If you’ve ever tried recruiting freelancers on oDesk (now called Upwork), doing so can feel like herding cats.

Why? Well, you essentially have two options: keep the job post private – or make it public for all freelancers to see. The moment you make a it “public,” the insanity can quickly ensue. Within minutes, you may have dozens of applicants to review. Sure, it’s nice that your job posting has attracted interest. But, more importantly, do you really have time to review each freelancer’s profile? I don’t.

In this post, I’ll offer two options to reign in the craziness. (Sneak peak: option 2 involves using my pre-screening assessment that is now available for $19 on JotForm’s theme store. Buy it here.)

Option 1: Manually Screening Applicants via Upwork

Upwork allows you to include custom screening questions with your job posting. Upwork applicants are required to answer these questions when applying for the position.

To include a custom screening question in your application, simply hover over “Add Another Question.” Then choose “Create my own question” and customize the questions as you see fit.

oDesk questions

The downside is that comparing answers to your questions can be quite time consuming and difficult to organize. (You may need to hire an administrative assistant to help you hire an administrative assistant!) While the Upwork process is certainly helpful, it can get out of hand if you have several applicants to compare. To give the process due diligence, you must manually navigate to each application and compare answers.

Furthermore, there’s not much automation involved with this approach. For example, if you only wanted applicants who can work during Eastern time zone hours, it would be nice to automatically filter out non-qualified applicants.

Option 2: Upwork Freelancer Screening Automation

If you’re looking for a faster way to pre-screen candidates, there is another option. I recently built this pre-screening form for a client, which automates the process of recruiting and screening new hires.

odesk freelancer screening automation

Here’s how it works:

  • You grab the form from the JotForm theme store. Click here to get it.
  • Feel free to customize the questions and page logic (it’s a multi-page, logic-based form).
  • Grab the permalink of your form and link to it from your Upwork job description. Make sure to point out that all applicants must complete the pre-screening assessment before being considered.
  • The form will notify you once an applicant has passed the assessment (based on your preferred score tolerance).

As freelancers fill out the form, they are automatically weeded out if they do not meet your pre-defined criteria. Applicants who meet your initial criteria are then prompted to answer several questions about their work experience (customizable by you, of course). This saves time for everyone involved, including the freelancer. As an employer, you can drastically reduce the amount of time spent sifting through answers from unqualified candidates.

Candidates who meet your requirements are also asked to include their contact details, Upwork profiles, and LinkedIn profiles (if applicable). This helps you automatically build a database of freelancers, which can easily be exported to Excel or synchronized to your CRM. The form can even be connected to InfusionSoft and Asana for additional automation! (Contact me, and I’d be happy to help you set up this level of automation.)

Ready to automate the pre-screening and hiring of freelancers? Click here to get my pre-screening form.

Buy Matt’s Pre-Screening Form


Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and Entrepreneur.com.

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