A virtual assistant (VA) is like a personal assistant (PA), but instead of being physically present in an office, they work remotely. This means they can be based anywhere in the world and still assist businesses with their administrative tasks.
Virtual assistants have become popular (especially since the Covid pandemic started) because they are flexible and tend to cost less than hiring a PA. They are often freelancers or work for an agency. This means they usually have several clients and work for either an hourly rate or for a fixed fee.
By hiring an experienced virtual assistant, businesses could save as much as 78% in operating costs, which is a significant amount. The main reason for this is that VAs only charge for productive time, which helps them make the most of their resources.
The virtual assistant market is expected to grow even more with the increase of remote working. A larger number of startups and small businesses employ virtual assistants compared to bigger organizations.
The skillset needed to be a successful virtual assistant is quite broad. VAs need to be able to use a range of business software such as Microsoft Office or Google Docs. They also need good organizational skills to arrange calendars and meetings, and must be able to create regular reports.
Many businesses use Microsoft Office in conjunction with Outlook, which means a virtual assistant must also be able to use the basic and advanced features of Outlook. This is one reason VAs should take a Microsoft Outlook test to ensure their skills are up to date.
There are many benefits to hiring a virtual assistant, and we’re going to focus on the top 10. We’re also going to look at why you should give a potential VA a Microsoft Outlook test if you are thinking of hiring one.
First, we’ll give you a quick rundown of what a virtual assistant does, and the tasks they can help you with, then we'll look at how a skills assessment that includes TestGorilla's Microsoft Outlook test can help you hire faster and with less stress.
Table of contents
What does a virtual assistant do?
Every organization, no matter how small, has daily operative and administrative tasks that need doing to keep things running smoothly. As a business starts to grow, it becomes difficult to keep on top of these tasks, and this is when mistakes start to be made.
Even small errors can lead to big financial losses eventually, so instead of having several employees juggling multiple admin tasks, it makes sense to hire one person to do them all.
Unfortunately, hiring full-time support isn’t an option for many small businesses that don’t have the funds. The solution is to employ a virtual assistant part-time to lighten the load.
Virtual assistants fill the same role as an executive assistant, except they work remotely instead of physically being present in your office.
While assignments differ depending on who employs them, VAs generally handle phone calls and emails, arrange travel, organize appointments, and deal with other jobs as and when required. The list below includes common general tasks that a virtual assistant might undertake:
- Administrative and office support activities
- Receptionist tasks
- Responding to, and filtering, emails
- Word processing, working with spreadsheets and creating presentations
- Organizing cloud folders.
- Internet research
- Data entry
Some virtual assistants specialize in specific areas, such as bookkeeping, social media, or content creation, while others offer more generalized administrative services. If you’re looking for a virtual assistant, it’s important to decide on the type of VA you need before you start.
The top 10 benefits of hiring a virtual assistant
If you’re unsure that hiring a virtual assistant would be right for your organization, we’ve brought together the top 10 benefits of employing a VA.
Full-time PAs are expensive, and you’ll have to provide them with a physical office to do their job in. If your company is fully remote, that poses even more of a problem.
Virtual assistants already have an office, either at home or in a co-working space, so you don’t have to worry about providing office equipment.
2. Save time
Time is a resource that’s always in short supply, and once it’s gone it’s never coming back. Having a virtual assistant frees you from your routine administrative tasks, so you and your team can focus on growing your business instead.
3. Hire worldwide
If you hire a PA or administrative assistant for a physical office role, then you are limited to employing those that live within commuting distance of your office.
They may not be the best fit for the job, but you may end up employing them anyway because you are desperate for help.
If you choose to hire a virtual assistant instead, you have a whole world of talent to choose from. Because they work remotely they aren’t constrained by geographical closeness to your office, so you may end up finding the ideal candidate on the other side of the world.
4. Pay per use
Virtual assistants will bill you either on the number of hours they work, or on the scope of the work required – you pay them for their productive time, and not any time spent on breaks, etc.
There are also virtual assistant companies that offer professional VA services in monthly packages tailored to their customer’s needs.
This cost-effectiveness is one of the major reasons why small businesses and startups choose to outsource to VAs.
5. Grow your online presence
All businesses should have an online presence, be that a website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
These platforms need to be regularly updated, which takes time. If you have more than one social media account, that time multiplies.
You may wonder if it’s really worth the time it takes to post consistently, but did you know that 50% of Instagram users say they clicked through to a brand’s website after seeing one of their Insta Stories? You really can’t afford to ignore online channels, but there’s no denying that keeping them up to date is hard work.
That’s where a virtual assistant comes in. They can create and arrange posts to go out on your social media at scheduled times, so that’s one less task for you to worry about.
6. Regular reporting
When you work with a virtual assistant, you’ll find that they will usually provide you with a weekly report on the tasks they did during the week.
You can see how long each task took from the reports, and this helps you prioritize tasks and budgets.
If you use a virtual assistant company, some have online portals that you can access at any time. This enables you to see what your assistant is currently working on.
7. High quality of work
Because virtual assistants are independent contractors, they know that their reputation and success rides on being productive and delivering value to their clients.
Professional virtual assistants strive to perform at a high level, and don’t suffer from the distractions that a typical office-based assistant on a salary will, such as chatting with co-workers or looking for a new job.
Did you know that out of an eight-hour workday in an office, only three hours of productive work gets done? That’s yet another reason to hire remote workers where possible.
8. Streamline your operation
Because virtual assistants are tech-savvy, and have a wide range of experience in different software, they can help improve your office processes and services to make things leaner. They use time-saving hacks and automation to speed things up and generally make things work better.
An example of this is setting up email rules in Microsoft Outlook to organize emails automatically. Many virtual assistants are experienced in Microsoft Outlook, so they know how to set up the best shortcuts.
9. Customer care 24/7
Traditional 9-5 business hours no longer cut it in the online world. Having a website or e-commerce store means being available to customers in different time zones all over the world.
When customers contact you, they expect a swift response. That’s not possible with just one person running customer services – they need to sleep, eat, and have a life outside of work, too.
By outsourcing customer services to a VA in a different time zone who is awake while your part of the world is asleep, you can run customer care 24/7.
You can also find virtual assistant companies who will set up a team of VAs to work round the clock for you, meaning you get peace of mind that your customer’s needs are being met regardless of the time of day.
10. Scale up or down
Because virtual assistants are highly-skilled, they can generally take over the workload with minimal supervision from you. This is crucial when your business is going through a busy period and you need to be concentrating your efforts elsewhere.
Another benefit is their flexibility when it comes to adding to, or decreasing their hours. Many brands have busy times, but also quiet times, and having a virtual assistant means you can scale their work according to business needs.
Of course, that depends on the assistant’s other clients, and how much or little work the VA wants to take on. If you are going to regularly increase or reduce the number of hours you want a virtual assistant to work, you may want to consider using a virtual assistant company or agency instead of a freelancer, as they will be able to accommodate the changing workload easily.
What is the Microsoft Outlook test and why should you use it?
If your business uses the Microsoft Office suite and Outlook, you may benefit from giving your virtual assistant candidates a Microsoft Outlook test.
TestGorilla’s Email Skills (Microsoft Outlook) test will enable you to see which candidates are proficient in internal and external communications using Outlook.
The Microsoft Outlook test assesses candidates’ understanding of basic email functionalities. It also evaluates how well they can use Outlook to collaborate with others and manage their workflow.
Below are two sample multiple-choice questions from the Microsoft Outlook test, so you can see how the tests work:
The Microsoft Outlook test question above evaluates candidates’ knowledge of changing meetings in Outlook, and the one below requires them to choose which one of the following statements is true in regards to message sending:
Candidates who take the Microsoft Outlook test are also evaluated to see if they can write appropriate business emails following proper email etiquette. This is often overlooked as a skill for many job roles, but it’s important for harmonious and respectful communication with colleagues and customers.
Those who score highly on this Microsoft Outlook test are also able to use key Outlook features and functions to streamline email processing and maintain best practices.
If you decide to use skills-based testing instead of wasting your precious time looking through hundreds of CVs, you’re working smarter instead of harder.
You’re also giving the very best talent a chance to shine and excel on a level playing field, because skills-based testing encourages diversity and reduces hiring bias.
At TestGorilla, we believe skills-based hiring is the future of recruitment. It’s a smarter, fairer, and faster way to find candidates with the skills you are looking for by using the Microsoft Outlook test.
How to build an assessment around the Microsoft Outlook test with TestGorilla
While the Outlook skills test will tell you which candidates excel at using the software, it won’t tell you anything else about them when used as a standalone test.
We recommend building an assessment around the Microsoft Outlook test to gain a better understanding of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in both technical and soft skills. If you want to know more about the difference between tests and assessments, our handy guide will clarify things for you.
You can build an assessment using up to five relevant tests, which your candidates will take in one sitting. Depending on the tests you choose in the TestGorilla test library, this broader view of the applicants gives you more insight into how they think and work, and what their personality traits are.
For the best results, assessments should be taken at the very beginning of the hiring process. This removes the need to screen CVs, and you can then arrange to interview candidates who score well on assessment knowing that they have the technical and soft skills required.
If you’re not sure what tests to combine with a Microsoft Outlook test, we have a few suggestions below:
The Attention to Detail (Textual) test is a useful addition to the Microsoft Outlook test. It tests the candidates’ alertness by asking them to look at the written information presented and identify errors, omissions, or inconsistencies in the text.
Most roles require a good level of reasoning and language, so the Verbal Reasoning test can be used to assess candidates’ analytical skills through language.
If you or your customers’ main language is English, it’s essential that you hire a virtual assistant with native-level English fluency. Evaluate this skill with TestGorilla’s English language tests alongside the Microsoft Outlook test if your working language is English and you’re hiring a VA remotely, or you need them to communicate with customers in English.
Virtual assistants should also have Microsoft Windows skills. Discover more about the top intermediate Microsoft Windows skills that are in demand in our blog post, and take a look at our Microsoft Windows test to see if it may be a useful addition to the Microsoft Outlook test.
Virtual assistants are skilled in many ways, and are able to use several tools to help you streamline and automate your office tasks. We’ve looked at all the different ways virtual assistants can benefit your organization, but it’s essential you hire the right one for the job.
If you use Outlook, it’s vital that your assistant scores well on a Microsoft Outlook test, like TestGorilla’s Outlook Skills test, as Outlook has many advanced time-saving features that will benefit your business.
We at TestGorilla are really excited about skills-based hiring being the future of recruitment, and we want to help you find dream hires for your open roles. Find your next virtual assistant with the help of our Microsoft Outlook test combined with other technical and soft skills in a customizable assessments.
To try out TestGorilla’s candidate assessment tools, start your free trial today and liberate yourself and your candidates from the unfairness and inaccuracies of the CV.