Hiring decisions are difficult enough when made in a “traditional” work environment. Hiring online workers is even more complex. You can’t shake their hands. You miss out on nonverbal queues. There’s just something missing. So, how can you make an informed hiring decision in the virtual workforce?
Unfortunately, there’s not a secret recipe to hiring virtual workers. However, in my experience, there are five personalities you want to avoid when building your outsourced team. In a previous article, we discussed how oDesk contractors can avoid bad clients. In this article, I’ll offer up my tips to clients for avoiding bad contractors.
Persona #1 – The Flake
Warning sign you’ve hired a “flake”: Seems normal, but then suddenly stops returning emails
Ah yes…perhaps one of the most common personas on the “do not hire” list. Unfortunately, this might be the one most difficult to spot before it’s too late. Everything seems to be going swimmingly. You’ve trained the contractor, he or she is doing work and billing time, and then randomly…nothing. No email, no phone call, no hours billed. Just a lot of silence.
Unfortunately, there are many contractors who view oDesk on the same equivalency as a fantasy football league. It’s interesting and kind of exciting, but other things tend to take priority. When unexpected life events occur, such contractors “flake out” and vanish into the abyss. As a client, you’re stuck looking for a replacement.
Persona #2 – The Faker
Warning sign you’ve hired a “faker”: oDesk screenshots seem mysteriously bogus
Picture this: you’ve hired a web developer to provide ongoing support for your WordPress site. You set his billing limit at 10 hours per week and get things started with a few delegations. The next day, you log into your oDesk account and learn he’s maxed out the 10 hour billing limit. Strange, but perhaps he’s taken some initiative and identified some additional issues that needed to be addressed. Upon reviewing his oDesk Workdiary, you start to become more cynical. For five of the ten hours, you see the exact same screenshot. When you ask the contractor if there was a billing mistake, the contractor is adamant that the billing is correct. He claims that he was working on a different computer that didn’t have the oDesk time tracking software installed.
Moral of the story? You’ve got yourself a faker. Time to cut bait and find someone else.
Persona #3 – The In-Your-Face Pounder
Warning sign you’ve hired an “in-your-face pounder”: Overwhelms the system with emails and questions
Questions are OK. In fact, I ask a lot of questions. However, I typically know where to draw the line. The in-your-face pounder gets into your system and, like a virus, infects every corner of your business with confusion and chaos.
In my years of dealing with oDesk contractors, I have to admit that this persona is quite rare. However, those who fit this persona can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Contractors who fit into this category tend to be extremely passive-aggressive. They’ll constantly load up your inbox and chat window but refuse to jump on a phone call to resolve issues. Pounders are dangerous because they can overwhelm your systems, frustrate existing employees, and cause your company to lose focus.
Persona #4 – The Desperate Dude
Warning sign you’ve hired a “desperate dude”: Keeps saying things like, “I just need money”
It’s sad there are so many desperate people out there. Unfortunately for oDesk clients, virtual marketplaces tend to attract desperate people. oDesk does a pretty good job of providing recruitment filtering tools. However, desperate people still slip through the cracks of any recruiting system.
Some employers might think that hiring desperate workers could be to their advantage. I’m sure there have been situations where this is true. However, in general, desperate people tend to be teetering on the verge of persona #1 (i.e. the “flake”). Unless you’re feeling really confident, avoid hiring people who are only interested in the next paycheck you can give them.
Persona #5 – The Total Fraud
Warning sign you’ve hired a “total fraud”: You get a call from the FBI
OK, maybe not the FBI. But, I have seen situations where oDesk or other virtual marketplaces have shut down contractors’ profiles because they had been involved in illegal activities. In doing so, companies such as oDesk will notify the contractor’s client(s) of the cause.
Harsh? Maybe, But…
I know it seems like I’m categorizing people, which may not sit well with some readers. However, as one of my clients routinely says, “I didn’t make this world, I’m just living in it”. The truth is the truth. If you’re going to be a player in the virtual economy, you have to be aware of possible problems. To build an amazing virtual team, it’s important you avoid the personas outlined in this article. All that being said, there are a lot of highly qualified, hard working people on oDesk and other virtual workspaces. Stay tuned for future articles on how to identify and hire winners.
Executive in Sweatpants is the book (published November 2012) from marketer and author Matt Keener. The book is a how-to guide for launching and growing a successful work-from-home consulting business. Sign up to receive future blog postings and news sent directly to your email inbox. Learn more about buying the book (now available in paperback!).