8 Tips For Finding The Right SEO Candidates

February 23, 2022 - 13 minutes read - Contributed Posts, SEO

More and more companies are realizing they need someone who ‘’knows how to do SEO’’. While acknowledging the importance is a great start, just putting an ad out there for an SEO expert will most likely not give you the results you want: no strong candidate, nor a better spot in the Google search results.

Hiring for SEO is challenging. SEO is a very broadly used term, but real experts who can derive real results, aren’t the ones who know a little bit of everything. 

What you’re looking for is a specific piece of the puzzle, someone who connects dots you didn’t even know were there in the first place.

Where do you find this wizard? How do you know if someone is the right fit? Better yet: what fit are you even looking for?

In this article, you’ll find 8 tips that will help you optimize the search and hiring process for an SEO professional, from start to finish. 

Tip 1: Make a super-specific SEO wishlist

Who you need depends highly on what you’re currently already doing SEO-wise, what the missing links are, and what your goal is. 

Often, people who don’t ‘know’ SEO, think it’s simply making sure you get to the top page of Google. True, partially. But there are different ways to do so, and different people working together to get there.

For instance, it doesn’t do anyone any good if you hire an SEO copywriter but have never set up the technical part. 

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On top of that, SEO for different business types will look different. SEO for eCommerce will require a different skill set than SEO for branding.

So, determine what your objectives are and what’s missing. If there’s no knowledge in-house to answer these questions, it could be helpful to get an agency or expert to take a look at your case and advise you, before you randomly start hiring anyone who puts SEO in their LinkedIn title. Here are some roles and what they mean:

  • SEO Analyst: measuring how well your SEO is performing is a vital part of any SEO strategy. If you have people doing the work, but aren’t sure if it’s performing well and how it could be better, you’ll need an analyst on your team.
  • SEO Strategist: you can’t just ‘do’ SEO. You’ll need a strategy, and there are dedicated experts who can help you shape that.
  • SEO Specialist: in general, SEO specialists are in charge of optimizing the company’s websites. They know everything about keywords and how to ensure your website is running in a way that pleases the search engine lords. 
  • Link builders: it’s possible that backlinking will be a big part of your SEO master plan. Make sure to hire a link builder who knows SEO but also knows people: this job requires building a lot of partnerships.
  • SEO writer: Shakespeare would make a wonderful addition to the team, but your ranking would not improve, most likely. Not every copywriter knows how to write an optimized blog or webpage. If you’re looking for someone who can help you rank higher by using the right words and other tactics, hire for that specifically. 

Tip 2: Determine what soft skills are absolutely necessary

Since SEO is such an important piece of the puzzle, you’ll want to connect easily with the rest of the pieces. In other words: you’re going to need an SEO professional who’s not just good with search engines, but also with other humans. 

Moreover, SEO is knowing what the person on the other side of the screen needs, so you’ll need someone on board who is interested in other people—besides an interest in language and technical things. 

But there are more soft skills that determine if someone would make a great long-term fit. For instance, SEO is something that is ever-changing. 

You’re going to want to hire someone who can not only keep up with that but loves to do so. A strong desire to keep learning is something you should be on the lookout for. You could even directly ask about this in the interview. Better yet: you should ask that.

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Tip 3: Set the bar for the technical skills with a test

A lot of companies assess technical SEO skills by letting someone do an audit on a website. While that’s a great tactic, it doesn’t fit every role. Instead, you can opt for targeted tests to find out if their real-life skill level matches what their resume claims.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, have candidates do a test as early on as you can. This will benefit both: neither of you will be wasting time on an interview process that was never going to end well.

Of course, if you let someone take a test like this in the early stages, you won’t be in the room with them. That means they could cheat, get help, or take hours to complete the test. Make it clear that you’ll be having them do another test later in the process if they pass this one.

Some candidates will be hesitant to dedicate their (unpaid) time to a test like this. But you’re not trying to get more candidates: you’re trying to get better ones. After that, you’ll only be talking to people who are really motivated to get the job.

Tip 4: Ask about their process

Anyone can memorize some terms and how SEO works—but if you really want to know if a candidate has what it takes, ask how they would work.

You won’t only test if they know how to work with the tools and understand the terminology, but you’ll also test if they’ll be able to communicate to relevant people in your company.

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Tip 5: Ask candidates what they are bad at

No seriously skilled SEO expert will tell you that they have no weaknesses when it comes to their craft. Anyone who says they can do everything in SEO, and do it well, is either lying—or you just got incredibly lucky.

You can also build on this question to see if the person in front of you is eager to learn. Follow up with questions on how they’re trying to improve in those fields, or how they would go about working together with someone else who does know how to do that aspect of SEO. 

This could mean asking an analyst to describe how they’d brief a copywriter, or ask a copywriter what tools for keywords research they are willing to learn to work with.

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Tip 6: Let your team write (part of) the job description.

Truth be told: you’ll probably have to amp up your job description game if you want to hire an SEO expert. The more specific, the better.

The best way to do this is to let the person they’ll be working with describe what they need help with and use exactly those words.

Tip 7: Offer more than a competitive salary and free-lunch Fridays

Good SEO professionals are hard to find, so be willing to offer something in return that really matters. Especially since it’s a role that can be fulfilled completely remotely—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise—it’s a tough position to hire for.

Make sure your company is offering an attractive employee benefits package. SEO professionals are often people that want to keep learning—it’s a vital part of their job. 

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Offer them free courses, education, and time to develop personal projects.

Include mental health programs, mentoring: anything that makes you the better choice compared to your competitors.

Struggling to find out what you should include in your employee benefits package? Simply ask people in the interview rounds, and start building it based on first-hand feedback.

Tip 8: Pick the right interviewer

An interviewer who’s SEO ignorant, will probably quickly be impressed by someone’s ‘knowledge’. If you haven’t done a job like that before, it’s hard to ask the right questions—and nearly impossible to gauge whether the answer makes sense.

Don’t just invite someone from HR or the marketing manager to talk to candidates. Get someone at the table that knows what SEO is all about, and who really understands what matters for the role. This could be an external SEO expert even. 

On top of that, have people like your developers sit in as well: they will be able to ask questions that determine whether working together will be doable and if there’s a good connection—both in knowledge, workflow, and personality-wise.

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The main takeaway: know what you need before you start searching

Isn’t that what SEO is all about, anyway? Basically, you’ll have to make sure you’re optimizing the ‘search process’ from a hiring perspective: think about what you’ll be looking for—the keywords—and where to look—the platforms as search engines—and you’ll surely be off to a great start.

About the author

Vicky Frissen is a freelance copywriter, born in Holland, but based in Barcelona. She helps brands and businesses stand out from the crowd by putting some (or rather: a lot of) personality in each piece of copy she writes—whether it’s a 1,000-word blog post or a short and snappy Instagram caption. 

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