Podcast #9 with Maren Kate of Zirtual and Virtual Assistant Testing

I have spent, years, literally, testing different virtual employee services. This is the result of my search. For dedicated assistant service, Zirtual offers unparalleled service. I have helped them create a better presence and consult with them to continually improve their already impressive offerings. So to reiterate, I found the best provider and then partnered with them, not the other way around. I have worked with over a dozen providers, everything from the big names you get at the top of your Google searches to individuals found on Elance. Sometimes I would sign up for the service, and sometimes I would use a friend who was an existing customer as a proxy to run my tests. The goals of Less Doing are to optimize, automate, THEN outsource. The point being that you can sometimes avoid outsourcing all together because you've already optimized and automated as much as possible so whatever is left must be a little tricky. You need great support to outsource to.

The Testing Process

The first part of this process was figuring out what to test. The most obvious of course, is language skills, both verbal and written. Depending on your needs, this may not be the most important thing but for most people it's essential, especially if you're going to have your VA be your representative when speaking to clients, vendors, or even friends and family. My favorite way to test language skills it to use expressions like "The Whole Nine Yards" or even telling someone to "Rock and Roll." The responses are usually amusing to say the least. Nowadays, testing specific computer skills is pretty pointless because they all have basic knowledge of excel, word, pdfs, etc... and if they don't, it's very easy to learn. The real hardcore testing comes when they need to use deductive reasoning and quick thinking to come up with a solution. Keep in mind however, that another personal, virtual or not, will never be you nor are they supposed to be. Set aside the three to four weeks of testing I've done which each service and lets focus on some basic tasks that I put every VA through as a test. The items in parentheses where not shared with the assistant.

  • Contact my doctor at the following number XXX-XXX-XXXX and get me an appointment as soon as possible, my schedule is the Tungle link in my signature. If they say the need a referral contact Dr. John Smith down the street and get the necessary referral. (the number provided is my own, I answer and act like a difficult secretary, changing appointment times, misspelling names, and I ask for a referral. I don't give specifics on the second doctor, just a name, meaning they need to find him)
  • Call Dr. Flanagan Veterinarian regarding my dog Fido. They prescribed something for his knee a while back, I think its called Fluoride. Find out what it is and send me the cheapest place online to get it, preferably Amazon. (I don't provide doctors number, the medicine is called Glucosamine not Fluoride and I want them to send me the link directly to the product page, not just the store that sells it)
  • Here's a link to a document with 10 blood test results over the last two years. Make a spreadsheet charting each variable over time. (Will they create proper columns and rows for all the data with such little information?)
  • Call this tenant at XXX-XXX-XXXX, they are late on their rent, please be firm but nice when you call them and tell them they are late. (The number is mine, I'm testing two things, how many times they will try to contact me before giving up, and when they finally get me, how they interact with me on the phone. I do this task twice, the first time when they finally get me on the phone I'm very nice and say I simply forgot. The second time I get very rude and see how they handle it.)

Now keep in mind, in a given month, I will give a virtual assistant an average of 157 tasks to complete, and my test set is 21 tasks over the course of two weeks but these will give you an idea of what I've put the companies and individuals through in order to give you a confident result.


In the end, I found an amazing pool of talent in a company in San Francisco. All of the assistants are America and are either college graduates or current college students. The hiring and training process is rigorous and the result is the most proficient and effective virtual assistants I have ever worked with. Check out Zirtual now.

My Guide to Working with Virtual Assistants

I recently published an eBook on Amazon, "The Definitive Guide to Working with a Virtual Assistant" It's a quick read but provides all the essentials you'll need to maximize the relationship.