I started playing football…

No matter how big you think you are, there’s always going to be somebody else out there who is bigger, faster and stronger than you.

I found that that is true for business as well. 

There are so many different business sizes and there are many people with different experience levels. This means that no matter the success you have, there’s always going to be somebody out there who’s bigger, faster, and more agile than you. 

That is relevant because I consider myself a “small fish.” So when it comes to contractors and freelancers who decide to work with me, they may start working really well and delivering things really quickly at the start. 

But as time goes on, and as they realise that working with me is going to be a little bit of a slow burner, they start looking for other clients…

Clients that are bigger, faster, and more agile than me. Clients who can pay them more money for the same amount of work that they’re doing for me. Because of that, what happens is I slide down the priority list.

Freelancers

So stuff that usually takes them an hour or two to deliver starts taking three or four hours and sometimes a day. In the worst cases, a week or two.

Hiring the Wrong Person/People

As a business owner, you have your own way of working and communicating. There will be certain people that will not abide by your way of working and communicating.

An example of this is if your business requires you to hire somebody that is a fast mover, but also pays attention to detail. But you hire somebody who’s a fast mover, but doesn’t pay attention to detail. I bet you that relationship isn’t going to last long. 

That is because as the business owner, you’re not going to have the trust required to give them a task while you go away and do something else. Your experience is telling you that this person doesn’t really pay attention to detail.

Because I’m a slight control freak, every time I give my virtual team members a task, I have to go back and almost micromanage and just look through everything they’re doing to make sure they’re doing things my way.

But thankfully, because I hired the right virtual team members, I always have peace of mind whenever I delegate.

Not Accounting For The Experience Gap And/Or Skill Gap

What people generally do when hiring someone is they look for somebody who knows how to do the thing that they’re hiring to do. But they’re not looking at it in the context of their business and how they do things. 

When I first tried to hire an audio editor for my podcast agency, I ran into issues. The way he edited was not the way that I wanted. Yes, he had the experience, but he wasn’t willing to learn how to do it the way I wanted to do it. Even though I feel like my way was better for my business.

He felt that because I was hiring him as the person to edit the audio, he could dictate to me the way it should be done. 

That’s what I mean by experience gap.

The skill gap happens when you choose to hire somebody who is at the start of their journey and you do not have proper documentation or proper systems in place yet. 

Because this person has this thing called unconscious competence, they don’t know what they don’t know. And if you don’t fill this gap through proper systems and documentation, then you will constantly have to give direction and put more effort to guide them into doing something right. 

Inflated Wage Expectations

The last mistake is more from the side of the virtual team members, which I know you guys can’t see. 

Because everyone calls themselves “virtual assistants” these days, they’re coming to the table with inflated expectations of what you are going to pay them. And in some cases, they don’t even have the skills to match the wages that they’re asking for. 

They see what other people are charging in the market, copy them, without taking into account their lack of experience. 

As a result, they end up getting discouraged when they don’t find anyone who wants to hire them because of their asking price. 

Now that we’ve covered these mistakes, let’s talk about what the right way is to hiring virtual team members.

How To Hire Your Virtual Team Member

Hiring virtual team members doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. In the next few sections, I will be going over our “Who First Method” in detail to give you a clear understanding of the principles we use when it comes to finding reliable and trustworthy people to help you in your business. 

Build Your “Hiring Funnel”

This step involves setting up a process for people to go through. 

Just like digital marketing and Facebook ads, you want as many eyeballs as you can on the front end. And then you want the right message to speak to the right people which gets them moving through the funnel.

Here is how the hiring funnel works:

  1. Get as many people to see your job post/offer (front end)
  2. Get the right WHO to go down the funnel
  3. Let candidates go through Phase 1 and 2 tests
  4. Filter the prospects after each test
  5. Invite candidate for interview
  6. Make the job offer
  7. Onboard the new team member

Hiring Funnel

Let’s walk through  each of the steps of the funnel in detail.

Start with WHO

The first step that I recommend to people is to figure out the WHO.

When you create ads for a campaign, you need to figure out who your avatar is. Similarly,when you want to find your ideal virtual team member, you also need to define your avatar aka the WHO.

The WHO is important because you’re going to be working with this person and you want to make sure that you have great synergy. Your personalities should be able to work together rather than clash.

Your WHO is going to be different from my WHO and everybody else’s Who. But generally, whenever it comes to choosing the WHO, you should focus on the personality types that you enjoy working with.

Your ideal virtual team member avatar should be someone you will get on with best. 

When I hired my first virtual team member to edit audio for my podcast, there was a personality clash. He wasn’t open minded enough to try out what I was suggesting, which created a friction point. 

Every time I asked him to do something, I was unhappy, because he wasn’t doing it the way that I wanted it to be done. 

It probably had to do with the control freak in me. But I strongly believe that because I spent the time creating these processes and systems, they should lead to an almost predictable outcome. If there’s another variable in there that hasn’t been accounted for, that’s just more headache than I want or need in my business.

A key reason why I’m putting an emphasis on the WHO is because I believe skills are trainable (not EVERY skill though, as you will see later on).

For example, the very first person I hired successfully had no idea what digital marketing was. 

After six months of working with me, that person was able to set up and manage podcasts, conduct the required research, create basic Facebook ads, and  even build a basic WordPress website from a template. 

This is hiring somebody that had absolutely no idea how to do any of those things. The reason that worked is because the focus during the hiring process was the WHO as opposed to what skill they can bring to the table.

Why can I say skills are trainable? Go to Udemy or Lynda. Any skill that you want to train somebody on, you can buy a course that shows them how to do it. The more technical the skill is, the more courses there are out there that you can put people through to get them that skill.

Figure Out the WHAT

Once you figure out the WHO, you need to know the WHAT.

Figure the Who and What

This is a bit easier than the previous step. WHAT is simply what they are going to be doing for you. This can include tasks like podcast editing, video editing, show notes, video, transcription to blog, post content writer, etc. 

Just like the WHO, the WHAT will depend on your business as well.

The only advice that I can offer here is once you know your WHO, spend some time deciding what you want them to focus on during the first month. 

The reason I’m saying for the first month is that it will give you and your team member 30 days to figure out the things that they want and don’t want to do in your business. 

It will also give you 30 days to put systems and documentations and processes in place if they aren’t established yet. That way, you can fully delegate the WHAT to this person, doing that removes you from the doing of that thing. 

As a result, you move up to the next level, which is going to be managing the doing of the thing because that is a completely different headspace to maintain as a business owner.

I did say earlier that the WHO is more important than the skills, but there are cases where skills are also important. 

For example, if I’m going to look for a graphic designer, I need to make sure that they have good graphic design skills and match my WHO

I know that kind of contradicts what I said earlier that skills are trainable. The caveat when hiring someone with no experience is that if you do not have those skills yourself, you’re not going to be a good judge of the work that they produce. 

Using myself as an example…

Where I’ve struggled the most is when I’m trying to hire people to do things that I don’t understand how to do. When I tried to hire a graphic designer two or three times, the results have not been as encouraging as I would like. 

And that is down to the fact that my idea of graphic design is very, very basic. 

That becomes a problem when I’m working with a graphic designer, because I cannot eloquently communicate what I need them to do. So even if I hire the best graphic designer in the world, if I can’t communicate what I want, then they’re never going to be able to produce what I want.

It’s because I don’t know how to communicate what’s missing and what I specifically want. 

So that’s why WHAT is important in certain cases, because at the end of the day, the idea here is to get this person involved in the business doing the things that you don’t want to do. That way, you can focus on the higher leverage tasks.

Create a Job Post

Once you have figured out your WHO and WHAT, you will need to create a job post. 

As you create your job posts, you want to make sure you call out your WHO. You must be clear about your WHAT as well. That way, you increase the chances of attracting the right WHO to go down your hiring funnel. 

The website I use to find people is onlinejobs.ph. This is a job board website for people in the Philippines. 

I personally like the Philippines because for some weird reason I just get on with Filipinos. They operate mostly on American time so there’s not that much of a gap in terms of when they’re working and when I’m asleep. I’ve had experience with different nationalities, and I’ve had the best working relationships with Filipinos.

But take note that this entire process is not “country specific.” So if you want to hire other nationalities, feel free to. The reason this system works is because it’s process-based. 

So you can take it and run it in whichever country or platform you want to hire your team member from.

In terms of your headline or job title, check out these examples below. 

#1

#2

If you were to put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for a job, which one would you be more likely to apply to? 

Option 2 right?

Talking about funnels and digital marketing, headlines that highlight benefits are attractive. Just like the second job title, it is more detailed and includes benefits, which is more likely to catch the attention of your applicants.

And what I found is that having the benefits in the “headline” gets people’s attention. It gets them to actually look through things properly because of the benefits that they’re likely to get.

Establish Basic Automation

I create basic automation through canned responses in Gmail. So if they follow instructions, they move on to the next phase. If they don’t follow instructions, you pay them no attention. 

If they can’t follow simple instructions, which is the very first hurdle, the chances of them making a good team member is slim to none based on my experience.

One example of automation is asking them to use the subject “Rockstar Executive” when emailing their application. These 2 words are the trigger for the automation that move them to the next step. If they don’t use these words, they don’t go to the next step. 

Phase 1 Test

Those who passed the first hurdle are then given a test. 

This test is really just for me to figure out their “basic working infrastructure.” I ask them about their internet speed, which includes the download and upload speed, and also typing speed. I also like to throw in a fake fictional customer support query, just to see how they handle that.

I do all of these tests in Google Forms. 

These tests do not have to be something done for your business if it is not required or relevant. You can also tailor it based on your business needs. 

Filter Prospects

Once enough responses have come back from phase 1, I then filter all the responses based on the criteria that I’m looking for. 

Filter Prospects

To give you an example, for a general assistant, I like them to have a minimum of 1 megabyte download speed and 1 megabyte upload speed. For typing speed, a  minimum of 33 words per minute. And if they meet those two, the final deciding factor is whether I like their answer to the fictional customer support ticket.

For those that don’t meet the criteria, just to be a nice human being, I send them an unsuccessful application email. I remember the days when I was searching for a job, and didn’t like it when I never heard back. 

Businesses use this story of “if you don’t hear back from us, it’s because we’re overwhelmed with applications.” The internet gives us the tools we can use to automate most of these things and if you get that right, you can send a super simple message saying “thank you for replying and I appreciate you taking the time. But on this occasion, you’ve been unsuccessful.”

And that’s what happens when people don’t meet the criteria.

Phase 2 Test

For the people that go on to phase 2, this is where we do a bit of a deeper test on the WHAT.

Where phase 1 is getting them to prove they are who we’re looking for, phase 2 is then getting them to display that they have some idea of the skills that we need.

You don’t want the test to be too hard, but it should be challenging enough that they get a mental workout to prove they have the skills you are looking for.

If it is someone who you are going to train, then this phase tests resourcefulness as opposed to testing for the skill.

Filter Prospects

Just like the filtering after phase 1, we have the filtering after phase 2 as well. 

Depending on the number of applicants who pass phase 2, you can choose for the top 5. I generally pick the top 5 or 7 as a rule of thumb. This depends on how confident I am with the candidates. 

There may be some people who don’t meet my criteria for phase 2 after filtering but because they’ve shown some kind of promise, I invite them for the interview to chat with them and see how they are as a person. 

And because the WHO is more important than the WHAT, some of them will meet my standards after the interview. 

Interviews

The reason why I only limited the candidates to the top 5-7 is because you don’t want to take up too much of your time interviewing a lot of people. From my experience, interviews take roughly 60 minutes. So the more people you invite for interviews, the more time it will take and the more strain it will cause on your workload.

Interviewing candidates

There are specific questions that you need to ask to get this candidate to prove that they are the WHO that you’re looking for. I personally ask more open-ended questions because I’d prefer that they do most of the talking. Some of these questions include: 

  1. Do you currently work?
  2. How much money are you looking to make?
  3. If the internet goes out, what are your other options?
  4. When would you be available to start work?

Feel free to include these questions in your interviews as well if they are relevant to you.

Make the Job Offer

Once you decide who you like the most out of the people you interviewed, it’s time to make a job offer.

This job offer acts as the contract because it states all of the arrangements that we have agreed upon, including rate and working hours

If they accept the job offer, you onboard them as a new team member. 

If the job offer is not accepted, negotiate to find out if you and the candidate can come to an agreement. If not, then you can choose to go to the 2nd best candidate or go back to the start.

The latter option is almost like snakes and ladders. But the beauty of going back to the start is that you will already have established your funnel. So all you need to do is do any necessary minor tweaking and run the funnel again. 

And just like phase 1 and 2, don’t forget to let those who didn’t make it know their status. 

Time To Get To Work

And that is how you find and hire reliable virtual team members. 

The funnel basically moves people through each phase. You get them to prove they are who you’re looking for and that they have the skill that you need.

Don’t get intimidated if everything seems too complicated based on my explanations. I just have more experience doing it, that is why I am able to explain everything in more detail.

If it’s your first time, you don’t need to make things complicated in order to find the right virtual team member immediately. The importance of going through this process is actually experiencing doing it yourself.

Trust in the process and have the confidence that the person you find at the end of it is going to be the right WHO that you’re looking for. 

And if they are the right WHO, you’re not going to find yourself 3 to 6 months later trying to recruit somebody else, because that first person didn’t work out. 

The person that you hire is going to be in it for the long haul because the both of you work well together and will be able to form a great bond.

Congratulations for making it all the way to the end! I wish you all the best on your journey. 

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