If you’re looking for remote administrative support to reduce stress and free up time to focus on what’s most important in your business, there is a wide range of virtual assistant services on the market to consider.
Many of these services look similar on the surface—most offer support for administrative tasks such as email management, calendar management, research, data entry, travel planning and booking, social media, and bookkeeping.
But there are 2 key factors to consider to determine which VA staffing solution will provide you with the best assistant:
- What does their hiring process look like? Does the vetting process of the virtual assistant company you’re considering directly measure assistant candidates on the traits and abilities that predict success in an assistant role?
- Are their virtual assistants fully dedicated? When they place you with an assistant, is that assistant dedicated to working full-time and only with you? Or are their VAs part-time and busy with other clients within or outside of the company?
In this post, we’ll compare our remote executive assistant service to two popular virtual assistant services—Zirtual and BELAY—based on these 2 criteria.
Note: Our unique hiring methodology enables us to find world-class assistants for our clients. We hire roughly 1 out of every 1,000 applicants. If you’ve been wanting a virtual assistant and you’d like to work with someone who can take on more than just administrative tasks, fill out our form. You can try one of our remote executive assistants for a month or two and see how you like it. For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.
Persona: Top 0.1% Remote Assistants for Founders and Executives
Here’s a look at how we’ve addressed each of the two factors described above.
Factor #1: A Rigorous Hiring Methodology That Directly Measures the Qualities That Predict Success in an Assistant Role
Unlike most virtual assistant services which do not tend to share much about their hiring processes, we have written at length about our hiring methodology.
In our founding story, we explained the 3 biggest mistakes that companies make when hiring for generalist roles like assistants:
- They rely too heavily on proxy variables. Companies often vet candidates based on superficial variables like where they went to school or where they worked previously and for how long. But these criteria do not predict success in an assistant role. They’re used to make assumptions about candidates, but they don’t provide concrete evidence about candidates’ traits and abilities.
- They place too much emphasis on past work experience as an assistant. Companies often favor candidates with past years of experience as an assistant. In our opinion, this is superficially relevant experience—not truly useful experience. Different executives have different processes, priorities, workflows, tools, values, and delegation choices—often rendering past assistant experience functionally useless. To be a great assistant, you just need the right qualities and traits. Often we find the best assistants are really smart people coming from different industries and looking to make a career change. And when companies favor candidates with past assistant experience, they often miss out on the best applicants.
- They rely solely on resumes and interviews when vetting candidates. Most companies do not use tools beyond resume review, interviews, and reference checks when evaluating candidates. And these are insufficient for measuring the qualities that candidates need to be successful as an assistant.
To solve these problems, we’ve used our backgrounds in behavioral science and assessment design to create a hiring methodology that directly measures the 4 key qualities that predict success in an assistant role:
- Problem Solving Ability: How smart are they? Can they figure things out in new and complex situations?
- Key Character and Behavioral Traits: Are they organized, reliable, trustworthy, detail-oriented, etc.?
- Communication Ability: How well do they write and communicate? Can they play the role of gatekeeper, communicating on your behalf or alongside you with key stakeholders (executive team members, board members, investors, etc.)?
- Tech Savvy-ness: How comfortable are they with learning new technologies and software? How quickly can they pick up and learn the programs that modern companies use to run their businesses?
We spend much less time focusing on proxy variables such as where candidates went to school or worked previously, and primarily focus on measuring these core qualities and traits.
Our philosophy is that if candidates demonstrate they possess the right traits and abilities, then factors like where they went to school or whether they have past assistant experience don’t matter. On the other hand, if someone has been an assistant before but they aren’t a great problem solver, or they aren’t super organized and reliable, that will significantly impact their ability to perform for you on the job.
Furthermore, rather than relying solely on resume review and interviews—which are insufficient for measuring abilities like problem solving, written communication skills, etc.—we use a tailored combination of the following when assessing candidates:
- Quantitative assessments: Tests that allow us to evaluate candidates accurately on key generalist abilities.
- Structured interviews: A strategic interview process to cross-compare candidates on the qualities and abilities that matter.
- Work sample projects: Mock projects to see the quality of their work, based on the types of tasks they’re likely to do in a VA role.
- Communication exercises: Exercises to evaluate candidates on key communication skills such as email etiquette.
- Reference and background checks: A structured approach to interviewing candidates’ references.
By leveraging assessments, work sample projects, and communication exercises (which you can view examples of in this post), we’re able to see how well candidates perform the exact types of work they’ll be responsible for on the job—before we ever hire them.
As such, we know that when we hire an assistant, they’re highly capable of performing well on the job. We’re not assuming this based on superficial proxies.
And lastly, our methodology is customized to evaluate different candidates in different ways based on their backgrounds and how they perform throughout the hiring process.
Here are a few examples:
Example #1: Assessing a Weakness Shared by a Reference
If a candidate has a critical reference who describes a weakness that the candidate has, we select a sample project for that candidate to perform in order to evaluate for ourselves the scope of that purported weakness.
Example #2: Assessing Tech Savviness
If we determine that a candidate is smart but may not have the requisite tech savviness to work with our startup founder clientele, we take additional steps to measure the candidate’s ability in navigating and reasoning about modern software tools and interfaces.
The Result of a More Rigorous Approach: Top Talent Assistants That Go Beyond Admin
This methodical approach to evaluating and hiring allows us to provide virtual assistants that a) do more than what traditional virtual administrative assistants do and b) consistently exceed our clients’ expectations.
Currently, our assistants manage some combination of the following for our clients:
- Communications: Manage email, communicate on an executive’s behalf and alongside them with company staff members and key stakeholders, draft company memos, etc.
- Scheduling and time management: Manage an executive’s calendar, schedule meetings and phone calls, resolve scheduling issues, balance personal appointments with work meetings.
- Project management: Manage the CEO’s to-dos, ensure they stay up to date and on track with their key projects.
- Business operations: Help create, organize, and improve on internal business processes and standard operating procedures.
- Marketing and social media management: Create and schedule social media posts on top platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, monitor engagement metrics, respond to comments, help grow overall online presence.
- People operations: Manage employee onboarding, assist in the employee recruitment process (e.g. reviewing resumes and cover letters for certain criteria), manage payroll, etc.
- Strategic planning: Work with the company leaders to define and come up with plans for new products, initiatives, and services. Project manage some or all of these new company programs.
- Client services: Handle important interactions with clients (e.g. customer support, invoicing, etc.). Provide ideas and feedback about how to improve systems and processes.
- Special projects: Manage a wide variety of unique projects depending on what your executive needs. For example, our EAs have worked on things like light graphic design in Canva, workflow design, transcription, lead generation, CRM management, Amazon eCommerce management, and more.
- Personal assistant tasks: Help make online orders, reservations, travel arrangements, and other accommodations for executives’ personal lives.
Factor #2: Full-Time, Fully Dedicated Executive Assistants
Most virtual assistant services structure their services around offering part-time assistants. And as a result, it’s not uncommon for their assistants to work with other clients or have other jobs in addition to their engagement with you (within or outside of the VA company).
In our experience—especially for executives—hiring part-time assistants (or assistants that work with other clients) tends to lead to poor outcomes for a variety of reasons:
- An assistant’s effectiveness increases the more they work with you. Learning the preferences, relationships, and systems are what determine the effectiveness and value of an assistant. And part-time assistants take significantly longer to learn these compared to full-time assistants.
- Part-time assistants cost more per hour than full-time assistants. Where a full-time assistant might cost $40/hour, a part-time assistant might cost $60/hour for the same types of tasks. So in that sense you see less ROI per dollar spent.
- Part-time assistants are less likely to stick with you for the long term. There’s more risk of investing in an assistant only to lose them 6 months into the engagement. And they’re more likely to have other part-time jobs which can lead to scheduling conflicts and distraction from your business and needs.
For these reasons, we’ve chosen to strictly offer full-time, dedicated assistants to our clients. We find that they spend about 30% of their time on administrative tasks such as email and calendar management, and the rest of their time is often spent helping our clients with more complex tasks and projects.
Try a Persona Virtual Executive Assistant for a Month or Two and See How You Like It
We provide world-class executive support for all types of industries, including tech startups, non-profits, real estate, professional services, and more. If you’re a startup founder, entrepreneur, small business owner, or senior management executive of any kind, you can try one for a month or two and see how you like it (no matter what time zone you’re in!).
Here’s how to get started with us:
- Step 1: Complete our form to let us know your needs.
- Step 2: If you’re a good fit, we’ll set up a call to discuss our service with you.
- Step 3: Our team will hand pick an assistant who we think will be a great fit for you based on your needs and business hours.
- Step 4: Our talent team will guide you through the onboarding process.
- Step 5: For a flat rate monthly subscription, you get a world-class assistant that equates to a full-time employee (40 hours of remote work per week, with no long-term commitment needed).
Like most VA services, Zirtual lists the following as being offered by their virtual assistants:
- Inbox management
- Calendar management
- Event planning
- Travel arrangements
- PowerPoint presentations
- Expenses and invoicing
- Social media management
- Web research
- Data entry
- Content management and research
- Website maintenance and support for web design projects
They highlight benefits such as 2 hour response times on tasks, month to month pricing plans with no long term contracts, and security features such as background checks. In addition, they state that all of their VAs are college educated, US-based, and fully dedicated.
As such, they appear to satisfy the second key factor of dedicated assistants. However, it’s worth looking at their assistants’ backgrounds on LinkedIn to confirm this. In some cases, companies will state their assistants are dedicated, but this doesn’t always mean their assistants don’t have other clients outside of the company.
Regarding the first key factor of understanding whether their vetting process directly measures candidates on the qualities and traits that predict success in an assistant role—this is unclear. They don’t appear to discuss their hiring process on their website. So if you decide to talk to them, be sure to ask them:
- What does your hiring process look like?
- What criteria do you focus on when vetting candidates?
- What do you do beyond resume review and interviews?
If they’re vague in answering these questions, focus on the wrong types of criteria like we described above, or rely primarily on resumes and interviews, you should consider other options and choose a company that has a better, more rigorous vetting process like what we use at Persona.
BELAY lists the following services as being offered by their virtual assistants:
- Research and reporting
- Inbox and schedule management
- Travel arrangements and expense reporting
- Project coordination
- Social media assistance
- Light bookkeeping
In addition to their virtual assistant service, they also offer separate services for virtual bookkeepers, social media managers, and website specialists.
Regarding their vetting process, they state that they use an exhaustive recruiting process that includes “…among other things—several video interviews and skills assessments to find skilled, servant-hearted candidates.” However, this is all they say. So, if you decide to talk to them, be sure to ask them to tell you more about how they vet candidates and evaluate for yourself whether it’s as exhaustive a process as they say.
Regarding the second factor of dedicated assistants, BELAY appears to offer both part-time and full-time assistants. So it does look like they can satisfy the second key factor, given that you choose the full-time dedicated option.
Other Virtual Assistant Services
If you’d like to review additional service options, check out our post on the best virtual assistant services which covers pros and cons of other VA services including Fancy Hands, WoodBows, Time Etc., and more.
In addition, check out our post on how to hire a virtual assistant to learn about hiring VA freelancers from sites like Upwork and Fiverr.
Get a Top 0.1% Virtual Executive Assistant with Persona
If you decide that you’d like to try one of our assistants, complete our form to let us know your needs. If you’re a good fit, we’ll set up a call to discuss our service and hand pick an assistant who we think will be a great fit for you.
For testimonials from our clients, check out our homepage.