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So You're Ready To Hire an Assistant — Here's What To Do Next

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There comes a point in many a person’s career when they feel completely overwhelmed. Work piles up, and it seems as though there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done. Rather than give into that rising sense of stress, dread and defeat, though, there’s a solution: hire someone to help you.

A personal assistant can’t completely take over your to-do list, of course, but some of the less pressing tasks and administrative work can fall on their shoulders. This leaves you to focus on the most important work on your plate. The right personal assistant will allow you to excel at these tasks because they’ll take care of what would otherwise interrupt your undivided attention.

If all of this sounds like you — the stress, the extra-long to-do list, the dream of a hired helper — the only thing left to do is find that perfect person. To make that task easier, here are seven tips for hiring your first personal assistant.

1. Clearly Define the Job Responsibilities

Once you decide to go forward with your plan to hire an assistant, you’ll have to get the word out that you are, indeed, looking for someone. The generic job posting for a personal assistant could bring in thousands of resumes from people with administrative experience that will certainly serve them well in some aspects of the job. However, they may not have every skill you need to make them your perfect coworker.

For example, imagine you’re in charge of social media posts for your company, but you’d like to have your assistant take over that job. If they come to work with zero familiarity with social media or digital marketing, you’ll lose time teaching them how to do the job. That person wouldn’t be right for the job, so make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for before you start searching.

2. Look Inside the Organization First

If you’re part of a small business or work solo, this may not be an option for you. But hiring a personal assistant from inside of the company is a great way to find someone who already understands how everything works.

You won’t have to waste time teaching your assistant about the office culture, do’s and don’t or how to use the computer and phone system. If they’re coming from inside of the business, they’ll save you a huge amount of time in training and allow you to focus on the job’s most important tasks.

3. Consider Virtual Help, Too

You may not need to bring in an actual person into your office. Depending on the tasks you need to be completed, you might be able to hire a virtual assistant instead. Again, you’ll have to figure out every responsibility your assistant will do. Specific tasks suit virtual assistants best, such as bookkeeping and data entry, but you can probably hire one if all of their responsibilities will be computer- or phone-based.

There are also pros and cons to consider when hiring a virtual assistant versus an in-office assistant. Pros might include that your virtual assistant won’t really interact with the team, nor with you, so finding the perfect personality isn’t as much of an issue. You also may not have to worry about taxes or providing benefits for a virtual assistant who likely isn’t working full-time, either. A potential con is that you do have to contend with your assistant’s other clients, which means your work may not be first priority all the time.

4. Propose a Sample Project

You can ask a person a long list of the best interview questions and get some incredible answers. Still, you won’t have an idea of how they work with you or troubleshoot on their own.

To get a better gauge, set up a particular scenario that simulates how your potential personal assistant would handle a normal situation that comes up at work. For example, tell your interviewee how you have an upcoming meeting with fellow executives and that you need lunch catered. Have the candidate describe how they would get all of that organized and ready to ensure it’s on time, and everyone’s happy with the food supplied.

Of course, not every PA will be in charge of lunch catering and coordination. Find a task that is representative of what your assistant will be in charge of and see who has the best method for handling it — that may just be your perfect candidate.

5. Rely on References

Just like interview questions, a resume paints only part of the picture of a person’s skills and experience. A former boss or coworker can add more color to the picture, and it’s vital you get some first-hand accounts of your potential assistant’s demeanor and assets before you hire them.

Every resume should come with references, and you should make a point to reach out to those people once you’ve narrowed down the candidate pool to your final two or three.

6. Make Sure Your Personalities Gel

Someone can have a great resume and an outstanding amount of training and education, but they still may not be the perfect personal assistant if the two of you don’t get along. It may be difficult to gauge in an interview setting when nerves are high, but you can probably weed out the people with whom you didn’t click. Try and choose the person with whom conversation flows — sharing a laugh gets bonus points.

As one business executive pointed out, he’s had the same assistant for 15 years and counting because their personalities meshed so well. She could handle his cranky moods, share a laugh with him and stay one step ahead of the things he wanted and needed while on the job because they had built such a rapport. This type of working relationship will serve both of you very well, and, while you can never foresee how well you’ll get along with someone, go with your gut about who you gel with best.

7. Give the Candidate Time to Decide on Your Offer

Once you’ve found the perfect person, your instinct will probably be to call them up and offer the job right away with an immediate start date. While this seems convenient on your end, it may seem too fast and sudden for someone considering a career move.

Always give your new assistant time to mull over your offer and time to give notice at another job and prepare before starting with you. The best, most responsible workers typically need this time so that they can wisely, slowly transition, so give it to them.

The next thing you know, you’ll be working side-by-side with the best candidate for the job and experiencing a much less stressful workload, thanks to your careful hiring from start to finish.

(Photo by Fernando Venzano on Unsplash)

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