Mike Thomas on taking the pain out of recruitment

Mike Thomas and Paul Macgregor have created OnSite, a service that aims to make it easier for digital agencies to find designers and developers with the right skills for their projects

.net: What inspired you to build OnSite?
Mike Thomas: Paul spent a number of years working as Creative Director at a digital agency, and was responsible for managing a fairly high turnover of freelance designers and developers. The idea was formed out of the frustration of finding quality talent via recruitment consultants. Although there are some good, honest, hardworking recruiters out there, many would provide poor quality candidates, or worse, misrepresent them entirely and then charge a large fee for the privilege. Of course there are alternative services out there, but those in themselves presented their own problems. Finding that AS3 developer in a list of 100,000 with just one search box just seemed frustrating to us. We knew we could do better.

.net: How does it work?
MT: It’s a fairly simple process. Agencies can post jobs. Jobs on OnSite are little different from your average job board - ­ they’re more of a “saved­search” that will immediately present you with a list of freelancers who match your criteria; skills, availability and location. Freelancers who meet a baseline of that criteria are notified, and can express their interest via the system. Agencies are then free to make direct contact with whoever they please. At that point, we get out of the way. There are no contracts to sign or any further interference from us.

.net: What were the biggest challenges in putting it together?
MT: Mainly time ­ getting enough days spent together was a bit of a challenge as although we had both quit the day jobs we still needed to take on regular freelance projects ­ our time rarely coincided. Other than that, it’s not an idea that requires anything too revolutionary in terms of technology. Job results and matching was probably our biggest technical challenge ­ there was a few painful days working with/debugging our search algorithms.

.net: Who should sign up? Is it for freelance devs as well?
MT: Freelance developers, designers, motion designers, copywriters ­ basically anyone in the digital and creative industries. We use the term “Agencies” a lot, but really anyone who has a need for finding freelancers is welcome to sign­up.

.net: Tell us about your vetting process for freelancers.
MT: Unfortunately it’s not only recruiters who misrepresent, it’s sometimes the freelancers themselves. We look at each applicant, verify that they are who they say they are, that they have proven expertise in their field of work and can back that up with online examples. This could be via their own website, Behance/Cargo pages in the case of designers, or Github profiles in the case of developers. Half-­finished or under-construction websites are a big no, and poor quality work will result in your application being denied. The services listed above are all free and easy to use, so there is little excuse to not have anything out there for people to see.

.net: Do you vet the people looking to hire?
MT: Yes. We want to improve the process of finding work for everyone. If you’re a recruitment consultant, then forget it. If you’re just signing up to be nosey and don’t have a business website, it’s a no. If you’re signing up as Ogilvy with a Gmail address, we’re going to have to verify that you do indeed work there. On a purely practical level right now, we’re letting in companies slowly as we concentrate on building our freelancer database.

.net: What kind of response have you had so far?
MT: It’s been fantastic. We’re really, really pleased with how it’s gone and some of the feedback we’re getting. We’re getting a lot of support from our peers in the design and development industry, and since we’re from their world, we’re being granted a fair amount of interest and trust. We’ll do our best to honor that and make it work for everyone.