How to Recruit an SEO [SEO Recruitment Tips]

Recruiting a top flight SEO can be a daunting challenge for the inexperienced recruiter. This post examines what you may need to consider along the way, how you need to be prepared before placing an advertisement and what to ask in an interview to make sure you’ve got the right candidate for the job.

1) Create your job specification and job advertisement

Badenoch and Clark sum it up quite nicely in their “How to write a job specification” guide: (now removed)

Writing a good job description, or job specification, is not hard. But it does require a little time and focus. A poor job spec may be too brief or full of irrelevant information, or tell you nothing about the ‘real’ vacancy that needs to be filled.

Take a look at this downloadable SEO job description. I’ve included a breakdown of the main elements of the role, renumeration, reporting structure and a person specification. I find including a “person specification” really adds to the quality of the briefing, making it easier to identify the character you’re recruiting, his/her experience and specific knowledge they should have. In particular, the addition of a person spec really helps inform the recruitment agency when you brief them.

2) Place those ads in the right spots and find the right recruiter

It’s cheaper to place an advert and do the recruiting yourself, though historically, recruitment agencies tend to be a more efficient way (and much, much more expensive) to find the right people. “Catching” SEO’s in their natural habitat is the real challenge when you’re recruiting. The simple fact is, the best SEO’s aren’t hanging around on SEO jobs boards, they’re hanging around on SEO blogs and forums. SEOgadget’s SEO jobs board for example. In the US, you can advertise a job on Search Engine Watch Jobs, and in 2010 Stay on Search’s jobs board is a good place to start. If you’re looking to find the right recruiter, consider inviting several agencies to pitch for your business. There’s nothing worse than having too many recruitment agencies working for you. You risk duplicated efforts and a great deal of time spent just responding to emails. Choose the best agency, check to make sure they understand the role fully and that they can cite previous examples of successful placements.

3) The interview

All good candidates come prepared for an interview. It is possible to lose a good candidate by not being prepared yourself however! Spending some time writing your questions and thinking about what you’d like to get from your potential new SEO consultant during an interview can make a world of difference to the outcome. Being familiar with the basics of a behavioural (or competency based) interview and having an understanding of what each of the questions can highlight is an important first stage in your preparation.

According to recruiter Barclay Simpson:

Competency interviews are based on the idea that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. Accordingly, the interviewer’s goal is to get specific examples of when and how you have demonstrated particular behaviours and interview questions are carefully designed to probe specific skills, competencies and characteristics.

You can download Barclay Simpson’s “Guide to Competency based Interviews” here. I shared some of my interview questions in my guide to getting a job in SEO. Now, here is a better selection. Feel free to download it and use those questions in your SEO interview, and if you have any suggestions, please let me know! A quick tip – it pays to brief the candidate in advance. Ask them to prepare a presentation on a subject of your choice. I personally prefer run throughs of a previous SEO campaign. Rand Fishkin covers presentation content in this Whiteboard Friday Video. Take a look, it’s excellent prep for the interviewer as well as the interviewee.

4) Salaries / offers

If your candidate is right for the job, move quickly. There’s definitely an ever-increasing demand for good SEO candidates and better salary offers will attract the best people. Make sure you’ve done your research on the correct salary to offer for the level of experience the candidate will bring.

It’s often better to ask up front what the candidate expects. You as a business then need to decide if the role justifies that salary, given the amount of revenue he / she is likely to make for the company. Either way, SEO salaries in the UK is a difficult issue to cover as there’s no current, formal research available for me to draw upon. 2009 Presents the potential for a significant gain in the number of in-house SEOs being recruited, so make sure you’re well prepared to get the best candidates in your team.

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7 thoughts on “How to Recruit an SEO [SEO Recruitment Tips]

  1. David says:

    Great job description, i almost need to add such a version completed to my website to show my value to prospective clients.

    The statement about current salary guidelines is not quite correct as SEMPO puts out some research is has their current 2009 survey open. Here are some of the previous survey’s that they have done.

    * SEMPO’s 2008 State of the Market Survey (Open)
    * The SEMPO Annual State of Search Survey 2007 Results
    * Annual State of Search Survey 2007 – Canada Specific Results
    * SEMPO Agency Salary Survey TOPLEVEL 2008
    * SEMPO Agency Salary Survey 2008
    * Results Summary for SEMPO’s In-House Salary Survey, 2007
    * The SEMPO Annual State of Search Survey 2006
    * The SEMPO Annual State of Search Survey 2005
    * The SEMPO Annual State of Search Survey 2004

    Great article!

  2. Greg says:

    I’ll be forwarding this to my MD, this is great, especially as we’re potentially looking for a graduate on a work placement scheme.

    Although somewhat contradictory to what I said above, I’ve always been a bit mystified by the need for a degree in SEO employment, particularly when many are self taught, especially given the number of resources available online to learn from.

    Or maybe I’m just bitter I never went to uni, ha!

  3. @David – no problem, and hopefully you’ll reference the JD added to your site with a credit to SEOgadget…

    @Greg – Cool! Degrees not nessecary. You might find my guide on how to find a job in SEO useful too.

  4. Erdal says:

    Great post, hope to refer to this one day in my career lifetime.

    I agree that discussing salaries is a difficult subject however I do like to use just to get a broad idea on what they believe a typical salary is and see what the trend in demand is for SEO jobs. Of course this can only be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Would be good to see what you think about the info they are providing? Especially on the trend data.

  5. Seo india says:

    great seo blog. keep it up.

  6. reactorr says:

    You can also find info at seomoz and the indeed job site that might help.

  7. Cynthia says:

    it’s great.. i like this blog very much.. keep it up yhoo.. ^^

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