If your small business is growing and the workload is getting heavier, it may be time for you to start thinking of hiring help, such a part-time or full-time virtual assistant. As with all new business experiences, making your first hire can have some unexpected twists and turns. Without a human resources department to lean on you probably will be doing this on your own and of course want to save time, headaches, and get the best employees, right?
You may realize that the person is not a good fit too late down the line, or that you are not able to provide them with clear instructions to get the results you need. I mention these two in particular based on personal experience, but there can be more…however, you don’t have to go through the same ups and downs!
After having made numerous hires throughout the years, I have designed a short but comprehensive checklist that helps me prevent potential issues and covers the different phases of a new hire – from what I brainstorm before even posting the job ad or asking for referrals to the meeting I have with the employee at the end of their probation period. The whole process takes about one hour.
I’d like to save you some time and potential headaches, so if you’re getting ready to do one of your first hires, keep reading.
The Pre-Hire Checklist
There are many things you need to ask yourself before starting to interview candidates.
Start from the big ideas: what are the pain points in your business right now? Even if you think you have them clear, try to write them down and articulate them.
From these, you will naturally think of the areas your employee could help you with. Try to be as detailed as possible, so that you will really understand where the problems are and get yourself thinking of possible solutions.
You should now be more specific and figure out exactly what tasks you would like them to perform. How much time do you think it will take them? Don’t spend a lot of time on this, 5 minutes should be enough – but go into detail.
For example, you may want to have someone take videos, edit them, add an intro on YouTube, and write timestamps. It is not a process, but it is very specific and allows you to picture the type of person and processes you will need.
At this point, it may be a good idea to review these tasks and think of alternative solutions.
Perhaps you can avoid them in the first place, or you can delegate them to a colleague or partner, or even automate them. All sorts of technical solutions can be automated, things like moving media across platforms, basic research, to managing leads. Zapier is a good example of a tool that can help with automation. For more information on using Zapier and other automation tools, check out the Entrepreneurs Productivity Guidebook.
If you cannot find an automated solution, you will have confirmed that you really need this hire which is good news. By looking over the tasks you want them to perform you should also now have a good start to any job description that you end up needing to prepare.
Now, a question that many don’t ask but to me is extremely important is: will hiring this person help generate revenue for the business? And if so, how? The answer does not necessarily have to be yes, but it will send your thought process in the right direction. For example, on how you can put someone to work on a revenue-generating stream so that they’re paying for themselves…as opposed to just “doing something” that might end up costing you time for management – if at all possible they should be helping generate revenue or freeing you up to grow your business.
The Main Checklist
Now start thinking about what you are going to do once you have this person working for you. How are you going to assign tasks to your new hire? How will you communicate?
Many people don’t like to have continuous emails going back and forth, I know that I prefer a system like Trello rather than Skype. It is important that you establish these points and that you communicate them clearly during the interview so that candidates know what tools they will need to be comfortable with.
If it is the first time you are onboarding an employee, you might not have any real processes in place, such as Trello cards, instructional videos, or Google Docs with lists or workflows. Of course, having them would make things easier for your assistant, who in return would be more efficient.
However, you don’t necessarily have to rush and create this material before the hire. The crucial point is that you have a plan.
For example, you could agree with your assistant to spend an hour a day during the first week going through things together, recording and saving them for future reference in a training folder using a tool like Loom. If you don’t have a really defined process, just go into it with your eyes open and understanding that you will have to invest some time up front.
The next big step is the reviewing process. Will you review your new hire’s tasks personally, or can you delegate this to a partner? Either way, try to figure out a notification system such as Trello or Slack. This includes thinking of your meetings with the new hire, their frequency, and the platforms you want them to take place on.
Obviously, having a training plan is essential. Do you think you will want to train them in person via video conference? If you are hiring a specialist, this may be only partially necessary, but you should take into account that their skills will cost you more. Also, remember that time spent training will be billable unless you specify otherwise up front.
The Long-Term Checklist
Depending on the tasks your assistant will probably be good to go in most tasks in a few weeks, but the checklist should not stop here.
Think about what more complex processes and tasks you will want to train them on in the long run. You could involve them in this decision, for example by asking them what they really enjoy doing, or if they have suggestions and ideas. It can easily turn into a win-win situation – I have often been surprised by the answer and the work of some employees has then taken a completely new direction that benefited myself and my employee.
One last suggestion I have is to start on a trial basis. I generally am upfront and say that the position is initially going to be a 30-day trial, and after that, we will have a meeting. I find that it not only helps set the guidelines and keeps me from feeling stuck with somebody, but it also motivates me to make sure that they are getting moving forward within that 30 days and they have what is needed.
Main Points To Take Away From The Hiring Checklist
Hopefully, my hiring checklist will save you time in the long run. Here are the main points to leave you with:
- Have a clear idea of what caused the need for a new hire and what tasks you’d like them to perform;
- Even if you still haven’t got them in place, prepare a plan to create training, review and communications processes.
- Think long-term: grant yourself flexibility with a trial period and try to design the advanced training for successful assistants.