Hiring Search Talent: Profile of a Killer SEO

by Meaghan Thomas June 2nd, 2011 


When hiring an SEO professional, we want someone who’ll be invested in our growth.

Below are 13 suggested traits to look for when hiring an SEO.

A Killer SEO…

  1. Has practical experience under their belt, but also understands that SEO is a never-ending learning experience.
  2. Knows better than to jump on SEO bandwagons. They know best practices and roll out new SEO techniques only after performing tests and meaningful analysis.
  3. Is competitive.
  4. Makes data-driven decisions and can communicate strategies to clients and executives.
  5. Focuses on the long-term success of our business. Doesn’t waste energy on short-term, risky nonsense.
  6. Loves riddles. They appreciate that SEO is a puzzle with missing pieces.
  7. Stays ahead of the algorithm by focusing on the user and studying the algorithms’ signals.
  8. Believes there’s no “end” to SEO. They celebrate SERP wins, and that motivates them to get another 50 keyword phrases to the top—then they work vigorously to maintain those rankings.
  9. Has a well-balanced approach. They don’t put all of their eggs in one basket.
  10. Knows that their job doesn’t end with getting traffic to the site. They know how to optimize a page for conversion and visitor retention.
  11. Understands executive needs and can project and prove RoSI (return on SEO investment).
  12. Can easily recall specific examples of how they relate to the above descriptions.
  13. Is not superstitious.

Questions to Ask During the SEO Interview


Once you’ve sorted through the cover letters and resumes and found a some candidates that appear to measure up to the job description, you’ll need some open-ended questions to get a feel for their SEO style.

Here are some questions I’ve asked that helped the candidate relax and open up about their SEO philosophy.

  • How do you describe your job to non-industry folks?
  • Which search engine do you use and why?
  • How did you get into SEO? How did you learn the ropes?
  • What are your thoughts on the JC Penny story? (or other current SEO event)
  • What do you love about search?
  • What can drive you mad about search?
  • What do you think search will look like in 5 years?

The Other Side of Hiring: Attracting and Retaining SEO Talent


If you’re looking for the best, you have to also provide an environment for them to flourish in. That can include:

  • Allowing them room to test new strategies.
  • Understanding that failure can lead to success. If you want someone to push boundaries to get ahead, you have to understand that not every new approach will bring immediate returns.
  • Providing resources so they can get the job done. (That could vary from having a budget for content support to making sure they have dedicated IT/developer/design support hours).
  • Offering competitive salary/benefits. This can be a win-win for everyone if bonuses are tied to performance incentives.
  • Providing continuing learning experiences, such as time for webinars and local SEO meet-ups, or access to conventions or classes.

Let’s keep this conversation going. What are some characteristics you look for when hiring an SEO? What are some key questions to ask in an SEO interview? How can companies better attract and retain SEO talent?

Meaghan Thomas

Meaghan Olson is a writer and digital marketer living in Chicago. She's a believer in the power of words – and in the technology that makes those words matter. Meaghan is the SEO Director at MyUS.com and she runs a site dedicated to giardiniera, the most delicious and under-appreciated condiment in the world. On the weekends, you can find her in section 157 at U.S. Cellular Field cheering for the White Sox.


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