As the newest hire for the 80/20 Foundation, it was an exciting task for me to hire a virtual worker through the website oDesk. While I had heard about the site previously and had even recommended it to others looking for a way to reduce costs and increase productivity, this was my first true experience as a hiring manager. For those of you who have not used oDesk, I hope to provide some initial insight from my experiences.

oDesk is an outsourcing platform that allows workers to find work and employers to find workers –basically a huge talent pool. Currently, oDesk has over 2.7 million freelancers and 540,000 clients, which means the market heavily favors employers. Although the credentials listed by potential workers are often outstanding, in order to ensure quality control, the website has a number of tests that allow workers to showcase their true abilities versus the rest of the population. This can often be a huge differentiator when it comes to selecting an oDesker. However, as a disclaimer, no matter how good someone’s resume, test scores, or English ability is proclaimed to be, what you see is not always what you get.

Not so long ago I put out an ad looking for someone to complete basic research for a few projects that we had in the pipeline. The response was more than I expected with nearly 100 applicants. Immediately, I began to sort through them looking for indicators such as writing ability, grasp of English language and oDesk rating that would help me decide who to choose. Immediately, I noticed that many of those who applied submitted a very generic cover letter – some so generic you could tell that it was a copy/paste job. After sorting through and filtering out the obvious “nos” I began trying to sort the remaining candidates through other data points such as price and previous work experience.

After finally shortlisting my top 6 candidates, I decided the best way to choose between them was a test. I messaged each individual with a short question pertaining to the research position: “What would your process be to find businesses in San Antonio, Texas?” The replies that I received back were enough for me to decipher who was the best fit for the position, as I could tell how much each person was interested in the job and how well they understood the task. I recommend this process to anyone looking to hire a skilled contract worker at a fair discounted price.

Finding the right worker through an outsourcing platform like oDesk can be extremely beneficial to managing your budget as a nonprofit. However, in order to make the best use of the money you spend, it takes some effort to pick the best applicant. For future insight to nonprofit aids, visit