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.