Online Work Tips & Best Practices
January 24, 2014 by oDesk Ambassador

By Antoine Martiano, Strategy & Business Development Consultant

Yesterday I shared tips 1 through 3 of how to hire an awesome developer on oDesk. But I’m not done yet! Here are the other three tips I’ve learned from my experience hiring on oDesk.

4. Validate skills during the interview

The skills listed on a freelancer’s profile are important to look at, but they are not the whole story. A freelancer may have all the skills you’re looking for listed on his or her profile, but you should still investigate, evaluate, and check reviews.

Keep in mind that, due to cultural differences between countries, freelancers might not introduce themselves or present their skills and achievements in the same way as you do. Plus, when looking at qualifications, keep in mind that some applicants are prone to exaggeration.

It really comes down to this—you have to conduct proper interviews with the applicants, as much as you would if they were visiting you at your office.

Use Skype to conduct the interview, but don’t be surprised if most of the time, freelancers use it to exchange written—instead of oral—messages. Many people are shy and introverted, especially developers.

Here is a list of typical and some less obvious questions you might want to ask the applicants:

  • “Do you have other current assignments?”
  • “How many assignments have you worked on?”
  • “What are your regular working hours?”
  • “Have you done something similar to what I need before?”
  • “How stable is your Internet connection?”
  • “What is your English level?”
  • “Can you work full time on my project until completion?”
  • “What is ambiguous or unclear in my job post?”

Some cultures are very uncomfortable with confrontation, so you have to gain some level of trust before they say to you that they did not understand something. One way to do this to give applicants a sense of your background during the interview. They can’t guess what you didn’t say, such as the country you are based in, your time zone, etc.

You should also remember to set clear expectations. If you are expecting your team members to send a daily report of their work, tell them. Emphasize the following critical point: that you expect them to ask for help if they get stuck on something, rather than just vanishing.

5. Implement a test period

Once you have conducted proper interviews, you should have a shortlist of a few candidates. I would advise testing them with a real work task they can perform in a couple of days.

Be honest with them. Tell them you are considering a few candidates and ask if they would be okay with performing a fully paid short assignment. Most of them would be happy to do so. On oDesk, create a new private job offer related to this test job, and invite only your shortlisted candidates. As a show of goodwill and to build trust, I’d suggest prepaying the test assignment in full, which should not last longer than a few days.

At the end of this process, you should have a much clearer idea of which candidate you want to hire.

6. Respect the freelancer’s listed rate

At first, you will try to locate freelancers from your home country. Soon enough, you’ll find that there are many other countries where the cost of living is lower, so highly skilled freelancers can afford to charge less. And it is tempting to run after the best possible deal.

That being said, don’t forget that you are not buying a product. You are hiring real human beings, and more often than not, they will use the money you are paying them to pay for their basic needs, such as food and housing—sometimes for their whole family. While a couple of dollars on an hourly rate is not much for you, it can make a tremendous difference for them.

Once I gave a $150 bonus to a graphic designer who did tremendous work for me—and he later told me he bought Christmas presents for the kids in his hometown thanks to the money.

So, it is normal that you look for the best possible deal; just remember that you get what you pay for, and it can create some significant rifts in goodwill right at the beginning of a contract if you try to negotiate the rate too low. At some point, a good deal is just good enough.

And don’t forget you are reviewed too by freelancers; and with better reviews, you will attract better applicants.

Ok, that’s all for today. I hope these six tips will help you get the most out of oDesk. Happy hiring!

Do you have any additional tips to share? Add them in the comments section below!

Antoine Martiano

Strategy & Business Development Consultant

Antoine Martiano is a Strategy & Business Development Consultant who helps innovative companies reinforce their positioning so they can grow and create more value. Based in Paris, France, Antoine also serves as oDesk's Paris Ambassador, helping other entrepreneurs find success on oDesk.

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  • Cartrell

    Hello, Antoine Martiano.

    I also enjoyed reading part 2 of your article. On tip #4, regarding these two items:

    – “Do you have other current assignments?”
    – “Can you work full time on my project until completion?”

    If the answer to the first item one is yes, then that particular freelancer may not necessarily be available full-time (by full-time, I’m assuming you mean at least 30 hours per week), But, it would depend on how they manage their time. The other assignment may only require a few hours each week, so that freelancer can then reserve the rest of the week for the said assignment. Of course, if the potential freelancer has no other assignments, then by default, 100% of their working time would be available.

    I’m guessing with those two items, the client would ask one or the other, but not both?

    • Antoine Martiano

      Hello Cartrell. I’m glad you enjoyed the second part of my article.

      I’ve found that sometimes, asking the same question but in a different way, you’d get a different or more accurate answer.

      For instance, a given freelancer might not have any other work assignment but still cannot work full-time because he or she has personal constraints. Or on the opposite, s/he is a workaholic and plans to stack up multiple full-time projects over the course of the week.

      The idea here is that – as a client – you want to get a clear picture of the freelancer ability to focus on your project.