An interview with Outsourcery’s HR Manager on How she Recruits Virtual PAs

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What does your ideal virtual PA look like?

My ideal virtual PA has experience in a personal assistant role for at least two years as well as travel experience, particularly in and around the UK. She/he would also be a fast learner and have a very good work ethic. I also look for someone who is a good cultural fit for our Outsourcery and who shares and upholds our core values.  


How rigorous is Outsourcery’s recruitment process?

We probably have one of the most stringent processes out there. Before even interviewing our PAs they have been through online testing, personality questionnaires and background checks. After the interview they still have a training day that ends in an assessment to determine if they will be matched to clients.  


What steps does a potential PA need to go through during the interview process?

A potential PA will submit a CV and cover letter. If accepted they will move on to a shortlist of PAs who will receive an online personality questionnaire, an online IT test and a request for a video introduction with a week’s deadline. When all three of the requests are reviewed the successful candidates are called in for interviews at our head office where they are asked a series of questions. If the interview goes well they will be invited to the training session which is a full day that covers all our systems as well as important techniques on being a virtual PA. The training day ends with an assessment and the top achievers from the day will be sent an offer for the position.


What do you look for in a CV?

The first thing that I look for in a CV is its general layout and professionalism. If there are careless mistakes I don’t continue reading it. If it is well written I look through the skills and languages and then go through the candidate’s experience to validate those skills. Administration is obviously a minimum requirement and specific skills that I look out for are accounting and bookkeeping, social media skills, travel booking skills and writing skills.  


Do you look for specific career backgrounds or qualifications when shortlisting potential virtual PA’s?

I do give preference to candidates who have worked in high pressure careers, specifically project managers, production managers, event coordinators or travel agents as I have found that they handle this position extremely well.


What are the attributes of your most successful PA’s and has that helped you to pin down the criteria you are looking for in new PA’s?

My most successful PAs are the ones who have worked as PAs for a very long time or have had very high pressure jobs that have caused them to fill many roles. They are the PAs that always reply to mails immediately and show the highest levels of professionalism. When looking at my top employees it all really came down to experience and maturity. I would say this has definitely influenced what I look for in new PAs, I always ask myself “will this candidate be able to top my best PAs?”, if not, “should I even consider them?”


I believe you have introduced an online IT skills test. Why is that?

As a virtual company technological skills are essential and I was finding that some candidates with amazing administrative skills were struggling with the virtual aspect of the job. I realised that the technological aspect of the job was what separated someone who would be a good PA and someone who could be a great virtual PA, as there is a huge difference.


I believe that you use video functionality as one of the steps in your interview process. Why is that and how does that work?

I introduced the video aspect to further test the applicants. I use it to see their tenacity and how much they want the job, I also use it to get a good first impression and hear how they speak as this is how their clients will meet them and I think it is important for me to see what their clients will see. My request for the video is simple, to send a video introducing themselves and to tell me why they want the job and I give them two methods of sending it to me. This is a kill two birds with one stone step as I see how well they present themselves as well as their ability to execute a task and how well they can use technology.  


How long does the recruitment process take, from first receiving a CV to placing a PA?

The recruitment process takes about a month and a half in total because of the many steps involved by the time they are ready to be placed.


When placing and matching a PA to a client, what are the most crucial elements that you consider?

The first element I consider is what tasks the client needs and which PAs have the skills to cover them? Timing is also crucial, so if a client need their PA at certain hours of the day this will greatly sway my choice. I also consider the industries that the PA has worked in previously in comparison to the client’s industry. I then look at cultural fit and personality fit.  


What is the benefit of a Virtual PA being part of your team?

Constant support and training is one of the best things that we equip our employees with. We all get together monthly not only to go over a new tool or software but to collaborate on ideas. The team is always pushing each other to learn new skills to be better PAs.

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