As the summer wound down on my hybrid consulting/in-house SEO job with Ice.com, I had to hire my replacement. The boss wanted an SEO rockstar and champion who would make SEO front-and-center in the web dev process as well as continue to improve the current situation! Here’s how I hired an elite SEO.
0) Speak to the boss and get approval for a proper salary. An elite SEO has the temptation of launching their own agency or affiliate business. So the money has to be there to attract the right talent, because you’re competing with lucrative work elsewhere – having the right salary available is a basic necessity.
1) Write up a kickass ad. Remember, your goal is to sell the position and attract candidates. The copy for this should follow the same rules as normal landing page or ad copy – grab attention, find interest, generate desire and have ‘em take action.
Tout the benefits such as a great working environment, unique challenges and so on. Get specific and share examples to be credible. Otherwise, talking about these benefits sounds like you’re making the same generic promises like everyone else.
My ad for Ice talked about the being on a first name basis with the whole marketing team, the ready accessibility of top management who always had a few minutes to listen, and some tricky math where I had to create a formula from scratch to determine how large my proposed changes were.
Your goal is not to get lost in the masses of “We require ABC” employers. Job requirements are fine, but a list of requirements does not constitute a job listing.
Candidates hardly care what you need – they care about their own interest first of all. And besides, requirements hardly matter for SEO where there are no formal degrees.
2) Post the job ad on the Search Engine Watch job boards, which are read by people in the know. We didn’t get masses of applicants, but those that applied at least knew what the score was, and generally had at least 1-2 years previous experience in SEO. Niche job boards rock!
2.5) Generalist recruiting agencies and Monster.com were not only a dud, but time-wasters. We got a handful of applications, all from folks with irrelevant backgrounds (restaurant and call center managers, a computer salesperson, etc.).
In fact, the one CV from Monster that was relevant was of someone I’d met with earlier in the summer but whose big-name low-budget agency couldn’t afford my services – or most qualified SEOs’ for that matter. Of course, I didn’t hold that against the guy, but he and his boss asked me about meta tags when we met…
3) I interviewed candidates with my coworker Henry Shih, an Ice.com veteran. My questions focused on technical knowledge, while Henry grilled candidates on issues Ice.com cared about. This helped us to eliminate middle-of-the-pack SEOs who, while knowledgeable, weren’t at the peak level we wanted.
Something that others do that we didn’t, and which I’d be curious to try next time around, would be to have candidates sit down and chat with the marketing, IT and web dev teams for say, a half-hour each. I don’t know what difference it would have made at Ice, but it’d be an interesting learning experience.
SEOmoz did that with their interviews, and it got them great folks in Scott Willoughby and Jane Copland.
4) Hand off to the boss to let him get a feel for the candidate and make the offer. Even if Henry and I liked the candidate, we needed to get the CEO’s approval since the new SEO would be reporting to him directly.
As to the offer, it was better for the CEO to make it. First, because in this case I wasn’t familiar with the company’s finances and what specifically we wanted to offer. Second, it’s better when coworkers don’t know each other’s salaries, because then you might engender jealousy or an otherwise uncomfortable working environment.
As an aside, I also hired an entry-level jobber to assist me with basic data entry. That could have gone a little better since we hired the first person interviewed, though in the end he turned out to have nice initiative. Hiring’s a tough process!