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Don't Even Try to Hire a Director of Search Engine Marketing

Published: December 8, 2007

Author: David Rodnitzky

A recruiter called me yesterday asking if I knew of any good candidates for a Director of SEM role. He was looking for someone with 3-5 years of search marketing experience to take over search management at an established and reputable company in Silicon Valley.

Normally, when a recruiter calls me trying to fill a position at an Internet company, the odds are pretty high that I’ll be able to dig through my LinkedIn list and find a few people that I think would be a good fit and would be happy to consider the position.

Over the last few years, however, I’ve learned to not even bother looking when I get a call for a director of search. Why? Well, they simply don’t exist. Basically, search engine marketing is such a hot profession right now that you only really have three types of search marketers: 1) entry-levels; 2) VPs; 3) independents or consultants.

You see, after the first 3-4 years of search marketing (your entry-level time period), if you are pretty good at the job you’ll either want a fancy-sounding VP position, or you’ll realize that you could probably make more money just consulting or starting your own lead generation business. So while “Director” sounds like a great promotion in most industries, in search it’s not enough of a carrot to sway good people away from a more general VP job or trying their luck with small business.

Some recruiters and companies have apparently caught on to this dilemma and they’ve come up with a good trick. Create a role that is really director level but offer it as a VP level. It’s actually not a bad strategy, but it can cause problems down the line when a candidate accepts the offer with expectations of leadership and ends up regulated to a functional role.

Probably the better tactic is to use the same trick, but on the other end of the spectrum. Rather than look for a VP that’s really a director, post for a director but expect to get a senior manager. In other words, put your job posting up there demanding 4-6 years of experience, but expect to find a great senior manager candidate with 2-4 years of experience. Though the candidate may lack some of the “strategic vision” you are looking for initially, you may find yourself with the director you actually wanted in six months to a year.

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