Set yourself (and your applicants) up for success…
The job description is the single greatest factor in your success or failure on the Elance platform.
The Perfect Job Description:
You want to be as detailed as possible. Think about how you would give instructions on how to tie shoelaces to someone who’s never owned a pair of shoes. It’s not supposed to be condescending, but writing a job description with an almost over-the-top level of detail accomplishes a couple of goals.
First, it gives freelancers the best opportunity to submit an accurate bid. The more they know, the better they can price their service.
Second, it gives freelancers an opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of your job in their application. You don’t want to leave anything to chance, and making sure every detail is spelled out is the best way to ensure understanding.
Writing the perfect job description takes time. In fact it takes a lot of time. But in the end it’s far less than you’ll spend dealing with the aftermath of a vague job description.
Bury some specific instructions deep in the job description. For example you could put, “Please begin your response with: ‘You would be an idiot not to hire me because ______’.” For detail-oriented jobs, it will be a dead give-away who actually took the time to read your requirements.
Narrow Down the Field
With Elance (and oDesk too), there’s a lot of filtering that has to go on. What I mean by that is there are a lot of candidates that aren’t worth your time or your money. Here’s how to spot them…
Their “Cover Letter”
Does their application give you the sense they read and understood your job description? Or is it a generic blanket-application they use to apply to every posting? A solid cover letter is going to be personalized to your specific requirements, and it’s not unfair to reason the people who can’t take the time to do that aren’t the best fit for the job.
Is their bid outrageously high or unrealistically low relative to the other applicants? Like any data set, it’s usually best to toss out the outliers. There’s always a temptation to try and save money here, but it’s generally not worth the risk of an unqualified candidate trying to “buy” their way into work.
A super-low bid can be indicative of a poor understanding of the scope of the work, or just a mark of desperation in trying to win the job.
Take a look at the contractor’s profile page. The things to look for are a professional bio, a solid portfolio, and the positive feedback to back it up. It’s amazing, but you’ll find contractors with typos and misspellings on their profile page, and those who haven’t even taken the time to upload a picture.
On Elance, there are a number of tests freelancers can take to bolster their profile. If your job requires any specific skill, look for the test-results in that area. Don’t give much weight to the “self-rated” skills; modesty among contractors is in short supply.
Take a look at what previous employers are saying in the contractor’s feedback and try and read between the lines. Are there a large percentage of completed jobs with no feedback? That can be a bad sign as many people subscribe to the principle of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
For any sizeable project, you want the best person (or team) for the job. With so many talented freelancers out there, why settle for a sub-par candidate?
Use these proven Elance best practices and enjoy outsourcing success like never before. If you have any favorite hiring tactics, please share them in the comments below!