March 8, 2016

Add a Little eHarmony to Your Recruiting Tactics


If you really want to make great hires, you may want to do a little less recruiting and a little more matchmaking. Stop taking your cues from Google and start taking them from eHarmony.

That’s what Tricia Sciortino, president of virtual assistant service eaHELP, recommends.

“For us, [matchmaking] is kind of our secret sauce,” Sciortino says.

Of course, it’s not exactly online-dating-style matchmaking that eaHELP conducts when hiring virtual assistants. No one’s asking candidates how many kids they want to have or what their families are like. That wouldn’t be very helpful – and it’d probably be a little illegal, too.

Rather, in this context, “matchmaking” refers to a hiring process in which the focus is shifted from candidates’ resumes to their characters.

“To us, matchmaking means leveraging soft skills, character, and attitude when placing and hiring, in addition to what you would look at from a typical resume and skill set,” Sciortino says.

Matchmaking Leads to Happier Customers

But why adopt matchmaking tactics in the first place?

According to Sciortino, eaHELP started making the shift after noticing a peculiar trend: Often, when relationships between virtual assistants and clients didn’t work out, it wasn’t because the assistants didn’t have the right skills. It was because the assistants didn’t have the right personalities.

“When we first started, we were more focused on, ‘We have a client who does X,Y, and Z, so we’ll give him an [executive assistant] who has a skill set in X, Y, and Z,” Sciortino explains. “What we found over time is that work style, differences of opinion, and communications styles all played into whether or not those relationships were successful.”

Sciortino says that clients would routinely come to eaHELP and say things like, “My assistant has a great skill set, but he isn’t warm enough” or “The assistant can do the work, but she’s too casual in her communication style.”

“When they called out misses, they were focusing on soft skills instead of technical skill sets,” Sciortino says.

BagTo address this problem, eaHELP realized it would have to approach hiring a little differently. If soft skills were often the make-or-break factors in assistant success, then soft skills would have to be the make-or-break factor in hiring decisions, too.

And thus, eaHELP began making matches instead of hires.

“We really started focusing on personality, character, soft skills, and communication style,” Sciortino says. “At the end of the day, most people can be taught to do the skill. But who they are is who they are, and that’s going to matter when they show up to work every day.”

Matchmaking in Action: What eaHELP’s Recruiting Process Looks Like

In order to emphasize soft skills in the recruiting process, eaHELP had to change things up. The first thing to go were phone interviews, which were replaced by webcam interviews.

“That way, we could get a better sense for who that person was,” Sciortino explains. “You can read someone’s body language and uncover their character [during a webcam interview].”

Next, the interview questions themselves we retooled. Sciortino says that eaHELP still validates candidates’ skill sets, but that piece of the recruiting process comes later. Now, during interviews, eaHELP uses open-ended questions that encourage candidates to speak honestly about who they are – questions like “Tell me about a time when you had to overcome an obstacle.”

“We shifted our focus during the interview away from the skills on the resume and more into understanding who the person was,” Sciortino says.

Lastly, eaHELP implemented personality tests and assessments of candidates’ communication styles to help them garner more concrete data on potential assistants’ character traits.

It’s also important to note that eaHELP started implementing a similar process on the client side. Instead of focusing on what clients needed their assistants to do, eaHELP started asking clients about what kinds of assistants they wanted.

“We started asking questions like, ‘What is important to you in your assistant? What character traits matter to you? What communication style do you use?'” Sciortino explains.

Prepare to Be ‘Wowed’

StationerySince implementing the matchmaking approach, Sciortino says, eaHELP has been “wowed by what we could actually do when we dig into the details.”

For example, Sciortino tells the “bizarre story” of one client, who was a chemist and engineer who studied how the environment affects farm lands.

“It was a very unique skill set for this individual,” Sciortino says.

But by looking beyond assistants’ resumes and focusing on their backgrounds, eaHELP was able to locate the perfect assistant for this client. The assistant grew up on a farm, went to college for chemistry, and was married to an engineer.

“It was the craziest match made in heaven,” Sciortino laughs. “We introduced them, and now they’ve been working together for many years.”

Sciortino believes that such a match could have never been made without eaHELP’s new hiring process. By viewing candidates as people rather than resumes, eaHELP was able to dig into the “nitty-gritty” and learn more about its assistants. With this level of knowledge, eaHELP was able to make the right match between assistant and client, resulting in a high level of customer satisfaction for even the most unique of clients.

Read more in Selection

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of