What to Look for When Hiring: Essential Qualities in Virtual Assistants

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People at a table working on laptops.Have you ever wondered what to look for when hiring virtually

Outsource School founders Nathan and Connor have, and their search is how the company was born. Now, they help business owners understand the fundamentals of virtual hiring.

In this post, we’re sharing with you the essentials of what to look for when hiring. This way, you can zero in on the best for your next virtual team member.

Communication is Key

Strong communication is one of the most important skills for any virtual hire to have. This is how you can bridge the physical distance in today’s increasingly remote work environment. Without face-to-face interaction, you need clear and concise communication for successful teamwork.

Trust and Rapport

First off, strong communication fosters trust and rapport within virtual teams. Moreover, virtual hires need to articulate ideas effectively, present information, and ask clarifying questions. This is because they communicate mostly through non-voice means, which can be tricky. 


We find that strong communication minimizes misunderstandings and delays, leading to a more productive work environment. This is because teams can identify and address issues collaboratively, which also leads to better problem-solving outcomes.

Virtual hires who can communicate well with clients also build trust with the company. Furthermore, teams that focus on communicating effectively can ensure clear project expectations and delivery. That’s the recipe for happy clients.

Positive Team Spirit

Open and honest communication also fosters a positive team spirit and minimizes potential conflicts. Communication skills plus a great attitude makes for teams that pay close attention and understand the nuances of what’s being said. When in doubt, they ask clarifying questions instead of guessing or just not caring. 

Assessing Communication Skills in Potential Hires

During the application stage, make sure you review cover letters and resumes before scheduling interviews. Analyze how well each candidate presents themselves in writing. Look for clear, concise language, proper grammar, and effective articulation of skills and experience. 

Keep a List

Throughout the interview process, keep a list in front of you of what to look for when hiring. This will guide you and help you track candidates’ answers. Develop a set of standardized communication-focused questions to ensure a fair and consistent evaluation process across all candidates.

These questions should prompt the candidates to describe past situations where they used communication skills effectively. Then, encourage the candidates to elaborate on their responses. This allows you to assess their thought process, articulation skills, and ability to provide clear explanations. 

Communication Cues

Pay close attention to how candidates express themselves. Observe their verbal and nonverbal cues like eye contact, body language, and tone of voice. If you want to get a deeper look, ask candidates to give a short presentation during the interview. This can be simulations of real-world scenarios relevant to the position.

You can use that to evaluate the candidates’ ability to structure information, present ideas clearly, and handle questions from a panel. This also helps you to assess technical communication skills relevant to the job. To assess written communication, give candidates short writing assignments relevant to the job role. 

People enjoying talking and working together at a table.

Examples of Essential Communication Skills 


Verbal communication skills are always part of what to look for when hiring for any position. Even with non-voice positions, you will still be talking to these people.

However, especially for client-facing voice roles, aim for candidates with clear and concise delivery. They should be easy to understand, avoiding jargon or overly complex language. Look for a confident and professional tone, too, which inspires trust. 

The best candidates will pay close attention to what others are saying, acknowledging and responding thoughtfully to questions and concerns. They can also adjust their communication based on the audience and situation.

Give special notice to candidates who ask thoughtful questions to clarify information, demonstrate curiosity, and engage in productive discussions.


In terms of written communication, look for strong grammar and punctuation as well as reading ease. The best candidates can convey complex information in a clear and concise manner. They can also adapt their writing style depending on the recipient. A bonus is a strong vocabulary and ability to use words precisely.

Be sure you don’t overlook nonverbal communication skills. Pre-select candidates who make appropriate eye contact to show attentiveness and engagement. Their body language should be positive and open, too. Look for facial expressions congruent with verbal communication. Check that candidates exhibit proper video conferencing etiquette, too, such as muting their microphone when not speaking and dressing professionally.

Additional Skills

The special few will have additional skills.

First, they will show the ability to approach disagreements respectfully and work collaboratively to find solutions.

Second, they will be able to effectively lead meetings. This means keeping discussions focused, ensuring everyone has a chance to participate, and summarizing key points all throughout.

For some positions, the ability to deliver clear and engaging presentations to a larger audience might be important. 

Technical Proficiency and Adaptability

Assessing a candidate’s adaptability to new technologies and troubleshooting skills is crucial for remote and in-person positions alike.

Behavioral Questions

During the interview, ask behavioral interview questions that prompt candidates to describe situations where they had to learn a new technology or troubleshoot an issue. 

Technical Assessments

Consider incorporating technical assessments tailored to the role. This could involve providing simulated software interfaces or common technical challenges faced in the position. Then, evaluate the candidate’s ability to navigate or troubleshoot them.

Live challenges can assess candidates’ ability to adapt to solving new problems and using unfamiliar frameworks. Evaluate their thought process, efficiency, and approach.

Soft Skills

In terms of hiring soft skills, look for indicators that candidates are adaptable. For example, they should show a genuine interest in learning new things and have the ability to explain technical concepts clearly. They should have the capacity to find solutions using available resources and show determination to overcome challenges.

Note that for entry-level positions, a willingness to learn might be more important than extensive technical knowledge. Also, while technical skills are important, don’t categorically overlook less skilled candidates. They might actually align better with your company values, which is important.

In line with this, note that certifications are not always a guarantee of competence. Use them only as indicators of a baseline level of knowledge, and possibly a commitment to professional development.

Four men laughing while freelancing together

Emotional Intelligence and Soft Skills

In the world of virtual teams, physical distance can create barriers to communication and collaboration. This makes emotional intelligence (EQ) more crucial for success.

Emotional Undercurrents

Virtual team members rely more on interpreting verbal cues, tone of voice, and written communication style to understand emotional undercurrents. Strong EQ equips them to decode these signals and respond appropriately. EQ also fosters trust and rapport despite physical distance.

Virtual team members with high EQ can create a sense of connection through active listening, empathy, and positive communication. This leads to a more cohesive and collaborative team environment.

Clarity and Empathy

Of equal importance is how EQ fosters clear, concise, and considerate communication. This reduces misunderstandings and communication breakdowns that can be common in virtual settings.

Moreover, virtual teams with high EQ can navigate disagreements constructively, approaching conflict with empathy and finding solutions that address everyone’s concerns.

In addition, EQ helps virtual team members manage their own emotions and be sensitive to the emotions of others. This can reduce stress levels and prevent burnout, which can be more prevalent in isolated work environments.


Leaders with high EQ can motivate and inspire virtual team members, even from afar. They set a clear vision and communicate goals effectively. They also recognize and appreciate individual contributions and create a positive virtual work environment.

Leaders with strong soft skills can empower their teams and create a sense of ownership over projects. This helps them delegate tasks more effectively and encourage teams to deliver results independently.

Essential EQ Skills for Virtual Teams

Understanding one’s own emotions and how they impact others is crucial for effective communication and self-management. The ability to put oneself in another’s shoes and understand their perspective is essential for building trust and rapport in a virtual setting.

Strong social skills allow virtual team members to build relationships, collaborate effectively, and navigate complex social situations that might arise online. EQ fosters the ability to build and maintain positive working relationships with virtual colleagues and clients, even through digital channels.

Evaluating EQ

Evaluating EQ can be tricky, but if you know what to look for when hiring, you can find the indicators. Ask situational and behavioral interview questions that prompt candidates to describe situations where they used emotional intelligence skills. Ask probing questions to understand their thought process. This reveals their self-awareness and emotional reasoning. Then, analyze their response for empathy, conflict resolution strategies, and emotional regulation. 

You can present candidates with hypothetical scenarios that might relate to the specific job role. Ask them to describe how they would approach and manage the situation. Evaluate their problem-solving skills combined with empathy and communication strategies. Pay close attention to soft skills displayed throughout the interview that can be indicators of emotional intelligence. 

A smiling woman wearing headphones looking at a laptop screen and waving.

Cultural Fit, Work Ethic, and Integrity

Physical distance can create challenges in fostering a sense of team spirit and belonging. This is where culture compatibility becomes even more important for remote teams. A strong company culture is built on a foundation of shared values, beliefs, and goals. When remote team members understand and embrace these values, it fosters cohesion and a sense of working towards a common purpose.

Company Culture

Culture compatibility promotes open and honest communication, too. This is essential for collaboration and navigating potential misunderstandings that can arise more easily in remote settings. A shared culture creates common ground and fosters a sense of psychological safety where team members feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Feeling like part of a team and aligning with company values boosts employee engagement and motivation. Remote workers who feel valued and supported are more likely to go the extra mile and contribute their best work.

When team members share similar work styles, expectations, and communication preferences, it reduces misunderstandings and potential conflicts. This encourages productivity. Still, a culture that values diversity of thought at the same time and encourages healthy debate can spark innovation and creativity. Culture compatibility ensures this diversity is channeled constructively towards achieving team goals.

Assessing Culture Compatibility

Before you can assess fit, articulate your company culture so candidates can self-assess their fit. Ask behavioral interview questions that reveal candidates’ work style, communication preferences, and values. You can also involve team members in the interview process so they can interact with candidates and gauge cultural fit firsthand. 

Assessing Work Ethic

You always want to hone in on candidates who have a strong work ethic and the right attitude towards remote work. To find them, ask candidates to describe past experiences demonstrating their work ethic.

As always, don’t settle for surface-level answers so you can really understand their thought process and motivations. Make sure you contact their references to get insights into candidates’ work ethic and reliability.

Ask candidates about their reasons for wanting a remote position. Ideal responses would indicate a desire for flexibility, self-management, or greater focus. These demonstrate an understanding of the remote work environment.

Be wary of candidates who seem primarily motivated by a desire to avoid a physical workplace. Look also for indicators of the ability to manage time effectively and work independently. 

If feasible, consider offering a short trial period where candidates work remotely on a specific project. This allows you to assess their work ethic and remote work style firsthand. 

a man on a videocall with a woman

Assessing Integrity 

Where physical supervision is limited, integrity becomes more critical to prioritize in potential hires. Trust is the cornerstone of successful remote collaboration. Ask questions that draw out examples of integrous conduct. Look for attitudes that foster a sense of reliability and dependability, which are essential for working effectively on teams.

Look for honesty, a cornerstone of integrity, which encourages open and transparent communication. Team members with integrity feel comfortable raising concerns, sharing ideas, and admitting mistakes.

Honest and ethical employees are less likely to cut corners or engage in misconduct that can lead to costly errors or legal issues. They also embody the company’s values, so look for that, too. Remote teams that display integrity are more likely to build strong relationships. Look for signs of eagerness in this area.


What Is Outsource School?

outsource school

Outsource School helps you to unlock the potential of virtual assistants and accelerate your business growth.

This is the exact system Outsource School’s founders, Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gillivan, used to go from zero to 8 figures and 40+ virtual assistants with an exit in 2019.

Since being founded in 2020, Outsource School has helped 1,000+ business owners hire 2,000+ virtual assistants for their companies.

Schedule a free sales call to learn more

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When you know what to look for when hiring, it becomes a smooth and even enjoyable process. By implementing a combination of these strategies, you can gain valuable insights into a candidate’s communication skills. This is how you identify individuals who can excel in your virtual work environment. Remember also to structure the communication skills assessment to be a positive experience for candidates. Provide clear instructions and avoid creating undue pressure.

Want help outsourcing & hiring virtual assistants? We make it easy! Learn More, Speak w/ an Expert, or Request a Callback



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