September 29

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How to Hire a Personal Assistant: 179 Applicants in 3 days

By Hanson Cheng

September 29, 2021


The number one pitfall most entrepreneurs fall into is having TOO many unprioritized things on their to-do list. This results in overwhelm and prevents you (the busy business owner) from focusing on doing the things that actually move the needle for your business.

Learning how to hire a personal assistant is a skill you'll need to learn early on to free up your time so you can focus on the tasks that your business requires to grow. On top of that, knowing how to make the right hire can save you up to 78% percent of operating costs each year.

In this guide, I'll be sharing with you my top lessons on how to hire a personal assistant. These tips have been battle-tested over a decade of experience in multiple industries. 

Let's dive right in.

What to look for in a great personal assistant

A personal assistant is someone who provides professional administrative support for you. Their primary responsibility is to help their boss with the workload, freeing them up to focus on more important tasks that need attention. Every job has different tasks needed, but I've found that the best personal assistants I've hired possess these skills.

Good Communication Skills

Excellence in communicating is essential if you hire a virtual assistant. When you don't work physically together, the success of the working relationship falls entirely on good communication. Communicating whether they have questions or don't understand what you want is more important than them getting the job right on the first go. They need to keep detailed records of all conversations and meetings between themselves and their boss, brief bosses on urgent matters should the need arise.

Problem-solving Skills

Your new hire will inevitably run into a problem sooner or later. The right hire will think of a few potential solutions to solve the problem at hand and either figure out how to solve the problem or ask you for advice on which solution to proceed with first. You don't want someone who asks you for the next step every time they run into an obstacle. The best person to hire knows what the desired outcome is and takes the responsibility to find the most efficient and effective way to accomplish the desired result. 

Organization Skills

Personal assistants need to be highly detail-oriented and be familiar with organizing information. 65% of assistants believe attention to detail is one of the essential skills within their role. I usually look for personal assistants skilled in the most popular project management tools because knowing these tools usually means they understand how to manage multiple projects and team members. Project management is a critical skill to have as you begin to scale your team.

Desire to Learn

Consistent learning is crucial for hiring someone who will work with you for a long time. The purpose of every business is to grow in income, clients, and as a result, team members. It would help if you had a personal assistant that could grow alongside you. Hire someone who enjoys constantly learning new skills and improving old processes that have become redundant.

Do you need a personal assistant?

The need for an executive assistant depends on the size of your business at this moment, how you're spending your time, and what your goals are for the next 6-12 months. The common misconception I see when hiring a personal assistant is that this person is expected to be a magic wand to fix the disorganization of the entrepreneur. If your tasks, business, and processes are a mess, it's the wrong time to hire a personal assistant.

Let's get clear on your personal assistant job responsibilities. An executive assistant's job is to help run a well-oiled machine, not solve the myriad of inefficiencies stunting your growth. If you don't have an efficient way of running your business with well-documented standard operation procedures, hiring an administrative assistant is not going to be the best thing for you now. It would be more beneficial to take the time to prioritize all of the steps and tasks that need to take place for you to run your business so when you're ready to hire a new personal assistant, they can have clear expectations of their responsibilities from the beginning. If this is something you need help with, you should hire an operations consultant to help you lay out a clear map of how your business is currently run.

Once this step is completed, you're now ready to hire your first personal assistant. I've laid out the exact steps I do that you can follow to hire your first executive assistant.

The 7 Steps to Hiring a Personal Assistant

Identify the most time-consuming tasks.

Before you hire a personal assistant, you need to have a clear idea of what you want them to do. One of my favorite exercises to help you figure out which tasks should be done by you and which should be delegated is the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple exercise for visualizing the impact of your everyday activities and allowing you to zero in on tasks that actually move the needle. It allows you to see all of your tasks represented in a matrix of which is most urgent and important and which should be delegated or ignored.

Source:  Todoist

Make a list of the daily tasks that you do to run your business and compartmentalize them into the Eisenhower Matrix. Create clear SOPs for The tasks in the bottom left quadrant to delegate to an executive assistant.

Create a clear job description and responsibilities to attract the ideal personal assistant

This step is vitally important for every position in your company. I've made the mistake of being too vague with what my personal assistant's responsibilities were in the past, which resulted in unmet expectations and frustration from both parties.

That's why it's important to create a clear job description and responsibilities for the position you are hiring for. This will attract the ideal candidate who is looking for the exact job you are hiring for and save you time in the long run when interviewing candidates. You want someone who shares your values and has experience with what you need them to do on a day-to-day basis. It's important that they have an understanding of your business so they can work efficiently and effectively with minimal supervision from you.

Another benefit in getting your job descriptions super clear comes if this person ever ends up leaving. You will already know how to hire a personal assistant and won't need to repeat these steps.

If you're new to this and need some inspiration on how to create a job description, Upwork is a great way to brainstorm new ideas and ways to write out your job description.

You can sign up as a freelancer on Upwork and search for jobs that fit the role you're hiring for. You can then model the job descriptions that jump off the page to you and look appealing.

Source:  Todoist

This method will also show you what the market is paying for the position you're hiring for so you can fill out your job description with the necessary information:

  • details of the position
  • salary or hourly wage requirements
  • duties you may not have thought of
  • hours expected per week

Go to Where Your Ideal Candidates Hangout

This is my trick to finding heaps of applicants for the position I'm hiring for. My favorite place to place my job postings is in Facebook groups.

You can start by searching Facebook for the type of group where your ideal candidate would hang out. Here is my thought process for executing this.

  • The type of personal assistant I want to hire needs to be able to have experience with online businesses and be relatively affordable.
  • People who have experience working online usually are attracted to living remotely and traveling.
  • People who live in countries that have a much lower cost of living than the US would have lower salary requirements.
  • Therefore, I would want to look for digital nomads living in countries in Southeast Asia.

As you can see, I've quickly found multiple Facebook groups with THOUSANDS of potential people to hire for personal assistant services.

You can quickly join a few groups and post your job listing in the groups to start attracting applicants.

But before you do that, make sure to follow the next step to save yourself the headache of going through hundreds of applications.

Automate the Screening Process: The Secret to getting 179 applications in 3 days

Most people interview a few people before hiring someone. The reason for this is because the effort it takes to interview people takes its toll early, and you end up picking from the best of the first couple of people you interview. 

There's a chance you end up picking the best of two poor candidates.

I prefer to have a lot of candidates, which allows me to have a higher chance of getting someone amazing.  

This is something I do to attract the best talent with as little effort as possible. I use a combination of google forms, Airtable, Active Campaign, and Zapier to automate the onboarding process.

I'll share the exact onboarding process I am currently using to recruit writers (you can use the same process to hire a personal assistant).

  • Step 1:

I create a template outreach message to post in Facebook groups, job boards, Linkedin Messages, and other places I think my ideal hire would hang out.

At the end of my outreach message, I put the link to my google form for them to fill out and apply.

  • Step 2:

This google form entry gets automatically inputted into Airtable, where I can review all the applicants in one area. Each google form question ends up in an Airtable column. As you can see, this method is EXTREMELY effective. I have over 179 applicants.

  • Step 3:

Based on their writing samples, I will change their status to "Application Declined" or "Testing."

  • Step 4:

I create automations via Zapier to send automated emails based on whichever status is chosen.

If the application is denied, they are sent a thank you email politely letting them know they didn't make it to the next stage.

If the status is changed to "Testing," they are sent another automated email with a trial task and specific instructions/video walkthrough of how to complete the task and how to submit the trial task.

  • Step 5:

Once this automation is created, I can use this onboarding machine to hire for EVERY position in my company. All I need to do is change the outreach message, google form questions, emails, and trial task based on the position I'm hiring for.

Trial Task

I mentioned this in the last step, but I want to dig more into how to create a trial task for the position you're hiring for.

Remember the Eisenhower Matrix from before? Think about the primary administrative tasks they'd be doing on a day to day and create a small version of it to see how they do.

In my example, I am hiring SEO writers, so I have them write a mini-trial article. I am looking at several variables of the task that help me identify whether they are good candidates or not.

I mentioned some of the characteristics to look for in a personal assistant above.

Some variables I look for in a writer are:

  • Do they follow instructions well?
  • Do they write a good intro to hook the reader?
  • Are they able to create a captivating title?
  • Are they able to conclude the article in the way that is shown?
  • Purchases they’ve made on your site.

The trial task is then created to show how well they do with the aforementioned variables.

Having every applicant accomplish a trial task will save you valuable time in your interview process.

Future proof with SOP's for this position (so you'll never need to do this onboarding again)

Now that you've nailed down your number one candidate, it's time to offer them the job. The first few days or weeks are set aside for onboarding.

I accomplish every task I want them to be responsible for with them. But the secret hack here is to have them document every step. This is a way to kill two birds with one stone. Having them write down every step of the process as you do it together helps them learn the exact steps on how to accomplish the task at hand, AND they create a detailed SOP for you at the same time. This is my favorite thing to do because you now have an onboarding training SOP for any future hires for this job position.

How should you pay your assistants?

87.7% of virtual assistants are paid hourly. I live in Bali, Indonesia, and I don't need to hire people that are physically present. As an online business owner, I employ people from all over the world with different hourly rates. I have contractors, employees, executive assistants in the USA, Canada, Russia, Malta, Italy, and many other countries.

If you want to take advantage of finding and hiring the best talent from all over the world, you'll need to have a way to pay them in their local currency. The best and most cost-effective way I've found to pay all my contractors in their local currency is through a company called Wise (formerly Transfer Wise).

Why You Should Hire Slow and Fire Fast

The key takeaway here is to set up a process where everyone (not just your executive assistant) goes through a rigorous testing period to see how they perform and deliver in different scenarios.  

If you follow the steps outlined above, spending time and money training someone who isn't the right fit is an avoidable mistake.  If they fail any trial tasks or show poor communication skills, move QUICKLY to the next potential hire.  

When you finally find the right hire, you'll be amazed at how much more you'll be able to accomplish with them by your side.

FAQ's About Hiring a Personal Assistant

How to Hire a Personal Assistant for Free?

You should never expect to get someone to work for you for free. However, if you're short on money, there are other ways to compensate someone in exchange for their help. You can hire interns that want to learn about the industry your company is in or acquire a skill through working as your personal assistant. Many colleges require students to attain real-life work experience through paid or unpaid internships for school credit. You can post openings for internships at internships.com.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Personal Assistant?

In the United States, there is no set price for a personal assistant. Prices can range from $13 an hour to more than $100 per hour (depending on the industry and experience of the assistant). If you hire internationally, virtual assistants from countries like Russia, the Philippines, or India can be as low as $3 an hour. How much it costs to hire a personal assistant will vary vastly on where they live, their skill level, and what their responsibilities are. As a rule of thumb, you should hire personal assistants on a contract basis if it's a one-time project or if it's a deliverable that can be measured. (example: $1 for every email sent). You should hire on an hourly basis if the role requires them to do multiple tasks throughout the day.

What can a personal assistant do for me?

Here are some typical tasks and personal assistant job responsibilities:

  • Social Media Management
  • Email Management
  • Vendor Management
  • Calendar Management
  • Travel Arrangements
  • Basic Accounting or Payroll Management
  • Marketing Outreach

What are the top 3 skills for the PA position?

The three most common skills for personal assistant services are data entry, administrative tasks, and customer service. These skills can be obtained through any of the following: degrees in these fields of study; certificates of completion; experience within the field (i.e., internships).

Last Updated on October 14, 2021 by Hanson Cheng

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Hanson Cheng

About the author

Living in Bali with my Fiancee and puppy, (Alina and Pickles). Scaling online businesses and sharing lessons learned on this website and in our email newsletter. Always happy to hear from you, so find me on Instagram if you want to say hi!

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