Editor’s note: This article was last updated on September 22, 2017. Originally published January 13, 2013.
Hiring decisions are difficult enough when made in a “traditional” work environment. Hiring online workers to freelancing gigs is even more complex. You can’t shake their hands. You miss out on nonverbal cues. 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 how to hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk) while avoiding bad contractors.
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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 Upwork 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”: Upwork screenshots seem mysteriously bogus.
Picture this: you decide to hire freelance writers to help you build SEO for your website. For one of the writers, you set a billing limit of 10 hours per week and get things started with a few delegations. The next day, you log in to your Upwork 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 Upwork Work Diary, 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 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 Upwork 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 Upwork clients, virtual marketplaces tend to attract desperate people. Upwork 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 Upwork or other virtual marketplaces have shut down contractors’ profiles because they had been involved in illegal activities. In doing so, companies such as Upwork 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 ton of highly qualified, hard working people on Upwork and other virtual workspaces. In fact, Upwork has invested significant effort and resources to make their marketplace the most trustworthy in the industry (in my humble opinion).
Stay tuned for future articles on how to identify and hire winners.