In this article, we are addressing the topic of SEO recruiting, including how to identify what type of SEO you need, how to scope the role, how to locate and select the right talent, and how to give them the tools to be successful. Here we are talking about the human component of SEO; the boots on the ground, so to speak. In the current climate, where SEOs are in extremely high demand, knowing how to get the right people in the right roles who will be instrumental in the success of your organization is more important than ever.
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The Evolution of the SEO Role
One of the first things to acknowledge about today’s SEO job market is that the roles of SEOs have changed dramatically. It is no longer a single position with one distinct set of skills within an organization. These days, a wide variety of positions within an organization require SEO skill sets, not just SEO managers, analysts, and specialists. SEO is now such a big part of broader marketing strategies that the ecosystem of SEO functions has expanded into nearly every facet of a business. SEO skills are being listed as necessities on job descriptions well outside traditional SEO roles. This means it is essential for candidates looking to attain these positions to educate themselves about SEO and work to add some of those skills to their repertoire. It also means that a ton of people out there coming from different roles and backgrounds may have already acquired some of those SEO skills and could be the perfect fit for your SEO team.
For most entry-level SEO positions, how a candidate processes, learns, problem solves, and communicates is more important than having a complete set of technical SEO skills. Entry-level roles are more about an individual’s foundation, ambition, and potential than their fully formed abilities.
The next rung up the SEO job ladder, which includes SEO managers, strategists, and those who will be taking ownership over SEO initiatives, is one of the most misunderstood roles in the realm of SEO. Simply put, an SEO manager is responsible for managing a team or a body of work. That means a strong candidate should have a body of work to point to that shows real, quantifiable results. What projects have they worked on, and what did they do to help themselves succeed? How was that success measured, and who did you collaborate and engage with to achieve it? By examining the narrative of what a potential candidate has accomplished and how they evaluate the bigger picture of SEO, you can get a good idea of how that aligns with your organization’s needs.
On the higher end of the spectrum, you have SEO leadership roles. Some of these relatively new positions have been created as SEO has grown and elevated to a seat at the executive table. Leadership roles reach beyond the day-to-day SEO tactics and initiatives into the broader, more macro-level of aligning SEO strategies with the organization’s greater goals. This includes decisions about SEO investment and resource allocation, scalability, workstreams, and cross-team collaboration, all within the context of where the company wants to go and what leadership wants to accomplish. These positions are still very few and highly coveted. They require a mastery of SEO techniques, a deep understanding of how to evaluate results and set goals, and the ability to inhabit a visionary mindset that combines technical, managerial, and overall business acumen.
Scoping an SEO Role
Now that we’ve spotlighted some of the general categories of SEO roles and candidate types, it’s time to delve into the process of scoping an SEO role. Scoping involves looking at the organization’s needs and allowing them to dictate the creation of a job description that will attract and connect with prospective team members that can directly contribute to your company’s success. If your SEO job descriptions don’t describe the position and its requirements accurately, you’re likely to miss out on the right candidates.
The first step is going through a scoping evaluation. Whether you’re an SEO agency or an organization looking to build your in-house SEO team, you need to ask yourself the “what” and the “why” of the position you want to fill. You don’t want to just put out a generic copy-and-pasted job listing for an SEO associate, manager, or director. Establishing what will be expected of the position, who the candidate will be working with and supporting, and how their work will play a part in the organization’s larger goals is critical to formulating a job description that is clear, appealing, and connects the right prospect with the role. Create a checklist of the specific skills, requirements, and expectations a candidate must meet to fulfill the position. These may involve objective and subjective assessments, like how to find the target keywords in a piece of content, how a candidate has navigated team relationships and dynamics in past work experiences, or the steps they may take to resolve a particular issue. By constructing a list of the quantifiable skills and intuitive qualities that will lead to success in a specific role, you have the basis for a clear-cut and comprehensive job description.
Once you’ve scoped the role and established the criteria for success around a certain position, you need to adequately summarize it in a job description that will recruit the right candidate. Right now, demand is high for SEOs, meaning the prospect is interviewing your organization as much as you are interviewing them. Job descriptions need to be clear about expectations, but they should also seek to highlight what is appealing about the position and the company. One way to approach this is to create a funnel of engagement. Sell the candidate on what is exciting and rewarding about the organization, then emphasize what is attractive about the projects and the particular role within the company. And lastly, provide an accurate description of the responsibilities and qualifications necessary to succeed at the position. Though often overlooked, the job description is the first impression a candidate will have of your company, and it is worth spending time on it to ensure you present as complete a picture of the job as possible.
While the job description posting is a crucial first step toward finding the right SEO talent, it is certainly not the last. Sourcing a candidate pool, and even more so, vetting prospects, is a team effort that requires careful consideration, coordination, and scrutiny. You don’t want a simple internal formula to boil down four candidates that all look the same on paper. You want to attract a group of candidates with a range of different knowledge and experiences, as this will provide room to compare and weigh various attributes against each other to come up with the right person for the job.
One of the best ways to accumulate a diverse set of applicants is through outreach and networking. By reaching out to people you know and trust and enlisting those contacts to post job listings and put the word out about your open positions, you can leverage your business and social network to help you find a quality pool of candidates. Likewise, don’t pass up the opportunity to reciprocate, as that will fortify those ties. The strength of your candidate pool will often reflect the strength of your network.
We all know the traditional places where you can post a job listing online, whether it be Linkedin, Indeed, or sharing on Twitter or Facebook. But there are a number of trends toward nontraditional mediums that can be excellent points of contact to find talent. SEO communities and events, online forums, and publishing sites are all great opportunities to get your job listing in front of potential applicants. Voices of Search is going to start promoting job listings through the podcast, and we hope hiring managers will follow suit and take advantage of podcasts as a way to reach targeted candidate pools. Pairing thought leadership, relevant presentations, and social connections with the opportunities you may have available can be an effective way of inspiring prospective applicants and getting them interested in working for you.
Evaluating SEO Candidates
Once you have sourced a solid candidate pool and gotten them through the door, the next step is evaluating your applicants to see which one may be the best fit for the position. Going back to the original checklist you created for your job listing is an excellent place to start this process. The skills, qualities, and requirements necessary to succeed at the position you compiled for the job description are the same criteria you will use to evaluate your pool of candidates. And while applicants, even exceptional ones, may not match up to the list exactly, it is a great place to start.
If you’re a hiring manager, you know that whenever you bring in a new employee, you are working in tandem with the HR department. Because of this inevitable partnership, it is vital to share with them your process and what you are looking for in an SEO candidate, so everyone is on the same page and working together to find the best person for the job. Because we have experience offering recruiting services through Previsible, we understand the importance of learning the nuances and characteristics of the team culture a candidate may be joining and translating that to the hiring process. Clearly imparting your expectations and requirements to your HR department or internal recruiting teams to ensure they are represented in the hiring process is crucial for properly narrowing down the candidate pool before it gets to the hiring manager.
Another thing to consider when hiring SEOs is who they will be working with. For example, if you are hiring a technical SEO, you may want to have candidates talk with someone from the product team. Because the success of that technical SEO will depend on whether the product team picks up the stories they write, you want those stakeholders to have a say in the process. Bringing in partners from other teams will help the hiring manager make decisions that best represent the needs of all the stakeholders who will work with the new hire and the organization’s needs as a whole. By involving different teams that have different priorities regarding what they want in a candidate, you will get a complete picture of what the ideal applicant should look like before you decide who to hire.
The interview format is also a critical component of the hiring process. Choosing whether to use a one-on-one or panel interview structure (or some combination of the two) should be dictated by the role itself, the size of the team, and the number of stakeholders involved. When selecting which interview configuration to use, you should be mindful of what makes sense for your organization, but also how it will affect the candidate’s view of the process and how it may influence their decision on whether or not to accept the position. Remember, there is a high demand for SEOs in the market right now, and candidates may be entertaining multiple offers. You want your interview process to be functional and thorough but not off-putting for the applicant. They are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them.
Skills assessments and references are also key components of the hiring process that are often overlooked or underutilized. Rather than getting bogged down in the interview asking a bunch of SEO specifics and procedures, use that time to get to know the candidate’s work history, experiences, and depth of knowledge. Save the technical SEO questions for the skills assessment. However, when it comes time for the skills assessment, be sure to ask questions specific to the position that best reflect the actual techniques and processes a candidate will experience and use in the role.
Similarly, when it comes to reference checks, knowing what to ask can be as important as who the reference is. Obviously, a candidate is going to offer references that they know will only provide positive feedback about them, but that doesn’t negate their value. Rather, by asking direct questions about a candidate’s character and what it was like to work with them and getting honest, albeit positively slanted, answers, you can then compare that information with what the candidate has said about themselves and get a more three-dimensional view of their work history.
Onboarding SEO Hires
After a long, arduous journey through the SEO hiring process, you’ve finally arrived. You’ve run through the vast fields of colorful SEO flowers and plucked the perfect blossom, and now it’s time to add it to your bouquet. Or something like that.
When approaching the onboarding process, it is important to take the proper steps to set up a new hire for success in their role. What internal systems, proprietary data, and company knowledge does this person need to thrive within your organization, and how do you provide those things to them in a digestible way? How you educate your new hires can significantly impact how successful they are and how quickly and effectively they can grow into their new position.
There will be unexpected challenges, growing pains, and missteps, so it’s essential to be adaptable and willing to meet your new hire on their level to help them adjust to the organization. Start with the basics. Make time to educate onboards on the terminology and acronyms used internally, so they have the tools and language needed to get acclimated to the workflow of the business. Build up resources like instructional Loom videos and onboarding materials, so you have a bank of resources to draw from that can help new hires. The more effort you put into the first month of onboarding, the faster your new SEO will get to a place where they can make meaningful contributions to your organization.
Hiring the right SEO to join your organization can be one of the most important steps to ensuring your organization is successful in organic search. If you need support in this process Previsible is here to help with our SEO recruiting solution.