The Way We Work
August 6, 2009 by Brian Goler

There is a ton of good advice available about hiring online workteams, but I find that I’m often pressed for time and cannot do everything that one “could” do. At the same time, I never want to settle when it comes to hiring, especially when I’m looking to build a long-term relationship – which is pretty much always the case.

So what’s the best way to hire top-notch online talent on a tight time budget?


I’ll share the approach that I’ve been refining over the past few years. It’s led me to the right hire almost every time. It’s an approach that is particularly well-suited for online contract work where it’s as easy to hire as it is to fire, and where timezone and language barriers need to be broken down.

At its core, my recommended strategy is one that recognizes that you’re both buying and selling during the hiring process and recognizes that you place a lot of value on your time. At each stage, you want to sell your opportunity to generate interest from the right candidates (since top performers usually have lots of options) while also efficiently gathering critical information that will enable you to identify the best candidate.

I follow three key steps:

1. Write the killer job description. This post will show you an approach that should attract a lot of interest, but I suggest one important twist: tell prospective candidates what you want to see in cover letters including at least one specific request that will be easy for you to evaluate when you are screening applications later. The idea isn’t to discourage applications, but rather to make sure that you collect information that will both enable you to quickly eliminate unsuitable candidates and identify promising ones without needing to review their full online profile. The request should be something that would be a lay-up for the right candidate. I’ve used this strategy to reduce candidate queues with 50+ candidates down to 10 “qualified” candidates in less than an hour.

If you’re hiring an engineer, for example, you might ask candidates to describe an application that best illustrates their capabilities to do the type of work you require along with a short (2-3 sentence) description of why that’s the case. If you’re hiring a customer service agent, you might ask them to give you their favorite tip for keeping customers happy. If you’re hiring someone to help you with social media marketing, ask for a link to their blog or Twitter account.

Templated (cut and paste) applications are really easy to eliminate with this approach and often several responses stand out right away. Plus, this same job description is still suitable for sharing with friends or for reaching out to passive candidates if you have time for that.

Since this article is a bit lengthy, I’ve broken it into two parts: stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Step 2 – Interviewing and Step 3 – Testing!

Brian Goler


Brian Goler served as Vice President of Marketing at oDesk. Brian has more than 15 years of management experience spanning several online community and publishing businesses. Brian co-founded and launched YorZ, an online community dedicated to helping people advance their careers. He held several senior positions at LookSmart including Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Senior Vice President of Product since January 2001 and… read more