The Way We Work
August 11, 2010 by Erica Benton

Whether you're applying to be a remote contractor or an in-house employee, you can make the employer's decision an easy one by following these steps to make yourself a top candidate every time.

1. Assess yourself against the job description. With a world of opportunities out there, you can think of yourself as Goldilocks - you want to find the ones that fit "just right"! The job post is how you can assess fit and it can be your ticket to the top of the applicant list. A good job description will tell you a lot about the role, the employer and the must-have skills for the position. The best way to stand out among other applicants is to read the post carefully and make sure the fit is spot on. Do you have all the skills they are asking for? If not, this position may not be the right one for you - moving on will net you more time to find the one that fits your particular talents. If your resume fills all the needs laid out in the job description, make sure you address the must-haves in your cover letter to pass the initial resume review.

2. Bring all of your talents to the table. There are a lot of talented people out there - especially when employers are willing to fill the position remotely. How do you compete? Once you've highlighted the must-have skills from the job description in your cover letter, the next step is to think ahead. What else do you have in your arsenal that would add value to this position? If you're going for a marketing position, also being a published author could serve you well. Development and an eye for design is also a great pairing for value-conscious employers. What sets you apart is your ability to see how other skills you have would be an asset to the employer, and presenting them as needs the employer didn't realize they had.

3. Give them a taste of your expertise. Savvy employers will be interviewing their top candidates - so let them know you'd love the opportunity to discuss the position in more detail. Don't just ask for the interview, give them a hint as to what you'd like to discuss to tease them into giving you the nod for an interview. Present a few examples of standout activities you've done in similar roles, or ideas you have to take the assignment over the goal line on-time and under budget. I once had a writer tell me about his idea for blog post in a cover letter, and suggest that he'd be happy to discuss it in more detail during his interview. He not only got the interview, he got the job!

Bonus points: Tell them the best days and times to reach you for an interview up front. Got a busy schedule? Let them know you're happy to find a time mutually convenient to talk. Employers tend to squeeze interviews in between other obligations, so being flexible and available may automatically put you at the top of their list.

FiredtoHired4. Close the deal. Once you've made it to the interview phase, you should get a good sense from the employer where you stand among other applicants. Employers with a number of qualified applicants may decide to hire them all for a brief assignment. Take the initiative and let them know you're not only interested in a test hire, you have ideas on ways you can prove your worth to them. Note: This is not an offer for free work or custom samples - you should always be paid for your time and efforts! Open to a offering a discounted rate for the first few days? Tell the employer that - its a great way to build their confidence in your abilities and prove that you are worth every penny of your full asking price.  Let your work speak for itself, and show the employer how easy you are to work with!

5. Know your skill sweet spot. Let's face it, if you've never worked on this type of position before, you're not likely to nail it the first time through. The interview phase can be the most instructive - ask lots of questions and don't be afraid to admit where your skill set may fall short. Top candidates are the ones who know their skills inside and out, and can truly sell themselves to the employer as adding value to the position. Be confident in your abilities and honest about your experience. While your skills may not get the job this time, sticking to your area of expertise will earn you the respect of the employer - and the invitation to interview when they are hiring in your sweet spot.

Got tricks that make your own application process successful? Let me know in the comments!

Erica Benton

Social Media Guru

Erica Benton joined oDesk in 2009, bringing with her nearly a decade of small business and freelance experience, and a love of all things social. Her passion for startups, technology and marketing was born during her tenure with Kulesa Faul Public Relations, while she learned the art of entrepreneurship firsthand through Equine Alternatives, a business she founded while earning her Bachelor of Science degree from… read more

  • Liticia Sabanal

    odesk the #1 largest site to hire contractors

  • Pingback: Freelance Work Online - Vaporsoup

  • Pingback: 12 Days of oDesk |

  • rukshan kiriwendala

    I want your help find the job

  • lani

    This is one of the most important tips I read which will be helpful to boost my confidence on this rare job that I wanted to experience. Great ideas, thanks for sharing.

  • Wella A. Wacay

    Thank your for this wonderful blog and I'm surely that this can help me to be more competitive applicant.

  • Udeni Chandralal

    I'm good in data analysis(Markrt research) and I need a part time job.


  • Jonan Castillon

    Skills, both technical and communication, are the main ingredient in getting a job at oDesk. I know of contractors who are not so good in written English but they have technical skills and they could communication despite grammar deficiency. If a good cover letter is required to land you an interview, then practice writing it. There are tips about it here at oDesk. It is my conviction that when you look for a job it implies that you have something to offer and not you are begging for it. My co-contractors please also realize that with oDesk jobs you are in for a competition and you have to really work hard from building your profile, writing cover letters, interview until you finally nail a contract.

  • Synthia

    Dear Msum and Ajay..this is not a job searching page ...this is only a blog where you can learn about betterment of your career , how to develope. Please read the Odesk help details....

  • Saki Billah

    Thanks a lot dear Erica, you write a very helping and responsible reply. Like your cute smile hope I will be able to find good jobs..Thank you again...

  • http://http// Synthia

    For your kind response dear Elise, you have some punctuation mistakes in your writing.

  • http://http// Synthia

    Thank You Elise, You are right but if you are don't mind this is not true all the time. Getting a job doesn't require English 100% proficiency, if so then Odesk will never give the exam pass marks 2.5 over 5; they will give 5 on 5 to pass in any of the English Exams. How ever this is a blog, people who are writing here most of them don

  • Elise

    My goodness, I can tell you that most of the responses here that complain about not getting any jobs are quite poorly written and riddled with grammatical errors. These could be the reasons that you are suffering with low winning numbers - brush up on your English - sentence structure, conjugation and usage! I am brand new here, however I know that quality always wins over quantity!

  • Jince George

    Hi Erica
    congragulation for your great artcle!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Jince George

  • http://httP// Saki Billah

    There is a problem for new Odesk employee...that most of the time employer don

    • Erica

      Saki, I do not mention exams or skill tests as a way to get an interview. Skill tests are just one of many tools you have to show your expertise, and -when combined with a strong portfolio, good feedback and a well-written cover letter- can help you stand out. But skill tests alone are not going to make you a top candidate - thus they didn't make this list!

      New contractors have to find creative ways to show their skills to make up for a lack of feedback. We'll be covering some ideas for new contractors in a future post - stay tuned! :)

  • Anyl Thapa

    writing skill of erica is outstanding but fact is fact

  • Fitzgerald Sasil

    Thanks for the tips Erica.

  • md rafiqul islam

    Thank you for your important information. I always follow it

  • Jonan Castillon

    I guess Erica can only suggest based on her experience and observation. The rest is dependent on us. My heart goes to oDesk contractors who fails to nail a contract despite your best effort. I had been there too. One great piece of advice I could share is DO NOT DWELL on failures and missed opportunities. Better dwell on the next opportunities. With oDesk, work opportunities abound and I do believe that there is one and many that have been pertained to you. Make your profile attractive, write a very enticing cover letter, follow what Erika has suggested and for sure there will be employers who you will attract. Of course, this doesn't happen overnight...patience and hardwork matters a lot.

  • Josef S. Klus


    Thanks for the blog tips. As one who hires freelancers, the cover letters that get my attention show that the applicant can follow instructions and has done their homework on my project (and not just cut-and-pasted generic content).

    However, your posted blog has omitted the writing tip from your ezine that I thought was conversation-provoking:

    'I'd love to discuss how this skill is underrated, and will be much more important in the future.'

    Josef K.

    • Erica


      You're right that the blog post missed the anecdote I shared in the newsletter interview (guess it pays to be a subscriber!). The writer I hired DID catch my attention in his cover letter by making it very clear that he understood what I was searching for: a writer with technical expertise. By sharing a topic that he would cover if he was granted the position, he gave me confidence that he would be proactive in the role, and gave us a jumping off point for conversation in his interview that went beyond the standard interview questions. As an employer, he made my job very easy - there was no one else I wanted on my team more than someone who fit the position, was proactive, and could converse about his area of expertise comfortably.


  • Dasuiworld

    Erica, thank you very much.More Power from the Philippines!

  • Rajib

    Thank you for your good information. I always follow it

  • Tanushka De Fonseka

    Hello Erica,

    Many thanks for your great post; this will help me a lot!

  • Ram

    We are Getting good Employer's, paying very nice rates other than any freelancing sites! ODESK is our favorite... Thanks.

  • Nasir Hussain Ansari

    I also made bids on many projects and with having experience of more than 12 years of data entry, no one hired me even i have completed many tests on oDesk and tried hard that someone hire me which help me in earning something. Alas! paid members always preferred first and standard are the last choice!

    • Erica

      Nasir, there are no "paid" memberships on oDesk. Everyone joins for free. No one pays until they are hired. And oDesk fees are added in on top of your desired rate, so you make what you wish to.

      Perhaps try the oDesk Learning Center for more info on getting started?

  • zain abid

    I impressed to learn your feature about making a good profile which remains a great influence on the contractor. I am new member on Odesk ,i applied for 8 jobs but 4 of them declined. I am very depress to see that. Please help me what would i do to get that jobs.

  • http://httP// Saki Billah

    Thanks Erica ,,,,,,,,,,,,For such a lovely suggestion.......

  • Dennis Nicholas

    Sure Erica, that's just the bottom-line, in fact, Point No. 3 "Don

    • Erica

      Dennis - glad you found it useful! As an employer, I see a lot of contractors "ask" for the interview, but they don't take that extra step of giving us something valuable to discuss. For those few who do make the effort, it's a small thing but it highlights their expertise for the position and makes it easy to want them on my team!

  • Talha Tuhin

    great article !

  • faisal

    thanks erica for the great post

  • Augustus Caesar Guarin

    The first time I applied for a job in Odesk, I got so many invitations for a job interview. My secret: Tell them the truth. My problem is not really being hired, but sustaining the working relationship as time goes on. One thing that stands out and a common denominator for both employer and contractor is respect. And sometimes we fall short of it by not doing too well and/or failing to meet the expectations of employers which even we ourselves know from the start.
    But employers should also try to understand their contractors notwithstanding professional considerations. I really like working with non-condescending type of employers. They are open to suggestions and because of that you are pressured from within to do your best. A good motivation is best , as working bees are attracted more to nectar than vinegar.
    But right now, I sincerely believe the working here in odesk is probably the best there is. More power to all odeskans!

  • Pali Madra


    Thank you for the great post.

    What you have outlined might seem very simple to those who do not practice but it does take effort to maintain all the factors. I will be using your post whenever I bid on oDesk - it has become my holy grail.

    I was curious to know if oDesk posts the jobs for their content writing needs on oDesk itself or there is a separate section for jobs on oDesk.?

    Pali Madra

    • Erica

      Pali, any contractor positions are posted to the oDesk Marketplace - we love working directly with the oDesk network of contractors! Full-time positions are much fewer and come open less often, but when they do, they'll be listed here.

  • Anyl Thapa

    I think .......kind of steps worked in freelancing. Freelancer is a lottery program which depedns upon your luck. You need 60% luck and 40% skille


  • Simar Madra

    Hey these all things are equally true. Elaborate your potential to maximum to get maximum jobs,

    Rest of the things depends on capability & performance and when there are 2 completed jobs with good feedback on your profile then no one can stop you to get regular jobs.

  • Tufail Shahzad

    Hi Erica,

    Your blog post is very potential but can you read the mind of Employers? I have tried each and every method in cover letters but i got 50 of 1.

    Here you need to write for Employers to make up their mind for giving long term/constant job opportunity for contractors.

    There is no consistency in jobs specially when you're freelancer. American's are finding lower than $1.00/hour contractors, in my view you don't need to teach for cover letter you just need to teach oDesk they have to understand freelancers as human and oDesk have to set a minimum hourly rate.

    World have reach on the MARS and you're still teaching for Cover Letter, sorry to say but it is an utmost truth.



    • Erica

      Tufail, the cover letter is only one aspect of presenting yourself as a top candidate. As an employer, this post was my take on what contractors do to make themselves easy for me to want to hire.

      The concerns you raise about rates are good ones - they've been discussed in other posts and will continue to be addressed in future articles. This post was focused on presenting yourself to employers in a way that will get you considered for the position.

  • Professional Web Scraper

    Awesome article. Very helpful for everyone no matter s/he is a beginner or already employed many times.

  • upen

    Great! I love your post Erica

  • Dinesh

    Hello Thanks for this post. it great....

  • Myra

    Yes, Cover letter really make it applying for a work. And that is true and i had tried that and it works. You must be true to your words and that honesty is always practiced. oDesk gave me this confidence that nothing is impossible to a person who works hard.

  • Jonan Castillon

    I was nodding my head as I read through all the five steps because I experienced it all. Just like most of oDesk contractors, I started hard. I experienced getting a near-to-impossible job and got a very low rating. Then, calamity struck our place and I wasn't able to finish another writing job. I thought of giving up but then I evaluated my writing skill and realized that I have something to offer. It's true that you cannot please every employer but when they realize that you are giving your best they will be happy about it. Quality and honesty are strong traits to be always on top.

  • Anyl Thapa

    I tried with bidding on 30 projects. There is no response so i decided and know that there is too difficult to earn money from freelancer site lik

    Can anyone tell what is the maximum earning of month of people who engagged with odesk.

  • Espe

    Awesome! Great article. I will use these tips in my cover letter.

  • Chris

    In the world of freelancing, I think it is best to be "jack of all trade and master of all." (lol) Kidding aside, any skill can now be learned through the internet, it just takes a little practice to master it. Knowing more than one skill can be your edge among other providers.