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This process saves you time and helps ensure you find an employee who truly wants to work for you.

The right assistant can add years to your life! Ask any CEO, manager or business owner. They will tell you that good staff (especially admin assistants) lightens your workload and simplifies your life. While you are out, growing your business, signing deals and making money, your admin assistant ensures the office (or even your personal life) runs smoothly. A good Assistant will help you achieve faster, increase your earnings and gain more free time. Now that sounds worth it.

A good assistant will help you:

1.   achieve faster

2.   increase your earnings

3.   gain more free time

Finding this precious individual, however, can be quite tedious. These days it seems anyone who can type, answer a phone or open a file considers herself an admin assistant! During AdminAssist’s almost ten years of business, we have recruited many excellent admin assistants based on a process shared in the book The Business Coach by Brad Sugars. If you would like to find the right assistant with the least amount of effort, read further.

Please take note: When we refer to assistants in one gender, the others are also implied. You might have to modify some steps if you are recruiting a virtual assistant instead of an on-site assistant. And lastly, you can use this recruitment process to find personnel for any role, not only admin assistants.

Step 1 – List the Qualities you Require (Character, Qualification, Skill, Experience)

Step 2 – Place the Strategic Ad

Step 3 – Immediate Elimination

Step 4 – Elimination by Qualification, Skill and Experience Level

Step 5 – Group Interview

Step 6 – References and Vetting

Step 7 – One-to-one Interview

Step 8 – Inform successful and unsuccessful Candidates.

We will end the article with a case study. To illustrate just how effective this process is, we will share the numbers from the time we first tried it.

The First Four Steps – Preparation and Filtering

Step 1 – List the Qualities you Require

If you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you know you have found it? The first step is to define your ideal candidate in terms of character, qualifications, skills and experience level.

Consider asking for contributions from all staff members who will be working directly with the new employee. Team members have a firm understanding of the type of person the job requires. Also, if they form part of the process from the beginning, it will aid team-spirit.

•         Character

Whereas new skills can be taught, your adult assistant sort of already “comes with” her character. Very loosely defined, “character” is everything her mom was supposed to teach her! And while you can help a person improve their character, it isn’t really your function in this context. It is imperative to prioritise this aspect because if a person has all the right qualifications but has a bad character, their influence in your business will be draining.

Character traits you might need: “Must have integrity. Must be optimistic and a problem-solver. Must be able to make quick decisions. Must not gossip.”

•          Qualifications

Divide the required qualifications for the role into those that are non-negotiable and those that are preferred. Non-negotiables in the field of admin might include a certificate in bookkeeping or Office software. Preferred qualifications might be a course in writing or photo editing.

•          Skills

Which skills are necessary for him to do his job successfully? Another language, attention to detail, handle customer complaints effectively?

•          Experience level

Experience level often goes hand-in-hand with salary expectation, and for good reason. Employing an experienced individual saves you the time and effort of teaching the basics of the specific role. They will also be able to perform at their peak faster than an inexperienced person.

If you are currently cash-strapped, attempt to find an assistant with limited experience but great potential. You can offer a lower starting salary and grow her earnings as she grows more experienced.

Step 2 – Place a Strategic Ad

The ad must contain two sections: The first section must include as much information about the position as possible. Such as the location, hours, qualifications and salary. The second section must give very specific instructions on how to apply.

The strategy behind this ad is two-fold. Firstly, if you provide sufficient information in advance, you avoid unsuitable applicants. The idea is that a candidate won’t apply if he/she is unable or unwilling to meet your requirements. Secondly, if you give very specific instructions and candidates ignore it, it proves they do not pay attention to detail and do not follow instructions carefully.

An example of a strategic ad:

Part-time admin assistant with proven integrity and ability to stay calm under pressure. Must speak Afrikaans and English excellently. Experience in admin position non-negotiable. Experience in legal or medical industry preferential. Part virtual, part on-site in Pretoria East. Payment will be per hour worked at a rate of R100/hour.

Process: E-mail your CV to xxx@adminassist.co.za and highlight your most relevant qualities, qualifications and experience in the e-mail body, please. Failure to do so will result in the application being discarded. All levels of relevant training and work experience will be considered. Closing date: 31 July.

Step 3 – Immediate Elimination

As your ad specified, all candidates who failed to follow your application instructions lose your consideration. Keeping with the example above, you (or an existing team member) will now merely delete those e-mails where the applicants did not highlight the information as you asked.

If applicants have overlooked your requests, it could be that they apply for jobs at random. A type of shotgun approach. The candidates heeding your requests, demonstrated their attention to detail and care to perform duties as stipulated.

It only takes 5 -10 seconds per e-mail to complete this step. Take it from someone with experience in the field, immediate elimination will save you a lot of time and effort.

Step 4 – Elimination by Qualification, Skill, or Experience Level

If you have listed qualifications, skills, or experience levels that are non-negotiable, the next step is to scan through the remaining application e-mails and eliminate those candidates who do not possess these non-negotiables.

Remember that the candidate (as per our request in the ad) has written this information in the e-mail body, meaning you do not have to open attachments to find it. Therefore, it only takes about 15 seconds to filter an application, and you can ask an existing employee to help you.

After you have worked through the non-negotiables, or if you don’t have non-negotiables, eliminate now based on the preferred qualifications, skills, and experience levels you listed.

The Final Four Steps – Selection and Recruitment

Step 5 – Group Interview

The group interview is a quick and clever way to separate the wheat from the chaff. After you have gone through two elimination processes, you should now be left with a more reasonable amount of applications to handle.

Invite all the remaining candidates to a group interview. The interview will consist of two parts:

•          Part 1: You present your company – your vision, your values, your place in the market, the work process, the job description, the salary, the work hours, the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) she will be measured by and whatever other information the candidates need to decide if they can commit to this position or not.

You end part 1 by announcing a coffee break and explaining that after the break, candidates will return to share their professional background, what their greatest achievement is and what it is that they can uniquely add to the team/company. Very important, mention that if they have in the meantime discovered that they cannot continue their application for this role, they may leave – no hard feelings.

•          Coffee Break, during which candidates may leave as described above or prepare their answers.

•          Part 2: Now you go round the room and allow applicants to share their professional background, their greatest achievement and what it is they believe they can uniquely bring to the team/company.

You and your existing team have the opportunity to take notes that you can compare afterwards and settle on a shortlist of 3 -5 candidates.

Step 6 – References and Vetting

Up to here, you have not had to open and study a single CV, and it is only now that you will do so. Look at the CVs from the 3 – 5 shortlisted applicants and do the required vetting thoroughly.

If everything checks out, invite your selected candidates to a one-to-one interview.

Step 7 – One-to-one Interview

During the one-to-one interview, you (and your team) will have an opportunity to ask questions and collect more detail on each candidate. You might also consider talking through the employment contract because it will help you address aspects such as salary, work etiquette and dress code. In our experience, the better you manage expectations before the appointment of an employee, the easier it is to manage the appointment afterwards.

A typical interview ranges from 30 – 45 min, and it saves time if you schedule them one after the other.

After the interviews, you should be able to choose the candidate best suited to the job. Congratulations.

Step 8 – Inform the Successful and Unsuccessful Applicants

Now that you have made your choice inform the selected candidate by making an offer. Complete any negotiations, sign the paperwork and arrange the Induction Day as the start to the probation period.

Now you must also inform the unsuccessful candidates. Not only is it courteous, but it is also practical in that these candidates are possibly waiting on your decision before moving ahead with another option. Informing them as soon as you have made a decision is the right thing to do.

Real-life Data from Our First Attempt

As promised, we would like to share real-life data from when AdminAssist followed this process for the first time in 2012.

We placed the ad and received 72 applications within the 1st hour! By the closing date, one day later, it totalled 144. After the immediate elimination (Step 3), there were 97 applications. We eliminated by non-negotiables, which took us down to 34 and then by preferred qualifications (Step 4). We invited 15 candidates to the Group Interview, of which 5 accepted the invitation.

At the Group Interview (Step 5), only 3 candidates returned after the break. Therefore, we conducted face-to-face interviews with only 3 candidates.

144 candidates narrowed down to 3 in only 3.5 hours of work. Isn’t that a win?