oDesk is an exciting new paradigm that offers multiple advantages-- remote, low-cost and low overhead work product without upfront outlay; a wealth of skilled contractors to select from; pay-for-performance; flexibility with a built-in background structure and real-time monitoring. However, with all these pluses, buyers are left with the same final hiring decision they have in any employment situation.
New buyers and experts familiar with oDesk face the same question and the same challenge.
How can I be confident that I'm hiring the best person for the job at hand?
Although relevant for first time buyers and buyers seeking expertise in an area they have never hired for, any long term relationship is going to have the same initial trial period. I want to know not only that the people I hire are qualified, but also that they are going to fit my organization and the way I conduct business..
Examining provider profiles, portfolios and feedback is the suggested method, and for many jobs, this is sufficient. But this may not be enough. There's more to it than selecting a qualified person: Will this person work well with me? Will they meet my specific expectations, time constraints and budget? Will our relationship be effective and productive?
There's a way to test drive providers at oDesk with little risk. A way to answer the important questions and ease the worries that come with any new hire. And it can be key when filling a longterm position.
The idea is simple. Post your Job and expectations normally, but when you find providers that have the qualifications necessary, hire them with limited hours and assign a portion of a project (or a smaller but similar project). You can create a small project and test several providers. The cost is minimal, as little as a single hour's time for each provider.
The commitment is limited, but the experience of working remotely and using the oDesk tools with a particular provider can be invaluable. If evaluating provider profiles, work samples and cover letters is the gold standard, test driving would be the platinum standard. You get to see how one (or multiple) providers actually performs with a task you set. And you get to find out how you perform as a team.
As a manager or business owner, you know that jobs evolve-- the goal posts change, deadlines and scope get modified, new ideas pop up and new concerns need to be addressed. Test driving allows you to do an initial shake-out and tighten your focus before you decide on the right approach. It may be that the job requires a different mix of talent than you originally thought. Perhaps your deadline or budget was too optimistic. Test driving is a way to clarify things.
Test driving by limiting hours also protects you from an unscrupulous provider who 'milks' time. If a provider cannot produce a quality product in a reasonable amount of time, you've made a mistake hiring at a rock-bottom hourly rate. Trying before buying will allow you to find out before you've committed.
Finally, test driving lets you filter a larger set of qualified applicants to find the best fit. By hiring several providers and test driving, you can see exactly what you will get for your money and keep the best of the group.
--Bill Morrison, Guest Blogger