SEO Recruitment Tips For Employers & Candidates

apprentice-youre-hiredRecruitment is a make-or-break activity for SEO teams. Recruit the right person, you’re golden; recruit the wrong person, and life becomes really difficult!

There is a ton of advice on how to recruit the right people to your SEO teams:

But for me, these articles miss two of the biggest pitfalls:

  • For SEO team leaders, the cost of hiring an SEO.
  • For impressionable and ambitious candidates, the potential damage a move may do to your SEO career.

These two pitfalls of SEO recruitment can be laid at the door of “SEO specialist recruiters” (I use the term specialist loosely!). The classic SEO recruitment consultant operates a two-prong strategy: agitate mid-level SEO staff into moving jobs regularly, and coordinate with other recruiters to publicize and inflate the “standard” pay rates for various levels of SEO experience.

End result? SEO leaders are put off hiring because it costs so much in fees and candidates wage demands are out of step with their abilities, and a bunch of mid-level SEOs with terrible CVs that broadcast the fact they aren’t particularly loyal.

What follows is some hard-won advice. First, tips for employers, how to find a great SEO without paying a “search recruitment consultant” thousands of dollars! Secondly, for junior- or mid-level SEO professionals looking to move up the chain.

Hopefully you’ll be able to use them to make your next recruitment experience much less painful!

SEO Recruitment Tips For Employers

I used to think “it’s too much hassle to find staff myself”, but given the amount recruiters charge and the danger they will tempt the same staff on again in future, I now ask “can I afford not to find my own staff”? Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

  • Have a staff recommendation scheme for vacancies that is attractive. Obvious, but worth investing in.
  • Make recruiters earn your trust. Ask them some simple SEO-based questions over the phone before accepting their candidates for interview. If they can’t answer, you know they are going to send crap candidates. There are a couple of good recruiters (literally, I’ve met two in 5 years).
  • Reddit is a goldmine for potential junior staff. People active on Reddit are perfect for SEO: they understand what makes great content! We have had lots of success advertising intern, assistant and exec roles in r/forhire.
  • University job boards and careers services are a great way to get in front of prospective junior staff without agencies muscling in. Developing a relationship with just one academic institution could provide you with a steady stream of new staff for years to come.
  • Develop contacts at smaller SEO blogs slightly beyond the mainstream SEO sites, which are read by real enthusiasts. Advertising a job role here should cost a lot less than a recruitment consultant’s fees and will ensure you get a good standard of candidate.
  • If you’re concerned about recruiters agitating your staff think seriously about enabling anonymous call rejection on your employees phones – especially if they aren’t in an account management position.
  • Start blacklisting recruiters, and let them know they won’t be invited to send candidates again! You can build this list in two ways:
    • Offering small incentives to your staff to tell you about recruiters that frequently cold call them.
    • Operating a three-strikes policy on recruiters you work with – if they send three poor candidates to interview, they’re out.
  • Never be afraid to offer someone more responsibility in your team. If you have a problem with resources, it’s worth considering how you could move the strain on resources down the hierarchy of your team through offering increased responsibility to the people you know and trust. This helps you to get into a position where you can recruit from a bigger pool of candidates (there will always be more people applying to be an exec than a director) and subsequently the risk associated with the appointment is lower; handy for getting your HR people on-side.

SEO Recruitment Tips For Employees

  • You gain an instant advantage if you introduce yourself to a prospective employer, rather than relying on a recruiter (primarily because you can be recruited with no fees). Research the agencies or companies you would like to work for, find out who runs the relevant department, and contact them personally.
  • Go to as many SEO events as possible and network (become a member of as a first step). Make contacts yourself, rather than having a recruiter you barely know introduce you to prospective employers. Get to know people on a similar level to yourself in other SEO teams; they could let you know when positions are becoming available. You’re likely to be ahead of the game if you have met people from a company before you turn up to interview for a position in their office.
  • Don’t believe the hype: just because you are told you could earn more elsewhere doesn’t mean you would be truly better off. Honestly evaluate the additional skills you have learned since your last pay increase, and think about the benefits you receive – if you’re still unhappy give your employer fair warning; your pay package isn’t a priority to them in the same way it is for you and they may not realize you are unhappy. Never ever give your boss an ultimatum over pay, even if you have a firm offer elsewhere: it is the best way to burn bridges.
  • Have a think about how your CV will look if you switch roles. As someone who has recruited plenty of times I would want a detailed and convincing explanation as to why you might have held a previous SEO post for less than 9 months, especially if you are putting it forward as core piece of experience. You’re at a big disadvantage if your CV shows regular (< 1 year) switching.
  • Subscribe to the RSS feeds of the agencies/companies you want to work for. It’s highly likely that a company will post a job description on their own site before speaking to recruiters.
  • It’s often easy to find out who recruitment agencies are working for. Most job descriptions mention the clients of an agency, or give a boilerplate description of the company recruiting. Simple Google-fu and a process of elimination should reveal the actual recruiting company behind the recruitment agency and you can go direct (return to the first point for the benefits of this approach).


Don’t be a slave to the merry-go-round that so-called “SEO recruitment specialists” want you to be a part of – you could save your team big money and lower the risk of getting a poor member of staff.

I’d love to hear about your experiences (positive and negative!) with recruiters in the comments, or your tips for making a great SEO appointment.

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