"If you're working for us as a virtual assistant, you must be able to follow instructions; that's one of the key things we're looking for during this stage," Donovan says. "From there, once we've reviewed their voice mail, we send an email with detailed directions that they must follow to the letter. If anything's amiss, the candidate is disqualified," she says. This might sound harsh, but at this point in the process the candidate will be putting his or her best foot forward, and if that's not up to par, it'll only get worse, she says.
Hiring for the Long Haul
"This is when they'll be trying their hardest; if they're making small mistakes now, they'll almost certainly make larger mistakes down the line, and we need to separate the wheat from the chaff early on," Donovan says.
If candidates make it through this stage, they are assigned a task to perform for a "client," Donovan says. These tasks are to further test candidates' ability to follow instructions but also are geared toward digging into their core values, strengths and how they would use those in their employment, she says. The same task is sent to all candidates, whether that's booking travel, doing research for a "client" presentation or looking up available dining options in a specific areas.
This part of the process is scored, and only those who receive an 85 percent or above move on to the next phase, says Donovan, which involves phone interviews. The final step of the process is an interview that involves Donovan herself, and is usually sprung on the candidates at the last minute.
Stress Test Highlights Potential Issues
"During this second phone interview, I'm brought in and I get to put my 'stamp of approval' on the hire," she says. "It also serves as a stress test — they don't know they'll be speaking with the CEO, and so this becomes a great way to gauge how they deal with the unexpected and being in a position of stress and under pressure," she says.
What businesses can learn from these examples is that people are their most important asset, Donovan says. By focusing attention and resources on the initial stages of their employment, she says, employees are far more engaged and buy into the company's mission and values.
"If you invest in your people from the very beginning, and demonstrate that commitment to helping them do the best job they can at a place that is right for them, they become personally invested in the company," Donovan says. "They feel very special, and they are willing to go the extra mile for you because you have done so for them," she says.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.