• garethjax

    Nice insight. The method of “hire 2 interns and keep the best one” remind me of adwords method of improving the ads texts :D

  • Dan Perry

    Exceptional. I think the industry is swamped with Personality Type A. Looking busy does not equate to being busy. Appreciate the volunteer question, and I’m going to use it myself.

  • Geordie

    Great Post Wil,

    I would add one additional point from my experience: Start the salary 20-25% lower than you actually can pay. Use that 20-25% as a ‘bonus fund’ for those who excel throughout the year or on an important project. Do not tell them a bonus is a possibility in the first place. When they get it, others will notice that strong work is rewarded, but no one will feel that they are “owed” a bonus.

    When people are aware of a bonus potential and have metrics, they will envariably ‘work to the bonus’ is achieved and stop dead beyond that, or if they feel they will not achieve the bonus metric, and they will become discontent and view their existing job requirements and pay negatively and put in even less than the minimal effort than if no bonus was on the table.

    Bottom line I’ve found is that when you lay out a performance based bonus program, employees count that as a ‘given’ in their pay and in deciding if they’ll take the job. Then when there are expectations tied to it, they get discouraged or work just enough to reach that level.

    When employees perform well and are unexpectedly bonused for genuinely good work, they actually appreciate it, and other staff take note and up their game too. Some others may be jealous and start questioning why they didn’t one also, but if they can’t see why a teammate did outstanding work meriting a reward, then they are not truly team players and need to go.

    When making the surprise bonus, it’s often best as well to indicate this ‘isn’t a regular thing, but keep doing your best, and we’ll always take note’, seems to work well.

  • Gab Goldenberg

    Will, thanks so much for the kudos and link (and the co-citation ;)!). Super in depth post, the tips make a lot of sense, and I’ve got this bookmarked as a strategy guide for when I get out of school :D. Your success is pretty impressive btw!

    p.s. Any interest in sending some of those good but rejected opportunities my way :)?

  • shelby

    Great article, Wil! Very useful framework for hiring the rockstars

  • Wil Reynolds

    @dan thanks for the feedback!!

    @geordie, interesting approach. I’ve never consciously thought about that, but I think we kind of do that already here, we’re NOTORIOUS for big raises for superstars in the first two years. Never realized that was what I was doing.

    @gab, no sweat you got it.

    @ shelby – I keep trying, keep learning, I’m not a “business guy” I’m an “SEO guy” so I might have bumped my head a couple times, but I am learning.

  • Kayden Kelly

    Great post. Having struggled with hiring SEOs over the years I appreciate hearing about your experiences since it helped validate some things and opened my mind to some additional ways to approach hiring. I especially like the hiring multiple people and the definitive end date. We have been gravitating toward hiring smart people and training them instead of hiring experienced people since it doesn’t seem to work out well. Thanks again for the actionable post!

  • Steven van Vessum

    Great Article Wil. Bookmarked!

  • Blake Jennelle

    Great advice. It’s obvious that you really understand people (and yourself). That has to be at least half the battle in hiring. “Fizzling firecrackers” and “tenacity not tenure” have been ringing in my head since I first read this.

    What you’ve found about the DISC is really interesting. I assume that it’s the high C category (compliance) where you’ve had success? That would make sense in search marketing. You want someone militant about details and super data driven.

  • Monique

    Wil, thanks for this, I found this post very informative! In the past 6 months, we have attempted to hire search professionals and usually just wind up frustrated instead. We get a bunch of applicants that are either heavy programmers and/or black hats. Then we get the “experts” that claim to be overly experienced w/ 4-5 years in the SEO industry. We definitely agree that experience shouldn’t always outweigh drive and “hunger” to succeed.

    Our experience is that the best fit come from a person that: 1) has the drive to learn and experiment on a daily basis, 2) pays attention to detail, and 3) is naturally curious about the Internet. We’ve even seem some great candidates that graduated with English degrees, as they are helpful with content writing and usually pay close attention to detail.

    I really enjoyed hearing about your mistakes and lessons learned. I haven’t taken the DISC assessment yet, and now I’m curious to see where my team falls in these personality types! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    I wanted to say something profound, so I’ve kept this post open until I had the time. Time hasn’t materialized, so for the record, the post was really great and I simply find it awesome that you quoted The Situation! :D

  • Will Ellerman

    Great article. I need to hire another entry level SEO soon and will try some of these techniques. Thanks.

  • Bartjan Cazander

    I started about a year ago and had 2 interns for 6 months who both had a few similar responsibilities (and some not similar) and it’s quite easy to see the difference. I must say using interns is also a great way to see how qualified someone is, how easy (s)he learns stuff and how driven someone is.

    In a lot of human resources consultancies a meta program (from NLP) is used to create a profile, which gives an even more detailed image of how someone functions.
    By the way your disc1.jpg link goes to a 404 page.

    I wouldn’t mind receiving some of those good rejected opportunities as well ;-)

  • Wil Reynolds

    @Rhea, speechless huh? Come on! :)

    @Will best of luck, let me know how things work out, ok?

    @Bartjan interns are GREAT, but usually you can only go with an intern only recruiting strategy if your top people don’t leave, only leaving entry level positions open – the beauty of interns is that they lower your risk. I hated early on when I was still hiring my “core” team because people would get exposed to clients and then I’d let them go. Whereas with interns they aren’t going to be touching clients right away, so if they don’t work out at least they were in the background and not a threat to client relationships. Once they prove themselves put them on the fast track.

  • Jon Payne

    Wil – great to see your input here. Please do share more of this sort of “running an SEO agency” content when you have time, I’m sure many others (and myself) look forward to seeing what you have to say.

  • Robert John Ed

    New here, but found this post and the year end round up to be worthwhile. Keep it up.

  • Adam

    Very interesting..having little experience in hiring people for our SEO company, I’ll be sure to share this with my partner, who happens to be a bit of a Design Junkie since she did go to school for fine arts and web design, but really has become one of the best in the art of SEO.

  • Crista Gary

    That is going all over the world, hiring and firing; IT industry also faced some hardship in last 2 years. By the way thanks for sharing all this in article and SEO experiences.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    You’re making me form coherent thoughts? Jerk. ;)

    I really liked the post, because it verbalized a lot of experiences I’ve had and a number I haven’t. At WBP I got to put together my dream team of link builders for advanced SEO training. I took some of the seasoned vets and some of the noobs. I didn’t use a personality test, but there were a number of unconventional tests that gave me insight into their work ethic, ego, passion for learning, honesty, etc.

    Like you, I discovered that experience had little to do with who would ultimately become my most trusted and exceptional team members. I don’t think I’ve had more passion for anything than I did in building that team and seeing them grow over just a few months. I still get emails thanking me and so many of them have grown into phenomenal, well-rounded marketers. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it! :)

    Outspoken Media is my baby now, but it’s a more independent baby. We can’t grow a team as fast as I did at WBP, but this is a more natural growth. I’ve had to fire quick and it upset me for awhile, but it was absolutely the right decision. Meanwhile, we’ve also found Dawn who still blows me away. We can’t wait to find the next Dawn when we’re ready for them.

    We’ve also had several individuals inquire about interning, one was willing to pass up an incredible full-time job. We couldn’t let them do that, but we’ll be looking closer at interns in the near future. To your point, I don’t want anyone getting close to clients, but we can certainly use targeted help whether they do small maintenance work or give us a chance to clean up a process or finish an in-house project.

    Building your dream team is terribly exciting! I haven’t quantified personalities to the extent you have, but I’m definitely curious about where we lie. Maybe that’s the next step? All I know is that I personally love building killer teams.

    Now when do I get to come visit the Seer office and meet yours? :D

  • Wil Reynolds

    @Jon, definitely amigo…I don’t write too much about the agency side, I can start working on that bossman.

    @Robert, thanks stick around, I think we post some good stuff here from time to time :) I’m biased obviously.

    @adam, you got a convert good for you, I didn’t mean to make it sound like all of them are not able to make the transition, but they have to want to make it.

    @Rhea – hells yeah there we go!

    Now you are really touching on something, and that something will be why you’ll be a great person to work with you care about helping people in their professional growth, that kind of genuine concern will help you retain great folks.

    Isn’t it hard when you find a MONSTER? All you can say is…damn I can’t wait to find the next them, and you will monsters tend to know other monsters, kinda like gremlins :)

    Having interns not touch clients lets you see if they are client touching material, b/c eventually you want them to be, I think.

    As for meeting the team our doors are always open for you.

  • Scott Messer

    Your comments are directed to search but apply through all areas of the organization. Depending on the job there are other assessment tools beyond DISC that can be effective, as well. Great post, captures the essence of hiring beautifully. One tip: if you can find someone to do an early interview while you watch rather than participate you can better focus on the applicant and conversation rather than try to think, write, talk, etc.

  • Hugh Braithwaite

    Wil, you nailed it. I’d add one more to your personality parade. The Repeater. This is someone that matches and mirrors your speech patterns, vocabulary and gestures to make you think it they are a perfect fit. One great revealing question I always ask: Describe a turning point in your life. It tends to get them to reveal a much truer side of what they are really made of.

  • Keith Scandone

    Ah, so true it hurts. Bc I too have had to hire and fire people at our company…and I have learned many painful lessons in the process. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate your honesty and transparency. And I think I have now fulfilled my required reading for the month after enduring that white paper. If you were more ADD like me, you’d understand that joke…

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  • Article Playground

    I appreciate you for this blog my friend. I’m following you on YouTube through Shawn Collins of Affiliate Summit =)

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  • Dan Cristo

    Yesterday I interviewed 4 SEOs for Strategists position. It’s hard to find the right combination of the things you’ve mentioned in your post, but they’re out there.

    Our in-person interviews have gotten much data driven, meaning that we ask them to prove their skillset. If they say they’ve achieved top rankings before, I’ll bring my ipad and ask them to show me. If they say they can program, I’ll give them a piece of paper and ask them to write me a loop. If they say they’ve setup advanced filters in GA, they better be ready to write some basic RegEx. Now the technical side of things is only one piece, but it’s a piece that’s easy to test.

    Another important part is the passion they bring for the industry. I want a Craft SEO. Someone who does it because they love it, not because they get paid to do it. I want to know what they spend their time on between 5pm-9pm.

    Thanks for the shared insights, Wil.

  • Andrea Scarpetta

    I often do SEO from 7pm to 1am. Next time i do a job interview i’ll bring the logs with me, they could be useful :D

  • Wil Reynolds

    @dan Smart, its so important to dig into the surface answers. Since people put just about anything on their resumes and say they know the software, digging in like that is huge.

    @andrea that will never hurt :)

  • Keith

    I know this is an older post, but the words are still so relevant even in 2012. Tenacity is everything, and experience counts for a lot less than people think in this industry.

  • Mat

    Sweet post Wil

    I’m the kind of person that no employer should ever hire so I was going through the list to see if your filters would pick me out and you nailed it at Hiring Mistake #4.

    Some people are just fails at employees