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The hiring process is broken.

Ace Contributor
Mark B Member Since: Feb 7, 2016
1 of 39

For 4 years, I have been a loyal Upwork client.  I've spent $143k on Upwork in the past 18 months (client feedback score of 4.99, currently have 12 open contracts).


That said, I will not be using Upwork to fill the next job opening in my company.  The process of finding and interviewing quality applicants is simply too time-consuming and difficult, and every time I post a job it seems that the entire UX has been completely overhauled (usually making the process more confusing and difficult). 


Here are some of the issues I have experienced in the past 48 hours while trying to fill a part-time customer service position:


1.)  I specified the required qualifications for this position (ie. at least 1 hour billed on Upwork, feedback score of 90%+, etc) but this makes zero difference to who applies for a job, since there's no way to specify mandatory qualifications (and disallow applications from unqualified freelancers).


2.)  The default sort order for the applicants list is "Upwork Recommended", which is completely useless as the "recommended" applicants are very often totally unqualified for the position.  For instance, in my recent Customer Support job post, I required applicants to meet the following qualifications: "Must be a native English speaker", "freelancers only (no agencies)," "job score 90% or better," located in "East Asia," with "at least 1 hour billed".... one of the first Recommended Freelancers in the list of applicants is an agency specializing in "OpenCart Technology" based in India with no hours billed, no feedback score, and an application letter written by someone who clearly speaks almost no English..... in other words, Upwork's top recommendations for this position include an applicant who meets 0 of the job requirements specified.  


3.)  There is no way to filter the list of applicants, except for the option to show only shortlisted candidates... why can't I filter the list to show only those who meet X requirement?  How hard could that POSSIBLY be to implement? 


4.)  I have to hit "show more" to see more than a handful of applicants at once... why?  If I accidentally click the back button in my browser, the list re-sets and I have to click the "see more" button 12 times to get back to where I was previously.  Why can't I simply check an option to display all applicants on one page?


5.)  The applicants list is just completely broken.  Many times, an 'archived' applicant shows in the main list, even though clicking on their application to open it in a popup window shows their application status as "archived".  The number of "new applications" changes constantly every time it's refreshed, sometimes showing 15 new applicants and other times showing 45+.... on this recent job post, I archived some freelancers at least 5-7 times and they still occasionally showed up in the main applicants list.


6.)  There's no way to search the list of applicants, so I had to scroll through 179 applicants looking for the name of a freelancer who was recommended by a colleague.  


7.)   On some applications, the freelancers' feedback score is shown in the list of applicants (ie. "88% job success").... on others, there's no score displayed, even though when viewing the applicant's full profile there are multiple past jobs with feedback and feedback/job score.  Why can't the score be displayed on every application instead of only some?  


8.)  I have no idea how the "job success score" is calculated, so it's essentially meaningless... one applicant to my recent job has complete a total of 3 jobs on Upwork, all 3 with a feedback score of 5.00, and yet her "job success" is only 88%.... how is that possible?  That doesn't make any sense.


9.)  What the hell does "Rising Talent" mean?  The Help page on this topic offers a vague, unhelpful explanation:  "Rising Talent freelancers have great potential based on strong backgrounds in their fields and early success with their clients on Upwork. Rising Talent agencies are new agencies that either have strong backgrounds in their industry or is an agency started by a Top Rated freelancer."  <== who decides what a "strong background" is?  What vetting process takes place?  How can someone be given this "Rising Talent" status when they've never worked a single hour on Upwork?  Why would being in an agency started by a Top Rated freelancer automatically give the same status to their agency members (who may have 0 experience / relevant skills for the job)?


10.)  I don't want to hire an agency for this latest job post, but I have agencies applying for the job (with a "relevant contractor" attached, which in some cases was also an agency and not an individual freelancer) and applicants whose profile says they're "associated with" 1-3 agencies.  The Help page does not properly explain the difference between these two types of applications, and two chat support reps gave me completely conflicting answers to the question.  Why the ambiguity?  Why not just allow either individuals to apply (meaning they get 100% of the salary if hired), or agencies (meaning you hire a company and they arrange a contractor suitable for the job)?  The confusion essentially has made me look only at freelancers without "associated agencies" shown on their profile. 


11.)  What can I learn from a freelancers "test scores"?  Nothing, as far as I can tell.  Some of our best freelancers have mediocre scores on English tests, but they speak and write English so well that a native speaker couldn't tell it was not their native tongue.  Also, there's not really any clear benchmark for what a "good" score is (ie. is 3.70 / 5.00 a decent score, or did the freelancer basically flunk the test?), aside from labels like "top 30%" which isnt meaningful if the other 70% of people tested speak 4 words of English and scored 2 out of 20.  Also, what is done to ensure an applicant hasn't hired someone or asked a friend to take tests under his/her account?  


12.)  For this recent job I posted, I set a specific non-negotiable salary (stated explicitly in the job post description)... 80% or more of the applications I received bid at a different rate from what I had specified in the job post... why can't I set a specific rate for a job, and only accept bids from contractors willing to work for that chosen hourly rate?


I find it almost laughable that, after posting over 100 jobs on Upwork in the last few years (99 hires), I can still list off 12 separate issues with the hiring process.  Granted, not all my complaints would be shared by other clients, but surely several of them are features that a) would benefit and be well-received by almost all clients; and b) could be implemented in a day or two by any competent programmer.


Sorry to vent this publicly, but I simply cannot contain my frustration with the hopeless hiring process that seems to be steadily getting LESS user-friendly and more confusing, even though Upwork's fees and rates have increased dramatically.  


Please, Upwork, listen to your clients and address the numerous problems with the hiring process. 

Community Guru
Virginia F Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
2 of 39

Thank you Mark - this is enlightening to me.  I think I can address one question you have - #8


Private feedback also contributes to our JSS. So while the client may have rated well in the public forum, they had more truthful things to say in their private feedback.


And I do hope an Upwork mod will address at least some of your issues.

Ace Contributor
Mark B Member Since: Feb 7, 2016
3 of 39

Thank you Virginia... I figured as much.


Unfortunately, without seeing any details about the private feedback a contractor has received, there's no way to tell whether they've had a single "0 out of 5" review, or 7 private "4 out of 5" reviews.... all I know is that the client has more jobs and feedback than what I can see, and at least one of those jobs resulted in poor feedback.  


To be honest, I'm not really clear on why it would even be possible to hide certain jobs or feedback from a contractor's profile... perhaps I'm missing something here, but I think all feedback should be public unless both the freelancer and the client decide to completely retract their comments, leaving just the basic details of the job without any score (and thus without any impact on the job score that's displayed publicly).  That way, when I look at a freelancer's profile, I know that the job score and feedback displayed tell the whole story about the freelancer.

Community Guru
Virginia F Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
4 of 39

Well, that's a question for Upwork to answer. I do know (or think) that there's a timeline that also affects JSS (though I'm vague on that). Like they may go back to jobs that were acquired on Elance, if the freelancer came over from Elance - although those jobs are displayed on their profiles here ... so maybe I'm wrong about that.


I'm awaiting a comment from a mod on all your concerns - hopefully some of them are/will be addressed. It's unfortunate that so many freelancers are allowed to (seemingly) ignore client specs - the reverse of that is true for us as well. I receive job invites and recommendations that are so far out of my wheelhouse as to be in another galaxie.


There is so much potential here, but a lot of work needs to be done to achieve that potential.

Ace Contributor
justin c Member Since: Jun 17, 2016
5 of 39

"4.)  I have to hit "show more" to see more than a handful of applicants at once... why?  If I accidentally click the back button in my browser, the list re-sets and I have to click the "see more" button 12 times to get back to where I was previously.  Why can't I simply check an option to display all applicants on one page?"


This one kills me. It's like someone threw a bunch of "mobile web" ui here without thinking about it.

Ace Contributor
Mark B Member Since: Feb 7, 2016
6 of 39

The attached screenshot shows three of the top applicants in the list, two of which are "recommended" by Upwork for this particular job.


Again, this is a Customer Service job post, clearly specifying the following requirements:  At least 1 hour worked, 90%+ feedback score, located in East Asia, no agencies, $6.67/hour non-negotiable salary.  


....and, for this job, Upwork has put the following two applicants near the top of the 'recommended' list:


1.) A freelancer from the US who bid $18/hr and has 0 hours billed and no job score;


2.) An agency specializing in IT services (not customer service) based in India with a related contractor that appears to also be an agency (so an agency application with another agency listed as the relevant contractor), with 0 hours billed and no job score.


Not only does this illutstrate how useless the "Recommended" feature is, I also have no way to filter out these garbage applications (I received 179 applications in 18 hours) and easily find the few applicants who actually meet the job requirements.


It blows the mind.


Community Guru
Virginia F Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
7 of 39

I know ... I don't pretend to know how algorithms work, I only know that on this site, they don't.


179 bids is crazy. Sometimes in the time it takes me to put a thoughtful bid together on an RFP that had no bids, 50 freelancers have left bids - it boggles.

Community Guru
Jennifer D Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
8 of 39

I think there's a little bit of confusion here regarding public vs private feedback. The "private" feedback that affects JSS is the first section of the feedback you provide when you close a contract with a freelancer. You're asked out of 10 if you would recommend them etc and sometimes to comment on their language fluency. That initial section is the "private" feedback. Then the ratings out of 5 and the feedback box are what shows on the freelancer profile.


I think that recently there was a trial of a feature for Top Rated freelancers to be able to disregard a specific job for JSS purposes and to hide a feedback, but if they hid the feedback it was only the comment and it was replaced by "This feedback has been hidden" or something along those lines, and the star rating was still visible. I'm not 100% clear on how those features worked though.

Active Member
Sibylle S Member Since: May 11, 2016
9 of 39

I have been wondering about point 2.) - the Upwork recommendations - myself.


I have only commissioned one project until now and my specifications have not been very precise on that one, so I thought I would get those weird recommendations because of that, but reading your list it seems that it's a general problem.


In a new project I posted yesterday, I specifically looked for a programmer with more than 100 hours of experience and fluent English skills. Under the first five recommendations are 4 with 0 hours experience working on Upwork (AND 0 jobs - I think it's confusing that the fixed price contracts don't count for any hours anyhow - even though I see how it would be hard to determine...) but what really got me confused was, that 3 out of those 5 don't have any programming skills whatsoever. Upwork recommended a real estate agent, an accountant and a customer service agent.


Now that could be, because I did not specify what kind of programmer (with which skills) I need in my job posting and I did not acually ask for a programming service (since I am currently looking to interview experienced programmers for my research, ergo: no suitable key or tag words for programming services). But since I had to specify the categorie of freelancer I am looking for right in the beginning of my job posting, I assumed that I would only be given according recommendations.


In hindside, I wonder whether certain keywords in the job posting (and the title) might be more important for the matching algorithms than the specifications made by me manually. But I am not even very sure about that possibility either, since the accountant and the real estate agent really didn't have anything to do with my job posting either...


Community Manager
Vladimir G Community Manager Member Since: Oct 31, 2014
10 of 39

Hi Sibylle,


Thanks for sharing your input. Please note that the OP is referring to recommended freelancers from the proposals list, while you are referring to freelancers from the invite freelancers list. I do see there are a few users that don't meet your preferred qualifications. Our team is aware of this discrepancy and is working to update this tab so it includes only users who meet all the requirements, and not just some of them.