The 6 secrets to hiring someone online!

I have hired many people for many online jobs, ranging from low-skill data entry to high level programming, and experimented with different methods in the process. How do I know if someone is a good fit? How do I interview? Do I hire full time? Part time? How much do I pay? I will answer all of these questions in this article based on years of personal experience. Of course these are my personal suggestions and your opinions may vary.

1. What do I look for in a profile?

After posting a job and waiting a day or two for the applicant list to fill up, the first thing I do is look at all the applicants’ profiles. Different jobs have different priorities, but the main things I am looking for are that there is a completed profile, that the person appears to be intelligent, and that the person speaks English well. If I am hiring a virtual assistant I will require a higher level of English proficiency than if I am hiring a programmer. If I am hiring a designer or programmer I will look through all of the portfolio samples they link to.

2. How do I interview the people I like?

Once I find some people I like, I’ll often send them some additional job info and request that they write me a message elaborating on why they believe they would be a good fit for the job. This is a great test. If someone takes the time to write up a good message they might get an interview. I can often tell at this stage if they are really interested in my job or are just looking for whatever floats their way.

When I first got into outsourcing, I was really into interviewing everyone on Skype so I could hear their voice and make a perfectly informed decision. But eventually I realized this is unnecessary unless I’m hiring someone who will need to answer calls. An interview via Google Talk (instant message) will suffice. By the time I am conducting an interview I usually know if the person is technically qualified for the job. The main thing I’m trying to figure out in the interview process is what their personality is like. Will this person mesh with my personality? Did the person message me on Google Talk when he said he would? Is the person on Google Talk to begin with…? It’s really important to me that people who I work with will be available when they work on Google Talk so I can contact them during their work hours. I need them to be responsible and reliable. I can figure this out to some extent by having an interview. But I never really know until I’ve actually assigned some work to the person (more on that in a bit).

3. How do I transition people into my workflow?

Again, I used to be really concerned with finding the “perfect” person. However I have realized that the best way to find out if someone is good is to just give them work and see how they do. This is actually one of the great advantages of online work. You can try people out. This is especially useful for hiring programmers. You just never know until you see how they work. I’ll give them a small project or task and see if they (a) get it done when they say they would and (b) do it correctly. If they don’t do it right but I can tell they might be able to with some direction, I’ll give them another chance. If they then do it correctly I’ll send more work and bit by bit they’ll become more involved with my company and workflow. If they can’t do the relatively straightforward first task or if they promise deadlines and keep giving excuses, I will pay them for their time and discontinue sending them work. It’s just business!

4. Do I hire hourly or full time?

This really depends on the type of work you’re doing and your personal needs, but here’s what I’ve learned.

Virtual Assistants (VAs) are best hired full time. The purpose of a VA is to be your assistant. This means there is a high learning curve as they will need to know you and your business inside and out. You want someone who will be loyal to you and also who will be available every day. Also, VA jobs are competitive jobs to interview for. If you hire someone full time and pay him or her a good rate, your VA is likely to stick with you for a long time.

Programmers are best hired on a per hour basis. I’ve found that this is the best way to keep them motivated, and in general people who program often have multiple things they are working on at once. It’s difficult to get someone who can command rates of $10-15/hr to work just for you. You never know if they are finding other work on the side. But if you pay hourly you can hold people responsible for their work and they are more likely to be honest. I also prefer to have 2 or 3 programmers working hourly than one person working full time. This makes it significantly easier to delegate multiple projects and expect results on time. Further, these types of jobs are easier to place an hourly value to as I am often billing clients hourly for my work.

And writers? To be honest, I haven’t hired many people solely for writing. I’ve usually had full-time virtual assistants do writing as part of their job and it worked out just fine. However I know people who have experimented with different methods and got the best result by paying on a per word basis. Again, I’m not absolutely sure if that is the best method or not.

5. How much do I pay?

If you find good people, stick with them and pay a competitive rate! Otherwise you will soon find your projects becoming their bottom priority as they receive other hourly work paying more than yours. Do not bargain people down to a rate you know is below what they deserve. This isn’t just for ethical reasons, although that is important. It’s also bad for business. They will eventually resent your low rate and will be unenthusiastic about your work. Further, someone who commands twice the rate will often do the same job in half the time, so you end up paying the same amount anyways and get a better output! This is especially true for programmers. Good programmers ask for more money for a reason… That being said, it’s also not productive to grossly overpay. If you pay people well beyond their worth they may have little reason to do anything. Paying market rate and giving some bonuses for good performance is a better habit. Which brings me to the final topic…

6. Do I give bonuses?

Yes! I first tried incorporating bonuses into the payment schemes as a way to motivate people. “If you do such and such you’ll get a bonus every month.” In my experience this does not work at all. Instead, I motivate people through appreciating their work and trying to get them excited about it, while still making sure they know I’ll stop working with them if they’re not up to par. Also, I work hard myself. People who work for me realize this and it sets the right tone.

All that being said… bonuses are good. If someone does particularly excellent work for you, give him or her a bonus every once in a while. Some of these people haven’t seen a bonus in years or maybe ever and they will appreciate it. Also, I think it’s good habit to give out Christmas bonuses to people working for you full-time. It’s just a nice thing to do and it’s worth it to me to spend a bit of money to make someone’s day over the holidays.

Another thing you can consider is giving your person a “13th month pay“. Basically, it’s a tradition (law) in the Philippines for employers to pay their employees an extra month’s salary at the end of December to help them cope with the expenses of the holiday season. The 13th-month pay is equivalent to 1/12 of the basic salary received by an employee within the year. You can decide for yourself if this is something you would like to do. Again, if a full-time employee is doing great work for you and earning you money, it’s a nice thing to do.

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