On top of the never-ending pursuit of maximising productivity, working towards even better efficiency and increasing profits; the last thing you need is to find yourself having to do work your personal assistant should have covered. Just like finding the best candidate for core functions in your organisation, hiring the right personal assistant is critical to your growth as an entrepreneur or small business owner. But, it’s not as easy as it seems. A lot more goes into this process and there are important characteristics to look out for and red flags to note so you can find the right fit for your company. Recruitment processes are lengthy and if you have very specific requirements, things can take even longer as you search for the perfect fit. So the main question remains: what type of personal assistant should you use? Here are 5 main characteristics to look out for:
1. Knowledgeable and experienced
In essence, your personal assistant is your right hand. Ideally, your personal assistant should have enough knowledge (on ways of work, administrative tasks, your expectations as an employer etc.) and experience to be able to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are not present to do so. According to Gayle Transon, Executive Assistant at the American Express in Phoenix, a good personal assistant is able to perform tasks that are as close to the boss as possible. These can even extend to attending meetings on your behalf and taking notes. Your personal assistant also manages your schedule and should have solid time management skills so they can handle their tasks for the day as well as manage your time well. Time is a currency and the growth of your business depends on mastering it.
2. Good references
Yes, even in the world of personal assistants word of mouth is everything. Prioritising your business also means finding a good and trustworthy candidate. Do your due diligence, conduct interviews, and check on your potential candidate’s references. It’s important that the references you contact are able to highlight the candidate’s ability to perform the main tasks you require from him/her. Candidates might seem quite talented from the initial meeting but it’s also important to hire someone who also possesses soft skills and is able to communicate with others or work well in a team. These are things you’re most likely to get from your reference checks. This is the real feedback you need to honestly give you a full view of whether your potential candidate will be a good fit or not. They have nothing to lose.
3. Resourceful and reliable
Living through the heat of a pandemic has significantly changed how we work and the classical office environment. While virtual assistants are not a new phenomenon, they have heavily gained momentum over the past few months. Whether your personal assistant is on site or you have outsourced some work to a virtual assistant, it’s important to find a candidate that is good at taking initiative and is a self-starter. While your assistant will need as much guidance as possible from you at the onset, the working world will always throw unanticipated curveballs. As such, resourcefulness is an important skill your personal assistant should have. The right candidate should be able to think on their feet and be ready to take on those “what happens now” moments, with or without your guidance. AVirtual UK provides more guidelines on hiring the best virtual assistant for your organisation. Remember, this is your right hand, so they should be able to handle issues as they arise with similar urgency and sensibility as you would.
4. Strategic multi-tasker
While there are thousands of blogs on productivity that encourage employees to focus on one task for maximum efficiency, the reality of work doesn’t always offer that luxury. There are times where your personal assistant will have to deal with more than one task at a time. Modern technology has created more modes of communication in the workplace which can often require employees to be more strategic about how they manage simultaneous demands through email, text messages, phone calls, and other platforms. To multitask effectively, your personal assistant should be strategic in how they structure their day in priorities that are urgent and tasks that are important. Read more on the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to boost productivity by being able to distinguish between important and urgent tasks. Your personal assistant should also be able to know which tasks require urgent action and focus, as multitasking will not work in such cases.
Attention to detail is vital. Whether your personal assistant is on site or you’re working with a virtual assistant, knowing that your personal assistant will ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed makes life easier. A great assistant pays attention to detail and ensure that all the demands of the day are met. An even better personal assistant is one who is able to stay on the pulse of things so they can catch mistakes before they happen. Especially if you are not physically present to check all the work, you want to feel confident that you have a solid working relationship and your assistant understands the importance of paying attention to detail and having all bases covered.
6. Find the right candidate for the future of your organisation
Your business is an important feature of your life, and relies heavily on the people you choose to build with. Recruiting the perfect candidate is not an easy task and there certainly isn’t one silver bullet approach to the process. However, it helps to start your recruitment process with top skills that your organisation requires, all in alignment with your business goals. Humans are not perfect, and although you might not find your “unicorn” assistant, you can definitely walk in with clear expectations and a checklist that’s as close to sure-fire as possible. Remember, to put your organisation first. Find out exactly what it is you need and that will guide you to what you need to look for in a potential assistant.