The Way We Work
October 6, 2010 by Erica Benton

When hiring a remote contractor, making the wrong choice can be costly in terms of time, training and money. Here are the key things to look for when reviewing candidates to set yourself up for hiring success.

Feedback: The first thing you'll do is check the contractor's feedback and work history, but don't just count the number of stars. Look at what your candidate's impressive score really means to you:

  • How many people contributed to that rating? Everyone's gotta start somewhere, but the length of their track record gives you a sense of how many other employers felt they were worthy of hiring.
  • Were they short-term assignments or ongoing engagements? A ten-hour job is one thing, but longer-term positions reveal the ability to handle complex jobs, manage relationships and deliver consistently, so weigh the feedback on a 200-hour project more heavily than you do the response from a five-hour project.
  • Are they getting repeat business? Seeing the same job title with "will hire again" comments is a sign that the same employer keeps coming back for more. Repeat business is a stronger recommendation than the highest written praise.
  • What about ongoing projects? If the contractor has a lot of continuing jobs, check whether she'll have time to meet your deadlines.  The good news is, a contractor still engaged after logging 400 hours has proven herself indispensable, and is someone you want to consider for your team.
  • What kind of jobs are listed? Your prospective Java developer lists a full alphabet soup of skills: ActiveX, CSS, J2EE, PHP, the works. If most of his assignments have been in PHP and CSS, even dazzling feedback might not qualify him for your six-month J2EE position. If the role you're trying to fill requires specialized skills, make sure the contractor you hire has standout expertise in that skill.

Portfolio: Feedback lets you see whether a contractor's work made the previous employers happy. The portfolio lets you see whether their work will align with your needs to make you happy in the long run.

  • Is it good enough? Do you like your prospective writer's "voice"? Do you find that web designer's last site attractive and easily navigable?
  • Is it big enough? Does the portfolio contain work of the scope you're hiring for?
  • Does it relate? Are the skills and abilities showcased the key ones you need for this position? Is there an opportunity for them to apply knowledge from previous assignments to your role?

Skills: Scores on skill tests will expose work style as well as competency.iStock_000010333402XSmall

  • Can he back up his skills? Does the candidate list 100 skills on has taken only 2 tests? Chances are, you need someone who can do all he claims. If he has taken tests in some subjects, but not those that pertain to your job, don't hesitate to ask him to complete tests that apply directly to the skills needed for your position. It should take the contractor only a few minutes and it is both a sign of interest in the job as well as a yardstick for you to compare all candidates equally.
  • Does she have enough tests? Don't just look at the test scores; make sure the candidate has a good range of tests too. If you are hiring a blogger, look for results from an English test, an AP/Chicago Style guide test and perhaps an Internet/blog writing test.

Hourly rate: More than just price - when looking at the candidates' hourly rate, consider how much value you are getting. Employers often find that the lowest price doesn't net them the best work.

  • Is the rate sensible? While remote work removes many of the typical barriers to international hiring, it means employers need to take into account the global market - what are similar contractors asking rates? Does the contractor's skills and experience support their rate?
  • Does their rate increase over time? As a contractor builds their reputation, they will likely seek periodic rate increases. A contractor that is able to raise their rate is a someone who has proven their value to employers and has earned the confidence to demand a higher rate. Contractors with this indicator are likely a good bet for quality work.

An online profile puts a lot of data at your fingertips, but to extract some of the best information, dig a bit below the surface. It's worth the effort if it leads you to a contractor good enough not only for your current position, but also for your future needs in their area of expertise.

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

  • Mark

    As an employer I would personally delete 80% of the contractors on odesk, far too many part time semi-skilled wannabe's pretenting to have skills/capabilities they don't possess.

    Too many contractors using false names and listing themselves as being in US/Canada/UK when they are based in India etc.

    The tests are a joke, there are contractors offering to do tests for other contractors! Totally pointless.

    • http://www.webentrepreneur.ws IrFaN

      I would second Mark, oDesk should update all tests plus they have to improve the way how test is being conducted, for example screen recording or time tracker while test is being conducted.

      Mark is right most of the time the contractors don't even bother to read the job post. This is funny when you get application of data entry contractor for a server administration job. :)

      Obviously there is a need to improve the standard.

    • Attorney Strongentburg

      I have to agree with Mark as well. You basically spend alot of hard earned money and time shifting through contractors to find a needle in a hay stack. Basically, we have had a better chance of find staff on craigslist.org sorry to say

  • http://www.integracontroles.com Richard

    I think oDesk should expend it's offering in HVAC Controls and industrial controls.

    I am a Niagara tridium Programmer integrator and there is large demand in this field.
    The problem is getting yourself found by contractors in need.

    Tridium is now the defacto of choice and is a wonderful integration platform. It is now considered universal as almost every Building automation company uses it.

  • http://sreeguruwebsolution.blogspot.com/ Debashis

    I have suffering some problem.Actually I have sent request to clients for getting work but my problem is I was the decline by the most of the clients of them.I wanted to know anything was wrong.If had wrong So what was the wrong and what should have my writing?

  • http://sh.umar9@yahoo.com sh.umar9@yahoo.com

    my name is umar i want job on odesk.com plz help me in this requirments
    thanks i am waiting your response

  • http://www.odesk.com MD MITHUN ALI

    I am used odesk for over 3 manth. Yes, invest the time to carefully choose and cull the candidates.odesk has been one of my best business tools and the ability to find the right candidate is a dream come true.So another tip we found to really determine who read our job descriptions is to specify the candidate must put “I am real user” or something like that, at the end of the job letter.

  • http://www.free-power-point-templates.com/ Julian

    We have been using oDesk and we are very happy with the tools and platform that you provide.

    Lately we found that many spammers are trying to get new projects without reading the job descriptions or entering with duplicated accounts. Fortunately the oDesk's QA team is working pretty well on this. So another tip we found to really determine who read our job descriptions is to specify the candidate must put "I am real user" or something like that, at the end of the job letter. We finally discard those who just send a nice cover letter but do not write this.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/odeskreview Alan

    This is great advice. It's true that you should at whether your candidates projects are ongoing. There's no better vote of confidence than companies who retain the services of someone for extended periods!

  • http://www.namayaproductions.com Namaya

    I've used O-desk for over 3 years. Yes, invest the time to carefully choose and cull the candidates.

    This is a terrific service both to employees and employers around the world.

    O-desk has been one of my best business tools and the ability to find the right candidate is a dream come true.

    Now, I wish they would have a category for the Arts Field -- like when I want to record a new CD in Jamaica where and how is the best set up?
    But that is my new fantasy

    • Swapan Ray

      Dear Namaya,
      Please help me how can i get a copy writing and data entry job from oDesk site.
      Swapan Ray.

  • http://www.fortunearticles.com Fortune Articles

    Awesome article.. Nice to shared here..