For first-time outsourcers to the Philippines, hiring an employee hundreds of miles away may seem like a leap of faith, a scary thought, and an uncertain gamble.
Will this work?
How do I do this?
Is this really going to benefit me and my business?
These are just some of the uncertainties and questions that come up and most of these are brought on by the unfamiliarity of employers when it comes to the inner workings of the Philippines’ virtual workplace.
That said, we put together this guide, which we hope would serve as an ultimate beginner’s guide to outsourcing to the Philippines and we would like to begin with the topic of who you should hire. A great deal of your outsourcing success (or failure) relies on the quality of people you have, so it’s important for you to understand the basic criteria when evaluating prospective Filipino employees.
An Overview of the Philippine Virtual Workforce
The Philippine virtual workforce is teeming with highly competitive and talented individuals, which is why it is a favorite outsourcing destination among small and medium sized businesses, and even big multinational giants.
However, the fact still remains that not all Filipino employees are created equal and there are several factors that separate the better employees from the above average employees.
A lot has been said about certain qualities that employers should look for when hiring employees from the Philippines and these things usually touch on topics such as work ethic. However, only a few things have been written about the objective measures or the foundational criteria that employers can use when evaluating applicants.
That said, here is a list of basic factors that can influence the quality of work that your prospective Filipino employees will deliver. These criteria are concrete, objective and based on measurable or quantifiable metrics.
One of these factors is education. The literacy rate in the Philippines is really high and it is part of the country’s culture for parents to financially support their kids up until college. There are a number of universities in the country that produce highly qualified candidates that are ready to bring you the results you need. Following is a list of some of the more notable universities. If someone who is a graduate from one of these schools applied to be part of your company, chances are they are a good catch.
University of the Philippines. Students of this university are dubbed as “Iskolar Ng Bayan” (roughly translated as Nation’s Scholars). The University of the Philippines or UP is the premier state university in the country and is considered by many as the top tertiary educational institution in the Philippines. UP has several campuses nationwide and its well-acclaimed programs include medicine, communications, liberal arts, visual arts and even agriculture. If a UP graduate applies for a position in your company, you are looking at a candidate from one of the top universities in the world.
Ateneo de Manila University. Abbreviated as ADMU, Ateneo de Manila University is one of the oldest educational institutions in the country. The country’s national hero Jose Rizal studied here. Unlike UP, which is state-owned, Ateneo is a private institution and is arguably one of the most expensive schools in the Philippines. The Ateneo has produced many renowned graduates, including the country’s incumbent President. The Ateneo specializes in business courses, liberal arts, communications, engineering and advanced sciences.
De La Salle University. Considered by many as the arch rival of ADMU, De La Salle University or DLSU is a private school specializing in business courses. A lot of top-level executives in the country are graduates of DLSU.
UP, ADMU and DLSU are considered by many as the top three schools in the country. However, there are other reputable educational institutions that also produce highly qualified graduates. These include:
- The University of Santo Tomas (UST). Arguably one of the top medical schools in the Philippines and also has an outstanding liberal arts program. If you’re looking for a graphics designer, a content writer or an SEO specialist, UST graduates are more than qualified to do these tasks for you.
- Far Eastern University (FEU). Has a great management program as well and graduates are known to be hard workers with great work ethic.
- Top IT schools STI and AMA. The programming courses offered in these universities are world class and graduates of these schools are easily hired for advanced IT related jobs around the world. If you’re looking for app developers, web developers, programmers and coders, seek out graduates from these schools and you will not be disappointed.
At the end of the day, we all know that a person’s competency is not entirely dependent on his or her college diploma. However, if you are the type of employer who is very particular when it comes to the education a prospective employee received, the schools above have produced outstanding members of the Philippine online workforce.
Another factor that can help you determine who to hire is work experience. There is no definite set of criteria when it comes to this and it varies depending on what the job entails. For example, if you’re looking for someone who can perform simple data entry tasks, fresh graduates in the Philippines can do these tasks well. However, if you’re hiring for a higher level position in your company, say a project manager, you may need to look for someone who has relevant work experience.
Based on our experience, here’s a general guideline on what to look for in Filipino employees in terms of their work experience:
1. Has worked in an online environment before. The fact is not everyone is cut out for this type of virtual workplace setting. We have seen employees who were doing so great in their office-based jobs, but when they transition to a virtual environment, their performance dropped. When screening applicants, ask about their virtual workplace experience or at least the closest semblance to a virtual environment.
2. Has experience in working for a foreign boss. There are some Filipinos who are not too comfortable when it comes to dealing and working with a foreign boss. They tend to be shy and to some extent, fearful. The Philippines was under colonial rule for more than three centuries and this created an “inferiority complex” among some of them when dealing with foreigners. Though not required, it would be an advantage if the person you hire has experience in dealing with a foreign boss and is comfortable with it, especially if you need to collaborate with him or her.
3. Has worked in a call center, a BPO firm or a service-oriented company. We find that Filipinos who hail from these industries perform better in the online setting because there are a lot of similarities in terms of how tasks are carried out. Further, previous employees of these industries tend to have a more flexible work schedule, better resilience when it comes to adopting to different work environments and a more collaborative nature.
Location or City of Residence
Good employees are not confined to a single city. Quality work is not geographically influenced. However, over the years of outsourcing to the Philippines, we have come to realize that there are certain locations where we found a higher level of success in terms of hiring employees who have the rights skills and the right attitude for the job.
Here’s Philippine Geography 101 – the Philippines is composed of 7,107 islands and an archipelago of great diversity, making its workforce equally diverse in terms of expertise and competency.
When it comes to finding candidates who have a greater propensity to excel in online jobs, we have found that they are concentrated in areas where there are also a lot of BPO companies or call centers. This is probably because call center jobs and outsourced virtual jobs belong to the same category and the skills set and personalities involved are almost the same.
When hiring, pay close attention to candidates from the following areas:
Metro Manila. Metro Manila is composed of several cities that essentially form the education, finance and commercial epicenter of the country. This is where most multinationals and local business giants are based and this is also where most BPO companies and call centers are located. Virtual employees who are based in Metro Manila are up-to-date with trends in the virtual workplace and the level of competence in this area is really high. However, the cost of living here is also the highest in the country so expect employees from this area to charge a little more than their counterparts.
Cebu City. The Philippines is divided into three major island groups – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Metro Manila is in Luzon. Cebu City is the urban epicenter of Visayas and is dubbed as the “Queen City of the South.” Cebuanos (the moniker of the locals) are extremely fluent English speakers. In fact, the primary language here is the provincial dialect and the secondary language is English. The English proficiency of the residents in this area is higher compared to their proficiency in the Philippine national language. So, if you’re looking for phone-based customer support agents, Cebu is an area you should definitely look at.
Davao City. Davao City is the premier city of Mindanao, the southernmost Philippine island group. It’s also the largest city in the Philippines. Same with Cebu, there are a lot of good English speakers here and call centers have been setting up offices here recently. Compared to Metro Manila and Cebu City, the cost of living in Davao is significantly lower. For employers who have limited budget, Davao is a great place where you can find talented employees. However, the downside of hiring someone in Davao is that every summer, Mindanao experiences a number of power outages due to a lack in supply. The rest of the year is okay and the power outages during the summer months can be mitigated with a contingency plan that you can ask your employees to come up with.
Again, you can find someone who is highly qualified to do the job in your company from anywhere in the Philippines. However, if you want specifics or if you want to filter candidates based on their place of residence, we recommend the three areas above based on our findings and the testimonials from other outsourcers.
Quality and Stability of Internet Connection
When you’re hiring someone from the US, it can be safe to assume that an applicant would have a stable and high-speed internet connection. When hiring from the Philippines, you cannot make the same assumptions.
The overall quality of the internet connectivity in the Philippines is not bad. However, it’s still not on par with what the US and other Western countries have. There are high-speed Internet plans available in the Philippines, but they are really expensive and do not really fit into the budget of an ordinary employee. Expect prospective employees to have an internet speed somewhere around 3mbps. For day to day tasks and even for big uploads and downloads, this internet speed would actually suffice, but it will just take longer. If you want your employees to subscribe to a faster internet subscription, you might need to shoulder the additional cost.
Another thing you have to know about internet connection in the Philippines is outages are more frequent compared to the US. It won’t really affect your day-to-day operations, but you have to have contingency plans just in case a power outage occurred on a day when you really need your employees to be online.
There are several back up Internet plans that you can explore, including:
1. Asking your employees to get a secondary internet connection. There are a number of affordable internet sticks or pocket Wi-Fi devices available in the Philippines that your employees can just turn on when their main internet connection goes out. You can require your employees to get these or you can shoulder the cost. You can also shoulder the initial cost and ask them to pay you back via salary deduction.
2. Ask applicants if there are nearby internet cafes that are open 24 hours. This is a great alternative to getting a secondary internet connection. Internet cafes are booming in the Philippines and many of them operate 24 hours. If your employees are close to a 24/7 internet café, you have a great back up plan in case their main internet connection goes out.
3. Can a prospective employee go to a nearby Starbucks or other establishments that offer a stable internet connection? This is ideal especially if your employees use laptops and would like to use their own computer when working because they can easily access files and documents that they need. There are a number of establishments in the Philippines including coffee shops that offer free internet as an added-value service to their customers.
These contingency plans can also be applicable to power outages. Again, expect internet service disruptions to happen every once in a while, but these should not interrupt your business operations too often. In cases where you need your employees for an important project, implement the contingency plans we enumerated above.
State of the Computer They Own
One of the common reasons that Filipino employees give when they missed work is computer issues or hardware problems. Either their computer crashed, won’t switch on, or keeps on freezing. Unless they have the money to spare, Filipinos won’t buy a new computer and will stick to the same device until it totally conks out.
To avoid this, one practice we see among a lot of outsourcers is to ask for the state of the computer a particular applicant owns. They ask for the brand, the model and the purchase date. Some even ask for the more technical details such as processing power and storage space. You can do this as well. Either put it in your job post or ask about it during the job interview. Ask potential employees whether they’ve experienced any serious problems with their computer recently and if they have a backup device in case their computer breaks down and they need to submit a crucial deliverable.
Use These Criteria as Your First Filter When Screening Employees
The things discussed above present a more objective way of evaluating Filipino virtual employees when they are applying for a job with you. These criteria, while some of them are very basic, provide the foundation for all Filipino employees regardless of their skills and work ethic. This guide will be extremely helpful if you get lots of applicants to choose from and would like to whittle the list down to those who possess the basic things that form the anatomy of a good Filipino virtual employee.