Computer image by Karla Vanessa Redor Follow, Graffitti by Newton Graffitti and remixed by me.

HOW TO: Hire Online

What’s the difference between online dating and hiring online?

Other than profit motives, not much.

Both start with a short list built online and — with the exception of short term hires — a micro-conversion that leads to an interview.

But the actual conversation still happens in the real world.

Where freelancers are concerned, hiring managers are increasingly making their hiring decisions solely on digital discovery and discourse.

And why shouldn’t they?

If you can outsource your work to the digital realm, why shouldn’t you be able to evaluate workers there as well?

“When an industry becomes computable, it goes through a series of predictable changes: it moves from being digitized to being disrupted to being democratized,” writes Thomas Friedman in his new book Thank You for Being Late.

That’s exactly what’s happening in the online outsourcing space, where goal is not companionship but rather accessing a premium talent pool you can’t afford to retain exclusively.

Creative freelancers can use an online portfolio and let employer can review their work. Of course, digital packaging and presentation provides valuable insight into a candidates digital literacy. A creative, well designed portfolio gives a potential employer insights into the work and work ethic a freelancer will bring to a job. An ill-prepared or incomplete portfolio should be a warning sign.

But creative collaboration is, in most cases, still more difficult to digitize, so when it comes to hiring full time employees online, or choosing a mate for that matter, it’s still about person to person interviews.

But it’s not all about visceral reactions. In his corporate blog, Eshares CEO Henry Ward articulates the importance of trajectory when evaluating a candidate, which he says is far more valuable than experience because it indicates growth potential after joining his company.

Ward says the “tell” in spotting trajectory is when the candidate gets excited about what they could do rather than what they have done.

He also prefers Doers over Tellers, and Learners over Experts.

“The best predictor of a successful new hire at Eshares is if they like to get their hands dirty. Whether it is writing code, building spreadsheets, calling customers, or stocking the fridge.

This is true at every level.

Hire Doers over Tellers

Our senior managers are hands-on, care about details, and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves. They don’t last long otherwise,” he said.

Ward said employers should be wary of Tellers, who tend to be good interviewers. He said interviewing ability has almost no correlation to employee effectiveness.

Hire Learners over Experts

In the Learners versus Experts equation, Ward said he values expertise but also realizes that static expertise quickly becomes obsolete.

“To survive and grow we must be a learning organization. And that means we need people who are awesome at learning. Paul Graham said, ‘When experts are wrong it is often because they are experts on an earlier version of the world.’”

“In the twenty-first century, knowing all the answers won’t distinguish someone’s intelligence – rather, the ability to ask all the right questions will be the mark of true genius,” says John E. Kelly III, VP cognitive solutions and one of the Watson architects at IBM.

Employers evaluating candidates on a digital platform need to learn to read between those digital lines. Look for the organization and creativity in their portfolio and see what kind of social media presence they have and what networks they consult for information. An employee with impulsive or thoughtless social media behavior may be impatient problem solvers and knee-jerk decision makers.

And one more bit of advice from Ward: avoid big egos. Or as my pal Robert Landes says, “My ego is not my amigo.”

“Confidence and ego are opposites. Modesty and humility are true traits strength. Ego and arrogance are the mark of the weak and insecure. The truly confident don’t need people to know they are great. They are happy to know it themselves. And the truly great use their greatness to make those around them greater,” writes Ward.