Hiring a VA isn't much different than hiring any other position on you team. But there are some additional things to consider. AND, of course, some tricks of the trade.
I've mentioned before, my team at Frontline is completely made up of remote workers (other than my 2-year-old, who is our lead chaos director). Frontline hires web developers, mobile app development teams, administrative and content creators. All remotely. Not a single team member works in the same state.
All that to say: I have a bit of experience hiring people remotely.
While it might seem silly or not-really-worth-the-effort, allows me to shift your perspective. Consider this: if you are willing to offer someone the flexibility of working at home, on their own schedule, the bench of potential candidates is MUCH larger than if you require someone to sit in a cubicle.
Considerations when hiring a remote team member
First and foremost, hiring a remote working is a test on how clearly you can communicate. Be clear about the tasks they will perform AND your expectations. Out of the gate, be painfully clear. Then, once you have a working relationship you can probably let up a little bit. They are probably a little more used to this, so lean on them for feedback and make sure they know you're somewhat new to the remote-worker thing.
To continue on our theme of communication, consider how you will communicate. Phone, text, email, Skype, Facetime? And how often? Do they plan on working the same day and time each week, or is it a 'whenever I can fit it in' type schedule. Setting a baseline for how and how often will save you a few headaches.
For whatever reason, this is hard for construction folk. But you'll need to really think about what skills are truly required. Trust me, they don't have to work in construction to understand process flows and operating procedures. Pretty much everyone I've hired for Frontline has never working in the construction industry. And that's fine, because it's not really what I needed. I needed someone good at developing mobile apps. Couple that with clear communication and expectations and we're all set!
Tips for finding & hiring remote team members
For one reason or another, you should only expect about 50% response rate. So you'll want to cast a pretty wide net. Sites are popping up every day that are just for hiring remote assistants. I've used Upwork.com for pretty much all my hiring. Freelance.com is another popular site. It's a personal preference, really. You can even cross-post your listing.
If you're able, invite people to apply vs allowing the whole world to apply. I've had MUCH better success when inviting people to apply as opposed to throwing a listing out into the web and crossing my fingers. If you do that, you'll get all sorts of people just trying to make a buck. You'll see graphic designers offering to do copywriting and all sorts of other things. Do some broad searches and invite people who you think may fit the bill.
Set up a 20 minute interview, for two reasons. One: you'll get a much better feel if you're looking at someone while they're talking. And two: it's gives them the opportunity to show a little initiative. I've had a few people apply for a job, only to decline a video interview. No idea why. But if you can't take 20 minutes to talk to be, that's fine. I'll find someone willing to put a little effort into things.
Next, you'll want to find someone you work well with. You know what I mean, here. There are people who, when you're talking on the phone, you're always talking over each other or you're just not on the same page. Then there are people on the phone who are really easy to talk with. So here's how you find this out: Hire a few people that you like and have them all do the same task. For example, when I was hiring an assistant, one of the tasks they would be doing was lead generation by scraping different web sites. So I hired three people, gave them each the same task of finding 100 leads and putting them on a spreadsheet. Each VA had a different state to cover. At the end of this trial, I had 250 new leads. Yes, one of the VA's didn't even finish. Another finished, but the leads were marginal at best. They just weren't the right leads for what I needed. And the third totally nailed it. Boom. She's hired. She's still on the team today, in fact!
And here's a bonus tip, because I think it's ingenious: in your scope or work (job description) stash a question at the very end. When we posted the job description for an app developer, the very last sentence was, 'what's your favorite TV show?' I would say about half the respondents actually answered it, which means only half the respondents actually read the whole scope. It's silly, doesn't take any extra time, and immediately showed us who took the time to read the whole scope. PLUS, it gives you something to break the ice when you do that 20 minute interview. Good stuff.