The Way We Work
November 1, 2010 by Erica Benton

There are hundreds of thousands of contractors available to tackle whatever job you need to hire for. But you don’t want thousands of workers — you want one stellar one, who offers the best combination of experience, reliability and affordability. But, as the employer, you are competing for the attention of those top contractors, and you’ve got to write a killer job description to ensure that their applications head to your inbox.

The best contractors aren’t throwing themselves at any job that comes along. They’ve got two priorities: work that is interesting or challenging, and work that can turn into longer projects — so they can spend more time billing hours and less time applying for positions that may not be a fit.

When you get to the point of conducting interviews with hopeful applicants, you’re in control — you’re doing the hiring, and you can ask detailed questions to make sure you’re hiring the right candidate. But in writing the job posting, the reverse is true: the contractor is choosing you, your work and the future opportunities a working relationship with you may present.

Here are three steps to make your job posting attract those top contractors:

1. Say what you want. Right up front, use one to three sentences to define exactly what position you are hiring for, what experience/tools/style are must-haves for success in this role. This makes it easy for contractors to see, at a glance, if they may be a good fit for your job and if an application would be worth their time.

Example: Looking for a stellar WordPress professional to help redesign our blog. Must have experience in designing/implementing for business blogs, a familiarity with social syndication tools and samples of previous work done in a ultra-modern style. Ability to educate our team on using the most current version of WordPress, recommended plug-ins for spam management, and advice on formatting for multiple topic categories a plus.

2. Define the role. Now that you’ve set the stage, provide more detail on the position and the type of working relationship you expect to have. This sets clear expectations, and lets contractors know before applying if your job will fit their availability.

Example: This is an hourly position that will be limited to 3 months, though there may be an opportunity for ongoing engagement for the right candidate. This role reports to the Marketing Communications Manager and will work closely with the existing team of bloggers and in-house designers. We expect this position to entail roughly 10-15 hours/week.

odesk job posting three3. Help them help you. By asking for a specific type of response in applicants’ cover letters, you are giving contractors a way to show that they can follow directions and give you a stronger sense of their abilities for this role. You’re also giving yourself an easy way to quickly weed out those folks who did not carefully review your job posting. This is a chance for you to reiterate the important criteria you need to address in filling this position. Be clear that whatever you are asking for is something that applicants can pull together in a few short minutes — you aren’t asking for free work, just for clarity on why you should consider one contractor over others.

Example: Interested in applying? In your cover letter, please provide a link to a sample of work that shows your ultra-modern design style, and tell us in 2-3 sentences about your experience with social syndication tools.

By writing a job description that is clear, compelling and gives contractors the ability to effectively market themselves to you, you’re making it that much easier to hire right the first time.

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