oDesk hiring tip: ask for the cat

by Jason on September 26, 2011 · 0 comments

I'm in ur office earnin ur salryWe’re expanding again, but this time the needs are either fairly specific and short-term or fairly generic and not requiring close team integration, so it’s a perfect window of opportunity for some remote outsourcing.

I gave oDesk another try after a fairly disastrous earlier hiring attempt a year or two ago, and partly it’s because of what I’ve learned since then, but things went much better.  Of the three positions I posted, one has just been filled (by two different people to reduce the company’s single points of failure,) one is close to closing (it’s for a client job so I need to get some external approvals,) and the other was for a task that I didn’t think was technically possible, and while we’ve had some inquiries I haven’t seen any applicants yet that I’m confident enough in to make a hiring decision.

Today I want to cover part of the application process, in case it makes anyone else’s lives easier.  The three key things to remember about hiring on oDesk are that 1) in my opinion and experience, it’s the most fun recruitment process I’ve tried, 2) just like any other job posting, you’re not under any obligation to actually fill the position if you don’t like any of the applicants, and 3) you’re going to get swamped with applicants and it could seriously eat up a few days of your time if you’re not careful.

Today’s post is about avoiding that time suck by asking for the cat.

“Asking for the cat” is a phrase I came up with at an old job, where I made sure to put in every job posting that applicants needed to include a link to an LOLcat, except I didn’t include that helpful hyperlink to what an LOLcat was, because I wanted to make people work a little.

I don’t actually care which picture gets sent in, and actually, I’ve changed my process to be even simpler now, like asking for a favourite food, or the name of the President of the USA, because there are some cultures who I think took my cat picture request the wrong way, and as you’ll find if you try it, the barrier to application really doesn’t have to be that high. I still call the act of including a random but required question asking for the cat though.

So why do I ask?  Here’s the thing: when you post to one of these job sites, you’re going to get hit with a ton of responses.  And you’re going to take up a bunch of time reading them, and you’re also going to think each of the applications is totally amazing. What you might not realize, at least at first, is that most of the applicants didn’t even read your posting.  They’re just automatically applying for every job that comes up that meets their criteria.  The cat is just a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones removed, really – a basic test to see if the applicant can follow the simplest of instructions.

And if the question doesn’t get answered, the application is denied without a second glance. No exceptions.  I’ll admit, it’s hard sometimes, especially if the field of qualified applicants who followed instructions is small, but you really need to ask yourself how bad things could get if you start out like this.

In my experience hiring on oDesk so far, a little under 20% of applicants pass this test, which means if you use this trick, you just went from, say, ten hours reviewing resumes and shortlisting candidates to less than two.

You’re welcome. 🙂

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