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8 Virtual Assistant Soft Skills You Should Never Overlook

Soft skills can make or break the success of your remote team. Learn about the soft skills your Filipino VA should possess in this guide.
There’s nothing “soft” about soft skills. Interpersonal skills or “soft skills” are often seen as nice-to-haves, but they’re actually critical if you want to build a successful remote team.

A post-pandemic study by McKinsey showed that remote work has changed the way we collaborate. Instead of focusing on technical skills, companies are now keen on developing qualities like leadership, adaptability, and empathy to keep up with the unique challenges of remote work.

How “soft skills” help remote teams

Remote work has a lot of benefits — but it also comes with a bunch of challenges.

Unlike in an office setting, for example, remote teams have little opportunity to collaborate in real time. This can be an isolating experience for your assistants. If your team doesn't know how to communicate well, things can fall apart pretty quickly.

Distractions can also affect productivity. Without managers physically overseeing projects, progress will depend on your team’s ability to stay focused and take ownership of tasks.

Other factors like poor time management, tech issues, and cultural differences can also make remote work challenging.

Soft skills allow your staff to overcome these challenges

A combination of strong interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and other positive personal traits can help your team:

  • collaborate better
  • communicate clearly
  • manage their time and energy
  • give and receive feedback well —
  • — and manage their emotions when things don’t go as planned

So, what soft skills should you look for in virtual assistants? Here are 8 crucial ones:

1. Top-notch communication skills

Communication skills go beyond speaking good English with a neutral accent.

Hire a virtual assistant who knows how to communicate with clarity. These assistants don’t need big, fancy language to express themselves. Instead, they use simple words to break down complex ideas — all without losing meaning.

They should also be exceptional writers. Remember, you’ll spend a lot of time communicating through email and chat. Find an assistant who knows how to convey tone and nuance in their messages. This is a huge plus, especially if you need them to interact with different stakeholders on your behalf.

Knowing how to take and receive constructive feedback is also important. They should know how to tactfully navigate tricky conversations, especially when dealing with customers, team members, and investors.

Lastly, make sure that they listen. The best communicators are actually just good listeners. Keep an eye out for virtual assistants who actively listen and take the time to understand your needs.

How to evaluate this
  • Ask them to record a 1-minute video resume as part of your screening process.
  • Gauge the candidate's communication skills during the interview. See if they can carry an engaging conversation with you.

2. Time and task management

The Eisenhower Matrix showing 4 quadrants: important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and non-urgent

Multitasking is one giant myth. Studies show that humans are actually not capable of doing two things at once. At least, not effectively. Switching from one task to another causes lots of mistakes and can even affect your assistant’s ability to concentrate.

So instead of looking for someone who’s “good at multitasking”, go for Filipino virtual assistants who know how to prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency.

They should have solid productivity methods in place (like the Eisenhower Matrix above) so that they can deliver high-quality work on time — even when they’re wearing different hats.

The ideal virtual assistant knows how to:
  • Track their time
  • Assess how much time a certain task can take
  • Provide useful estimates for projects
  • Triage your tasks

Your assistant is not just managing their time — they’re also managing yours. If they don’t have solid time management chops, they can make you late for important appointments or miss deadlines. Hire someone who can help you free up more time, not cause bottlenecks.

How to evaluate this
  • Ask about their previous work experience. Here at Somewhere, we reach out to the candidate’s character references to learn more about soft skills like time management.
  • Observe if they are prompt to the interview. They should also send in assignments within deadlines.

3. Attention to detail

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Attention to detail is what separates excellent VAs from mediocre ones. They know that producing high-quality work matters, so they thoroughly review their output for mistakes and inconsistencies before they submit it.

As assistants, this also means that they:
  • take detailed notes well
  • are excellent researchers
  • can follow specific instructions to a T —
  • — and ask the right questions

These skills can be applied anywhere, but they’re especially useful if you’re delegating data entry, bookkeeping, and other administrative tasks.

These assistants are also excellent at catching your non-verbal cues. They’re keen and observant. They’ll be able to anticipate your needs even before you verbalize them.

How to screen for this quality
  • See if they can follow specific instructions during the application process. For example, you can ask them to include a random word like “orange” or “ball point pen”  in their cover letter.
  • During the interview, ask the applicant to describe how they solved a problem at work. They should be able to give you specific answers.

Related: Interview green flags to look for when hiring remote assistants

4. Adaptability

Being able to learn quickly is essential when working remotely. Things happen fast and decisions have to be made on the fly. An excellent virtual assistant must be able to thrive in this fast-paced environment, absorbing lessons and applying them as they go along with their daily tasks.

Of course, having SOPs and knowledge bases can help them learn faster, so make sure you have those in place.

In addition to SOPs, you can also:
  • Prepare a detailed document with your personal info and preferences
  • Create a solid onboarding experience
  • Give constant feedback to improve their performance

Eagerness to learn vs experience

In lots of cases, it’s easier to work with a newbie who’s willing to be trained versus someone more experienced but is stubborn to adapt.

Pick an assistant who has an “empty cup” mindset. Yes, they’ll need training, but they’re usually more open to new learning experiences.

5. Critical thinking

Aside from being able to think on their feet, an excellent assistant must also know how to make sound decisions.

Filipino assistants are good at following instructions, but they’re even better when you give them room to think for themselves. When recording walkthroughs or delegating something, share your thought process with your assistant. This way, they’ll know the rationale behind your method and come up with solutions of their own when things don’t go as planned.

Developing critical thinking among your remote staff helps you delegate bigger tasks — and free up more time.

6. Initiative and resourcefulness

Even with time-tracking tools, you still won’t be able to monitor your VA’s every move. That’s why it’s important to hire folks with initiative.

Stay away from thumb-twiddlers. Instead, hire a remote assistant who can take ownership of their tasks with minimal supervision.

They should be self-starters who can:
  • Take on tasks without being told what to do
  • Stay motivated
  • Use the available resources to solve problems before coming to you for help
  • Present viable solutions for your approval

Assistants with great initiative take more tasks from your plate, not add to it. They’re also proactive. They know how to anticipate your or the team’s needs. Lastly, they keep an eye on friction points and potential challenges before they become full-blown issues.

How to support this

Filipino assistants are known for their resourcefulness. To support this, provide them with the tools they need to succeed. This could come in the form of software, training, upskilling, or constructive feedback.

7. Trustworthiness

Integrity and trustworthiness are paramount when it comes to remote work. You need to hire people you can trust — even when they’re halfway around the world.

This applies especially to executive assistants. You’ll be integrating them into your schedule and daily life. They’ll have access to sensitive information like credit card numbers, contact details, and logins. They must know how to keep information confidential and apply professional discretion at all times.

How to screen for this

Use a headhunter agency like Somewhere to hire trustworthy assistants. Every candidate hired through Somewhere goes through an extensive screening process that involves behavioral interviews and background checks. We make sure that every candidate we present is trustworthy and reliable.

Related: How to share confidential information safely

8. Emotional intelligence

Last but definitely not least, look for emotional intelligence in your assistants. Being able to get along well with others is such an underrated virtual assistant skill, but it plays a huge part in team dynamics, morale, and overall productivity.

Say you hire the most talented virtual assistant in the world. They’re excellent at what they do, but they’re also rude, arrogant, and a pain in the butt to work with. Do you think you’ll have a great working experience with them?

Instead of just assessing for raw skill, evaluate for “unquantifiable” skills like:
  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Stress and conflict management

Remember: you can always train skills, but it takes a lot of time and effort to change behavior. Hire assistants with high EQs.

Soft skills are not just nice-to-haves

On the contrary, they’re integral to building a remote team that’s productive, independent, and happy.

These skills are universal and are applicable to all aspects of your business. Hiring a virtual assistant with excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and adaptability will help you take your growing business to even greater heights.

Here at Somewhere, we help business owners like you find candidates with strong “soft skills” — at a fraction of the local cost. Start a search today.

FAQs about virtual assistant soft skills

Which soft skill is the most important in the remote workplace?

Here are 8 soft skills that you should look for when hiring a virtual assistant

  • Top-notch communication skills
  • Time and task management
  • Attention to detail
  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking
  • Initiative and resourcefulness
  • Trustworthiness
  • Emotional intelligence
Why are soft skills important?

Hiring assistants with a great set of soft skills helps you overcome the challenges of remote work. Assistants who have strong interpersonal skills and high emotional intelligence tend to work better with others than those who don’t.

How can I hire the best virtual assistants from the Philippines?

Use Somewhere. We’re a headhunter agency for remote talent. We help business owners find, screen, and test assistants from the Philippines. All you have to do is let us know about the positions you’re hiring for, wait for the shortlist, show up for the interviews, and then hire your virtual assistant. It’s that easy!

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