The Way We Work
July 16, 2007 by Josh Breinlinger

Posting a job, interviewing candidates, and picking the right one is always a challenging process. I’ve been a hiring manager about 5 times for local positions, but that was easy. Hiring for a remote or offshore position is much harder. All of the conventional wisdom is useless when hiring for remote positions.

You get the bonus challenges of:
-Managing timezone differences
-Working thru cultural and language differences
-Verifying the authenticity of your info
-Dealing w/o back-channel references (usually the best source of info)

In the past 2 1/2 years of working with oDesk buyers and providers, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two about the process of interviewing remote contractors.


  • Post a detailed job description. Includes additional expectations about time of day availability, English skill, min / max hourly rates.
  • Send trial projects. Something as simple as “take a look at this website and give me 3 suggestions for improvements” are convenient little tests to see how they think.
  • Ask questions about attitude. Some projects will fail. What’s important is how a provider deals with it. Ask about it.
  • Ask to talk to previous clients. They’re still the best source of info.
  • Start small. Build confidence in your selection by starting with some small projects to make sure everything works out ok before diving into bigger projects.
  • Don’ts

  • Focus exclusively on responsiveness. It’s easy to fall into a trap of confusing “responsiveness” with “responsibility”.
  • Rush into a decision. Every one needs a project completed yesterday, but spend the time and energy to find the right candidates.
  • Mistake poor grammar for poor communication. “We are able to go for thing to make project completed” may be confusing, but ask yourself what’s more important; reliable, consistent, honest communication or impeccable grammar?
  • Josh Breinlinger

    Senior Associate at Sigma Partners

    Josh joined Sigma as a Senior Associate in 2010, bringing six years of startup experience building exceptional teams, products, and communities. He has a black-belt in online marketing and a strong track record of success in user acquisition and retention. Prior to joining Sigma, Josh was the Director of Product and Marketing at AdRoll, an online advertising company, where he helped grow revenue 4x in… read more

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    • Dan

      Mike, consider this 1 USD = 45 repees india.
      125, dollars for rent in india you get a pretty nice place.

      If you pay that guy 11.11 dollars an hour. He’s actually become quite wealthy, and would be considered 6 figures there. As far as shabby work, NOT… Some of the best work ive gotten has been from the lowest paid. Example, I hired 3
      different coders at 30 dollars an hour, I had to fire all 3 of them. At the time we’re so over budget, that we had to give this guy from india a shot for 3 dollars an hour. He did it wonderfully fast, and had every thing we needed..
      hes now living in the USA. hired full time with me, and a partner and several other projects that needed low cost labor

    • ebzzqfybyeqan

      ? – look, they say you are welcome at the site. I went there and applied for a credit card. What happened you think? The form didn

    • Ryan

      Akshay wrote
      “Why would i give someone a trial project when all I need is a small project done?”

      I think you missed the point a little. If your project is small then give a small trial. You can tell a lot from a couple of sentences and you are not asking the provider to do a lot for free.

      Ideally if you have an idea of the project (which you should have anyway, how can you manage something you know NOTHING) about you should be able to pick a good question – where’s the sticking point, where is the critical design decision, what’s the approach to this or that.

      A lot of people will try and wimp out with a “need more info” or “have to research” but if you have provided enough info in the description stick to your guns and ask for a best guess. Even if they don’t get the answer ‘correct’ you can still gauge a lot from the answer – far more than some over polished resume.

      PROVIDERS – Don’t dodge these questions – we are not trying to get your advice for free. There is a reason why it was asked. The scatter gun approach to applying for positions wastes everyones time.

    • Balaji


      For your predicament, there is a solution called “Locally Delivered Offshore Solutions” which will ensure that the Project Management is done Locally for the offshore solutions so that saves you from the stress of having to manage the outside developers yourself. Though this will not be 11$ it will be less that half of 70$ to 80$.
      Write to me at for more details and we can figure out loads of options for you that work very cost effectively.



    • John G!

      Mike, don’t u have any sense of economics at all? $11 is a much better hourly wage in some parts of the planet than the arrogant $80 u tend to charge. And face it mate, quite a few people who charge $11 still have impressive resumes. Certainly, a few more impressive than yours.

    • Jon

      I’ve been paid between $20 and $100/hr for the same skills – depending where I was working and for whom. Someone trying to live in anything but a cardboard box in Palo Alto or Manhattan better be able to charge a lot. My opinion – colored by the fact that I’m trying to make a living as a developer – is that you get what you pay for…to a degree. “Working thru cultural and language differences,” as mentioned in this blog entry, as well as poor grammar skills can make that $11.00 advantage evaporate quickly. I’ll do your coding, cleanly and well-documented – not for $11.00/hr but for much less than $70-80/hr.

    • Srinivas

      $11.00 an hour is good enough pay for one to live in a decent corner of India or Philipines. In fact after having lived here in the United States and making those kind of obscene, might I say, rates for some time now, $11 -$25 is good pay for me if I can go do it from my hometown.

    • Bob

      Mike you also don’t consider where a person lives. $11.00 an hour may be the equivalent of $70-80 hr where they live. You are basing your statements strictly on their hourly rate, not their education or skill level.
      Frankly, I find this offensive and am surprised your post hasn’t been removed.

    • Bob

      Well Mike that gives me a lot of hope. NOT

      I have a huge project that was under production for three years by an outside programmer that was never completed. Now it needs a rewrite of a several key areas and the tasks never finished to be done.

      I’m searching through Odesk to see if I want to post the job here.
      The task is extremely challenging and will take at least six months to complete. But paying $70 an hour would be out of the question.

      How does one find an affordable yet reliable programmer that will get the job done?

    • Mike

      Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. I see rates such as $11.11/hr and I have to laugh. I laugh because people who hire those persons will get shoddy results and I have to laugh, also, because I enjoy coming in after the fact as the “cleaner” and charging $70-80/hr to re-write the garbage that was originally the “solution”.

      Keep outsourcing folks, some of us ARE still earning top dollar as a result of it!

    • Josh

      True, it does depend on the size of the overall project, but I might take the following approach.

      Overall project less than $1,000, then ask the provider to do the first 1-2 hours of work during the interview process. (no risk)
      Overall project greater than $1,000, then hire the provider for a trial period to start work or work on a separate task as a test. You could use a low weekly limit to make sure things work out ok.

      fyi – if you use fixed-price projects as a trial, payment is strictly at the buyer’s discretion. (no risk)

    • Akshay Pendala

      Why would i give someone a trial project when all I need is a small project done? I am then just spending money to see if the person can work. Why should odesk get paid for me to learn whether or not THEIR programmer will actually work out. oDesk should offer a money back guaruntee on ‘trial’ projects.