More managers and entrepreneurs opt for hiring virtual assistants each year. And while it is certainly nice to have a good-looking assistant sitting in your office, someone you can chat with and have a coffee with, or go for a lunch together, and someone you can easily control in work, it’s just more affordable to hire a virtual assistant.
What’s more, you can hire someone from a developing country, and save a significant amount of money each month. Instead of paying $3,000 you can pay them $500, so in fact you can have six assistants instead of one :).
But what will happen in an interview for this job? What questions will you face while trying to get a job of a virtual assistant, and how should you answer them to make a great impression on your interviewer, and get a job? We will try to find it out together, and let’s start directly with the questions.
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Can you please tell us something about your working experience?
This can be an icebreaker question in many interviews, but it certainly isn’t the case this time over. Remember that they are observing a lot of things while you narrate your experience:
- Do you talk to the point, and do you have some system in your answer, for example referring to your most recent roles first?
- Do you keep an eye contact with them (even if you interview on Zoom or Skype)?
- Is it easy to understand your language, and how good is your English?
Try to show some positive energy right from the start of your interview. Explain, one by one, the jobs you had, and focus on the relevant duties and tasks.
Anything you did with a computer is relevant. So is any administrative work, answering emails and phone calls, organizing schedule for someone, making travel arrangements, and so on.
But the most important thing is to show enthusiasm right from the start of your interview. They shouldn’t get an impression that you apply for a job of a virtual assistant just because you can’t get any better position at the moment. If they got such an impression, they would not hire you.
What is your experience with [this or that] task (or computer software)?
At the end of the day, there isn’t anything like a standard template for a job of a virtual assistant…. If you work for a traveling businessman you may be responsible mainly for answering emails, and arranging their travels (buying flight tickets, booking hotels, etc).
But if you work for a blogger or a successful internet portal (imagine working for our website, InterviewPenguin.com as a good example :)), you may respond for leading an outreach campaign, or even for SEO optimization of existing articles.
So this really depends, but you can be sure that when they ask you about your experience with a certain task or program, you will need it in your work.
- If you have an experience, explain clearly how you gained your experience, and how long have you been working with the software (or on similar tasks).
- If you do not have an experience, ensure the interviewer that you are a quick learner, strong with computers, and are sure that you will learn to work with it in no time.
- You can check also specific answers for MS Excel and MS Word, some of the most common software you may work with as a virtual assistant.
What is your time zone and availability?
The most important thing here is to show some flexibility. Surely, you are located in a certain time zone, and prefer not to work during the night… At the same time, however, you are willing to sacrifice something for the job, and you understand it is important to have a regular call or online chat with your employer.
Hence you do not mind working for example at 10pm, because it’s 10am in the US, and that’s an ideal time for your superior to have a short chat with you each day, summarizing the work and discussing the tasks for the next day…
Why should we hire you as a virtual assistant (with no experience)?
If you post an interesting offer for virtual assistant job on any popular platform, such as Upwork or Freelancer, you will get dozens of applications within first few hours. And while you can follow reviews and what not, it still isn’t easy to choose just one person for the job, especially when some candidates have no experience, and you still want to consider them. In such a case, people will often ask the dreaded “Why should we hire you?” question. And I can tell you it isn’t an easy one to answer, especially if you lack previous working experience. Nevertheless, you can try one of the following approaches to make some impression.
One is focusing on your strengths. You can say you are the most responsible VA out there. Never late, always meeting deadlines, over-delivering, understanding instructions easily, able to work independently, coming up with new ideas for your boss, etc. Of course it helps if you have reviews that prove such claims, but even if you don’t, you can give it a shot. Another is offering a lower rate–for the start at least. In some extreme cases you can even offer them to work for free for the first week, so they can see the value you bring as their VA, and just then decide whether or not to hire you. Such level of confidence will impress many people.
Last but not least, you can bet on humility, showing your great character in the process. Saying that you believe each VA has their strengths and weaknesses and you cannot judge whether or not you’d do better than other candidates–whom you wish only the best in both work and life, you show a nice personality and attitude to other people. Some managers and professionals prefer to work with people of such character, and hence they may prioritize you, even if you lack experience and do not boast about your skills…
Tell me about a time when you came to a halt in your work, not knowing how to proceed further. What did you do?
It’s crucial to show them that you can work independently. It’s a nightmare for each businessman or manager to have a call with their virtual assistant and find out that they did nothing during the day, because they didn’t know how to proceed with a certain task, and came to a halt.
You should narrate a situation when you encountered some problems, but you either used your deduction to find the way forward, or you consulted the smart friend Google–who can help with almost everything nowadays.
The most important thing is to show them that you didn’t stop. Maybe you even called your employer and asked–there’s no shame in doing that, unless you woke them up in the middle of the night. One way or another, ensure them that you can work independently, and solve problems.
What methods of communication do you prefer?
I suggest you to say the following: You prefer the means of communication that fits your employer. Is it Skype, Zoom, What’s up? Is it a call, or an email? Do they want to keep the talk going on Slack or similar project management platform?
Maybe you do not have an account with their favorite platform, but you will set it up, just to make things most convenient for them.
Another option is saying that you prefer call to email (platform doesn’t really matter), since it takes less time to discuss matters over the phone. You want to work efficiently, and do a lot of stuff for your employer, so certainly the last thing you want is spending half of the day just changing emails with your boss…
* May also interest you: How would you describe your communication skills?
Imagine that you open your mailbox and see dozens of messages. How do you decide which one will you respond to first?
Ensure them that you won’t panic. Fine, there are many messages, that means something is going on, customers & business partners are writing. It’s ten times better than having no messages in your inbox :).
You can suggest a few options at this point. First one is skimming the messages quickly (10 seconds per message) the most, marking the messages with highest priority along the way, and then start with answering them first.
Another option is following the rule first come, first served, going email after email, starting with the oldest one. You either reply to the message or delete it, or do nothing. Approaching it in this way, dealing with the message as soon as you read it, you make sure that you won’t waste any unnecessary time with any of the messages.
Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to someone. How did you get your message over?
The key is to show them that you won’t give up easily.
Someone doesn’t understand you? Fine, so you will explain things differently. You will use presentation, demonstration, practical examples. You will refer them to the right video on YouTube, or right article on a blog. Once they read it, they should understand your message. And if they do not, you will keep on trying.
Try to demonstrate this approach while narrating the situation from your last job, or even from your personal life or school.
Do you have any references I can contact?
This question is a bit tricky. First and foremost, I know that many virtual assistants work for more than one boss… Trying to make more money, you work for two people or companies simultaneously, without them being aware of the situation. If that’s the case, in no way should you give your other employer as a reference…
You can certainly give them a number (or email) of your last boss, someone you do not work with anymore, but do it only if you left them on good terms. Also, if you offer such a reference, you can expect to get the following question: “Why did you leave that job?“. Be sure to have an answer ready.
At the end of the day, it is impossible to verify the authenticity of your references, especially if you live on the other end of the planet, for example in Asia while your employer is from the US.
I have heard several times about a case when a VA asked their good friend (often also an VA) to play a manager or entrepreneur and serve as a reference for them in the interviews, saying some good things, praising their attitude and work ethics. More often than not, the interviewers did not find out the truth, and considered the reference authentic…
I do not suggest you to opt for this option, but since the goal of our website is primarily to help job seekers succeed (and not employers), I decided to share this information with you…
What are your salary expectations?
My mark words: Do not set your expectations too low, and know your price. At the end of the day, there will always be some virtual assistants from really poor countries who will offer their services for a ridiculously cheap price – 5 dollars a day, for example. You cannot compete with them, and you should not intend to.
Your goal is to demonstrate your skills and motivation in an interview, and to convince the manager it makes sense to hire you. Even if you ask for $5/hour, it’s still MUCH cheaper than the salary they would have to pay if they wanted to hire a VA in their native country.
At the end of the day, it makes no sense to do a job unless you earn enough to pay your bills, and to have a decent lifestyle… You can also check some salary negotiation tips to learn how to get the best possible offer at the end of your VA interview.
Do you have any questions?
There’s a lot of shady stuff going on in this field of economy. Because when you cooperate with someone on the other side of the planet, it’s almost impossible to start a legal action against them, for example when they refuse to pay you…
That’s why it is crucial to discuss all details in the interview. Ask particularly about the following (if it wasn’t already discussed in the interview):
- The job contract. There should be some contract. Do not rely on gentleman agreement only, it can easily backfire in this case.
- Shift patterns and working hours. It’s important to ensure that you won’t have to work in some hours that are unacceptable for you.
- Salary and payment method and schedule. If they are serious, they will suggest some good payment schedule (perhaps even weekly payments), and a method of sending money that works in your country…
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a virtual assistant belongs to tricky interviews. The questions won’t be difficult, but you typically won’t meet your employer in person, and there may be a language barrier, or even a cultural barrier.
Try to prepare for the questions, ensure that you interview from a place with strong and reliable internet connection, and do not forget to bring some positive energy and enthusiasm to the (virtual) room. I wish you good luck and hope that you will succeed!
May also interest you:
- BPO interview questions.
- Administrative Assistant interview questions.
- Skype interview tips – Interviewing for a job on Skype. Be sure to check 7 crucial tips to make it a success.