How to hire the best talent in the world

What are the chances that the ideal people for your business live within commuting distance? And even if they did, could you actually find, attract, and afford them, given that great talent has countless options?

Traditional hiring is extremely painful. But with the explosion of online work, businesses are breaking the limitations of geography, and they aren’t going back — 76% of businesses characterize online work as a long-term strategy, and 90% say it makes their business more competitive, according to data released by my company, oDesk, a few weeks ago based on a survey of over 7,000 of our clients.

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It’s easy to see why: Access to talent is a critical factor in accelerating success, especially for smaller businesses. MCF Technology Solutions, a development service for cloud-based platforms, is one of millions of startups leveraging online work for this reason. MCF started with just a few designers hired online, then turned to software developers, project managers, assistants, and more. Its 15-person on-premise staff is now empowered by 19 online team members, and CEO Govind Davis couldn’t imagine it any other way. With online work “I have an army,” he said. “It is a huge breakthrough for us in allowing us to grow.”

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, 50% of the Fortune 100 workforce will be contingent workers by 2020, and there is no reason most of these workers shouldn’t be working online rather than on premise.

To stay competitive, it is imperative that businesses embrace this new working model. But when applicants are no longer sitting across the table from you, how do you assess whether they are a fit for your business? Here’s how:

1) Go above and beyond your typical job description to attract the most qualified talent

Having a global pool — instead of being limited to only candidates within commuting distance — increases your chances of finding ideal talent for your role. And when workers have literally a world of jobs to choose from, the ones who actually pursue yours are more aligned with your needs.

But to tap into this larger pool of motivated candidates, you need a job description that’s even more clear than usual, to increase the chances that the right candidates with the right qualifications find your job. The best descriptions not only outline skills required, exact objectives, and any key context, but also expectations for deliverables.

2) Single out exceptional communicators

As with local hiring, we typically look at four key dimensions when determining fit:

1. Personal characteristics 2. Motivation 3. Skills 4. Knowledge

However, some additional characteristics are particularly important online. Exceptional communication skills are especially critical — the best online workers check in frequently, ask smart questions, and skillfully articulate ideas and concerns. An ability to understand projects holistically is also key, as it allows online workers to foresee potential problems and propose new ideas.

3) Test drive your favorite candidates

For online hiring, it’s common to start with a test project — a small assignment, requiring only a few hours of work, that is representative of the larger project and assesses the skills required. Test projects are low risk and extremely informative. You may even want to test multiple candidates and hire the best fit. Take your time in making the final hire, since you can complete the entire process — from fielding applications to making an offer — in just a few days.

What are you waiting for?

The world of work is changing for good, and clinging to hiring processes that worked in the past will quickly render your business extinct. Like anything new, you have to invest time in online hiring to figure out what works best for your business, but starting now will help you build a trusted online team at your own pace. You will be amazed by what you can accomplish when talent is your only criterion and geography is merely an afterthought.

Gary Swart is CEO of oDesk and has more than 17 years of experience in the enterprise software market. Prior to oDesk, he was VP of Worldwide Sales for Intellibank and Business Unit Executive for IBM’s Rational Software Product Group.

[Top image credit: Andresr/Shutterstock]

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