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Below you’ll find the 8 biggest challenges you’ll encounter when hiring virtual assistants from the Philippines — plus actionable steps on how to solve them.
Let’s dive right in:
There are approximately 1.5 million online workers in the Philippines.
While this gives you access to a huge talent pool, this also means you'll encounter some terrible VAs in your hiring journey.
We've heard horror stories about virtual assistants who pad their resumes, underdeliver tasks, or worse — disappear completely after only a couple of weeks.
Make sure you have a thorough selection and screening process. First, list down all the qualities that you'd like in a virtual assistant. Be specific. Use this list to create an excellent job description to attract candidates.
Next, create a Google Sheet with preliminary questions to filter out applicants. Once you’ve got a few good folks, prepare interview questions that dig deep into the candidate's hard and soft skills.
When reviewing resumes, check the candidate's work history. Look for character references. If you see red flags like a history of job-hopping, frequent tardiness, or dishonesty, it's time to look for other folks.
Most virtual assistants quit or "ghost" their jobs because of unclear expectations. Some folks think that it's just a one-off gig or an unstable online job. Let your assistant know that it's a stable position. Be specific about their tasks, compensation, and benefits.
Try not to overwhelm them with work, too. Slowly ease them into your team by creating an effective onboarding process.
If you don't have time to screen candidates yourself or have exhausted all options without getting results, try hiring through Shepherd.
We're a headhunter agency that specializes in hiring Filipino staff for business owners. Our team of talent scouts finds, screens, and interviews talent on your behalf. You don’t need to spend days reviewing resumes or checking references — we can do that for you.
Due to a high power distance culture, most Filipino virtual assistants rarely question authority. Some VAs might find it hard to voice their concerns and ideas, especially when they’re just starting out.
"I was shy at first," shares Jodi, an e-commerce brand manager.
"This was back when I was still gauging the general energy of the team and the bosses. I wanted to know how everyone welcomed questions if they did at all. Nobody wants to be considered dumb for asking a question and the fear is magnified by 200% when people are watching."
While some VAs like Jodi eventually get the hang of things, other assistants will always dread talking to employers. They end up saying yes to tasks — even when they don’t know how to do them.
Bad output, unmet expectations, and one burnt-out assistant. If you don’t do anything about this, it could cause serious problems in the long run.
During your onboarding process, highlight the importance of open communication. Let your VA know about your preferred communication channels so they know the best ways to reach you.
For example, ask them to use your preferred project management app for specific updates. For quick chats and questions, maybe iMessage or Slack is best. Knowing this will help your assistant communicate with you better.
Regular check-in calls are a great way to build rapport. Schedule a call at least once a week. Use this opportunity to get updates, delegate new tasks, and of course, see how your assistant is doing.
Be proactive and encourage your virtual assistant to raise concerns. Ask them to pitch their ideas. Some may feel a bit timid in the beginning, but as you give them agency, they’ll learn to open up and be more vocal about their work.
Monitoring productivity can be tricky when you're working with a distributed team.
How do you know if your virtual assistant is doing their job and not slacking off? Is there any way to make sure that things get done even when you're literally on different sides of the planet?
Lots of time is wasted when your assistant doesn’t know what to do in the first place. Be specific when assigning tasks. Paint a clear picture of what success looks like.
For example, instead of saying that you need help with social media, tell them you need to increase followers by 20% at the end of the month or that you’d need to review a content calendar each week.
If you need your assistant to track their working hours, you can use apps like Clockify, Time Doctor, or Hubstaff. These apps monitor your assistant’s productivity. You can also use these to make sure that they’re doing their job. Hubstaff, in particular, has a feature that automatically takes screenshots of your assistant’s screen every ten minutes.
Another way to approach remote work productivity is to shift your focus on your assistant’s output. Instead of tracking the hours they work, measure productivity based on the quality of their output and their ability to meet deadlines.
You might need to set up systems and put in more effort to hire the right people, but this can be beneficial to your organization in the long run.
The internet connection in the Philippines has gotten better over the years.
A recent Speedtest report showed that the country's median mobile internet speed jumped from 16.26 mbps to 19.26. Broadband speeds also went up from 41.38 to 60.09 mbps over the past year.
Still, your virtual assistant may encounter latencies, especially if they're located outside major urban hubs like Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao.
Natural hazards like typhoons, flooding, and earthquakes could also affect internet connectivity. This could lead to critical issues like project delays and communication gaps.
Hire someone who has access to fast and reliable internet. Ask potential candidates to send screenshots of their speed test results as part of your hiring process. Ideally, their internet speed should be at least 5 mbps.
Ask your assistant to have backup internet in case their broadband connection fails. In the Philippines, you can purchase prepaid internet modems for around Php1,000 or $20. Your assistant can use these to buy data and secure a temporary connection.
If you’ve got the budget for it, get your assistant a co-working space membership. Co-working spaces in the Philippines like KMC, The Company, and Common Ground provide fast and reliable internet connections. They also have private offices, IT support, and facilities for virtual hangouts and in-person meetups. This could improve your VA’s overall productivity.
Working with remote assistants means sharing confidential info over the internet. You'll be using a lot of cloud-based apps for collaboration, too.
Depending on the role you're hiring for, you'll likely share the following with your assistant:
What can you do to protect your data while allowing access to your assistant?
Have your assistant sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before they start working with you. This legally binding document prevents them from sharing confidential information with others.
Assigning your assistant as a delegate allows them to organize your inbox and respond to messages without changing your settings. They won't need your password, either.
Depending on where you are in the continental United States, the time difference between you and your virtual assistant could span 12-15 hours.
This means that while you're having lunch on the East Coast, it's midnight in the Philippines. How can you efficiently work with folks this way?
If you need someone to work in the same time zone, include that in your job description. Lots of Filipino VAs are actually willing to work in US time zones as long as you’re clear about it from the get-go.
You’ll have to allocate a higher salary, offer a night differential bonus, and add perks like health insurance to attract good candidates.
Overlaps are also a great way to work around this time difference. All you have to do is make sure that you’re both online for at least 4 hours each day. This way, you can collaborate on projects and organize meetings.
Find a time that works for both of you. For example, if you're in Pacific time, you can overlap from 4pm-7pm, which is 7am-10am in the Philippines. It won't be too late in your timezone nor too early in theirs — it’s a win-win for everybody.
An asynchronous setup works well if you already have a solid delegation system in place. In this work style, your distributed team isn’t expected to be online at the same time — they can work at their preferred hours, as long as they deliver high-quality work.
Going async is a great option if you’re hiring for output-based roles, or if you’ve documented your processes well. You’ll spend less time on meetings and more time getting stuff done.
A solid company culture not only cements your identity, it also helps you retain talent.
Studies show that employees are more likely to stay in a company that allows them to form genuine relationships with others. People want to be part of a community. When a company provides this — along with other opportunities for growth — employees stay for years.
Here’s the challenge:
How do you create a strong company culture and engage with your team when they're halfway around the world? How do you prevent them from feeling isolated?
If you've got a growing team, ask someone from HR to handle engagement. They can organize fun online activities to keep the team engaged, even when they're in different locations.
The best example of this is Shepherd's very own HR manager, Pammy.
Pammy and her team cook up a new team activity each Friday. They organize fun games, quizzes, and at one time — an actual yoga session — over Zoom. They also send out regular birthday greetings, wellness tips, and other initiatives that bring everyone together.
This is a simple but super effective way to build a community within your organization. Create a place where people can talk about stuff outside of work. You can even add channels for your team’s pets or favorite memes.
As COVID restrictions ease, you can start planning team-building events. This will boost your team’s morale and get everyone excited to interact with each other.
Building company culture isn’t just about having themed Zoom nights and free food. More than anything else, it’s about building an environment where your employees feel like they’re improving as people.
Recognizing team members who go above and beyond their roles is a great way to foster a tight-knit community within your organization. While you’re at it, provide growth opportunities through training, courses, and mentorship, too.
Like the internet, access to electricity in the Philippines has improved over the years. Outages in establishments dropped to 0.1 per month based on the latest data by the World Bank.
Unfortunately, the country's current infrastructure is still struggling to keep up with the increasing demand. Unmaintained power plants, depleting fossil fuels, plus a growing population add to the challenge.
Because of this, your virtual assistant may experience occasional outages that can last anywhere between a few minutes to several hours.
Severe weather and earthquakes can also affect their energy supply.
Long power outages and rotating blackouts are often scheduled. The local electricity provider will post alerts on their official social media pages at least a week ahead. Meralco, a major power provider, even has an outage map that you can use to track current and future power interruptions.
Ask your assistant to update you in case there’s a scheduled outage in their area so you can set expectations on your end as well.
Remember those co-working spaces? Most of them will have access to backup power in case of outages. Your assistant will have consistent access to power and internet even during a blackout.
Invest in a trustworthy virtual assistant who will do their best to communicate with you even when power is down. Hire someone who is transparent about the situation and will set the right expectations in case of delays.
Despite all these challenges, a lot of business owners still look to the Philippines when hiring various remote assistant jobs. Here’s why:
Building a remote team isn't a walk in the park. You might need to build processes or embrace a new way of working. You might need to step up your delegation game altogether.
But the bottom line is clear: the benefits of hiring Filipino staff greatly outweigh the challenges.
If you're serious about growing your business sustainably, you'll start hiring virtual assistants from the Philippines today. Let us know how we can help.
You’ll most likely encounter the following challenges when hiring remote workers:
The benefits of hiring a Filipino virtual assistant greatly outweigh the challenges. You should hire a virtual assistant from the Philippines because:
Yes, they are! Hiring a virtual assistant can help you buy back your time. You can delegate tasks to them so you can focus on the things that need your specific expertise.
For example, if admin tasks are preventing you from developing your business, you can hire a VA to take care of admin tasks for you.
Hiring a virtual assistant means leveraging your time and energy so you can do more in a day. Let us know about the positions you’re hiring for and we’ll help you find the best one.