People who follow my Twitter stream know that I like to share examples of stupid mistakes that people make when sending their resumes to our company. But, as Seth Godin correctly (I believe) pointed out, resumes really aren’t that necessary for really exceptional people because exceptional people have enough publically available information online that proves their suitability for relevant job openings / contract engagements. A truly exceptional person need only express interest in a position and the discussion can skip right into discussing the terms and conditions of the work to see if both sides have compatible expectations.

So if somebody were to ask me to evaluate a potential SEM employee / contractor without a resume, here’s what I’d look for to determine how “exceptional” that person is:

Do I Know You?

I’ve spent enough time in my professional community to know or know about a large number of people. If you’ve made any attempt to be visible in the community, chances are that I’ve seen your name mentioned in some context (if not read something you’ve written or actually interacted with you at some level). If I don’t know who you are, I would want to know why that is and I would want to see that you’ve been active and visible in a relevant community that, for whatever reason, I am not familiar with.

The Google Test

I’d examine the first few pages of the Google SERPS which will give me good personal & professional background about you. I would give bonus points for exceptional depth and breadth of listings. I would also make sure to grade you on your reputation management aptitude. Not everybody will have spotless Google SERPS and people will make minor reputation management errors…but I would want to definitely flag a major issue (which wouldn’t necessarily disqualify you but would definitely have to be examined in more depth).

Online Content Creation (Blogging / Article Writing / Blog Commenting / Forum Participation)

When I Google your name, I’d hope to see examples of your writing (whether it be blogs, articles or forum posts). While you don’t need to be an “A” list writer, I would want to get a good feeling for how you think and process information. I would also like to see some success at promoting your own work (whether done by you away from your primary blog / website or whether other industry professionals have alluded to your work on their blogs / websites). I’d also want to see you engage the blogosphere via relevant commenting on prominent industry blogs. If you are more of a forum poster than a blog commenter, I would want to see evidence of that plus get a sense of how well you relate to others in the forums.


If you aren’t on LinkedIn, I’d probably disqualify your immediately for you clearly have no interest in networking. I would want to make sure that your account was reasonably complete and up-to-date, and that you have at least 30-40 connections (and hopefully a lot more than that). I’d also want to see how many connections we share and how many connections of yours that I’m personally aware of. If I don’t know any of your connections that means you & I haven’t been traveling in the same professional circles which would make me question your motivation to work with me.


OK, Facebook isn’t everybody’s thing. However, I would want to see an effort placed in creating a Facebook page and making friends there. I would hope to see relevant business/ informational Facebook applications on your page and while I could accept that everybody likes to party and mindlessly waste time on fun applications, I would be a little wary of too much recreational emphasis on your Facebook page. Killing a few zombies is OK, but if you are Zombie Sith Master Warlord, you are probably not using Facebook as a networking / communication tool nearly as much as you should.


Assuming you’re on Twitter (and you should be if you’re in my industry), I would definitely pay attention to your Twittering because getting a feel for your Twitter style will give me tremendous insight into how you think and act. Twitter is a medium for a conversation and I would want to see evidence that you are comfortable engaging others. I would also check the ratio of “following others” to “being followed”. A ratio much higher than 3:1 (unless you’re brand new) probably shows that you’re not offering enough value to the Twittersphere (or aren’t trying to engage people at all). While there is value to being a Twitter voyeur, engaging with the medium will bring you maximum benefits.


If you are a search marketer, you should be engaged with Sphinn at some level. Hopefully, you are voting for stories which show engagement in the community. Even better, you should be submitting stories and I would want to get a good feel for the quality of your submissions (both what you feel is Sphinnworthy and how you describe each submission). If you are able to make stories “Go Hot”, that would definitely be a bonus because it’s pretty difficult to do without being engaged with others in the Sphinn community.


An abandoned MySpace account is a good thing. It shows you engaged with MySpace when that was the place to hang out and when better alternatives arose, you went elsewhere. If you were still very active in the MySpace community to the exclusion of the aforementioned alternatives, I’d be very worried.


If you have a big enough digital footprint, I probably don’t need to see your resume to know whether we could and should work together. Even if I couldn’t get enough information from the web about you, I still do have a fallback method. Most veteran SEO’s, myself included, can size up somebody’s search acumen quite accurately in a relatively short 5-10 minute targeted conversation. So, your resume still might not be that necessary anyway.

26 thoughts on “SEM Job Criteria of the Not So Distant Future

  1. You had me until Facebook. Some people are too busy actually doing the work to put much time in or or even bother with the time sinks known as facebook, twitter, sphinn, or myspace. In fact, if someone was REALLY active in all of those I would wonder when they actually got work done. They are really good for self promotion, but the best people in the business that I know are promoting their revenue model and not so much themselves.

  2. Todd, this is a great post, and something I’ve been advocating for some time on both sides of the fence. For students just graduating college, I’ve recommended they evaluate their Facebook pages and see what’s on there that they wouldn’t want future employers to see. (A lot comes off quickly!) For employers, I’ve told them to spend just five minutes searching for their job applicant online to see what comes back. I’ll definitely share this post!

  3. Jeremy, these things are only time sinks if they are used as such…they don’t have to be.

    If you are established in what you are doing, you definitely don’t need to spend as much time in the social networking space. However, if you think you’re going to need a new job / gig, it might be beneficial to craft a strategy to make yourself more visible in the community.

  4. I’m sorry, but I’m agreeing with Jeremy. If my firm was looking to hire a “SEO”, I know damn well the very most qualified are not spending their time on twitter or sphinn. That’s just non-sense. If you actually think and believe that the best qualified are really trying to “make fake friends” on these social sites, then you will hire second and third most qualified.

    I think many out there are living in a social media bubble and do not understand that your types of SEO’s are a small minority of our entire industry.

  5. Doug, it’s pretty well known that a large number of positions are filled based upon some level of pre-existing relationship between the parties. If you aren’t known to the person doing the hiring, you are at a severe disadvantage.

    There are many technically excellent people that aren’t spending their time marketing themselves or making themselves visible in the community…and that’s hurting their careers. Many people who might be less proficient are doing better jobs at self-promotion and they are reaping the business rewards for doing so.

  6. Todd wrote:

    “There are many technically excellent people that aren’t spending their time marketing themselves or making themselves visible in the community…and that’s hurting their careers. Many people who might be less proficient are doing better jobs at self-promotion and they are reaping the business rewards for doing so.”

    I have to completely and totally disagree with you. Sorry. I wouldn’t want my programming guy spending his/her time on twitter.

    I see the post stated “SEM”. In my opinion SEO stuff, PPC stuff, and social stuff are three totally different animals and should be hired as such. If I’m looking for a real SEO person, he/she wouldn’t be hired based on how many fake friends they have. That’s just a fact.

    If my SEO copywriter or programmer was found to spend his/her time on Twitter, I’d fire their ass.

    This might be a case of the social people wanting to lump together SEO and social?

  7. Wow, quite a lively little discussion here.

    Great to see total polar opposite opinions on the subject… I guess that’s what makes the world go round… would be boring as heck if we all had the same opinions.

    Anyhow, I’m going to have to agree w/ Todd on this one… and partially w/ Doug (on a small aspect).

    If you’re in this space, you better have a very good grasp on social media (yes, social media does have A LOT to do w/ SEO)… and to get that grasp you need to be active in the community.

    No, don’t spend a bulk of your time on Twitter, Facebook, etc…. but you should be active so you can see the trends and how those trends might affect your business (and your clients businesses).

    For Facebook, spend a few hours and set up a good solid profile. Then, the first couple weeks after you set up your profile… go out and find like-minded people to network w/. After you build a solid base of “friends”… I check my FB like once every other week (maybe less).

    For those who don’t understand Twitter, it is a complete waste of time (and it can be for those who do understand it as well…). But, I’ve connected w/ people on Twitter that I have actually really met in person and have actually done work with. I wouldn’t call these
    “fake friends” as Doug referred to them as. I guess they’re as fake as you want them to be… and you’ll get out of it what you expect to.

    It’s all in the approach you take w/ these sites. If you go out and try to “friend” as many people as possible… yep, those are fake friends and probably a waste of time.

    But, if you use these sites as serious networking and brand building tools (just like any offline networking tool), they can be pretty darn powerful… and completely relevant to SEO in my opinion.

    In my opinion, I wouldn’t hire a SEO who wasn’t in the social media space because social media is a huge tool for getting quality content out to people (digg, sphin, etc.), generating quality white hat backlinks, and spreading a brand message. That might be just me though.

    I guess it’s for the consumer to decide what they want. That’s the beauty of capitalism.

    I totally respect Doug’s opinion. He’s obviously successful at what he does.

    However, I’d be curious to see how he got to this article though… I wonder if it was through Sphinn (of course… a social media site).

    Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents.

  8. This does seem to put the primary emphasis of SEO on social media. I try to keep abreast of what is happening in social media, but between clients and family I have little time to build up my Facebook or Linked in profiles. I do like your article, but I just can’t say I have the time you think we need to devote to this.

  9. I guess I’m not being clear enough.

    Social media is not SEO.

    Trevor; I see your site says you are a “social media” guy and internet marketing guy. That’s great and all, but it’s not SEO.

    I really wish people could make sure we separate things. This blog post and these comments are giving the very wrong impression to those reading who may not understand. I’m not the only one who knows that social media is not SEO. I’m just the only one who speaks up it seems.

  10. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – Employers are doing basic checks on these sites to find out who they’re hiring. Looking into these sites makes sense for SEOs. Obviously there’s a difference between social media and SEO, but social media also affords SEOs the opportunity to communicate, quickly, efficiently, and en masse, with each other. It’s part of how we learn from each other. Anyone involved in any type of business online should at least be aware of the trends, if not participating.

  11. I’m right there with you Doug. SEO is SEO, and SMM is SMM. SMM can be used to help SEO through links, but it’s just not the same thing. LinkBait can be SEO, or it can be SMM, depending on who you are targeting with it and how you promote your LinkBait.

    I am defining SMM as promotion using social network sites (Digg, Facebook, ect). Social interaction and building relationships in your niche is part of normal business development. You should not need a single social site to make those relationships. That’s what niche interaction and emails are for.

    Also SEM is SEO & PPC, not SMM. Again SMM can help SEO, but not PPC, and is not encompassed in SEM.

    But back to the debate. Lets talk about what people are looking for in an SEM, both for PPC and SEO.

    Everything Todd mentioned above is OK, but you know what trumps all that? Experience. The items listed above makes it seem like you are interested in someone who can talk the talk. I, and every company I have worked with is looking for someone can walk the walk. Who would you rather hire, someone who can network with other SEMs or someone who can come in and show you how they increased different companies bottom lines by millions per year?

    I think this is one of the REALLY big differences between in-house SEO job searches and agency job searches. In-house employers have only one thing on their minds. Show me the money! Agencies are many times worried about things Todd posted above which really have no bearing on if they can produce results.

    Let’s say for example you are an SEO heavy in the finance industry. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, & Sphinn won’t produce any increase in ranking or revenue for your financing site’s ranking, sales, or PPC profit. Digg, Reditt, and social news sites will work to an extent but not enough to make it worth you spending hours a day building power accounts? So what is an SEO to do? You do what you have always done. Technical onsite SEO, Link Building, Content creation, Linkbait creation targeted at blogs and sites in your industry, not at general social sites. The list goes on. Then when you do have something targeted for Digg, you have one of your SMM power friends submit it.

    I could go on but I think the point is made. Self promotion does not a good SEM make.

    FYI, if anyone can show ME the money, hit me up 😉

  12. You forgot results buddy – this read like an overly sentimental kindergarten wanker wrote it.

    You’re a fucking hustler man

  13. OK folks, we’re getting a bit away from the point I was trying to make in the article.

    SEO isn’t SMM. I’ll never claim that it is.

    But I’m not talking about SMM, which I define as manipulation of social networks (Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc.) to serve a business purpose and generate revenue.

    I’m talking about use of social media as a vehicle for personal and professional networking specifically in the area of getting employed and evaluating a potential employee / contractor.

    For I do believe the care and detail you spend on building your social network & online reputation will directly correlate to the care and detail you show in your SEM work.

    And I also believe that all SEM jobs have a sales & marketing component and what you’ve done online in that realm will directly correlate into how well you perform these tasks on the job.

    And experience and smarts should trump marketing ability when being considered for a job but in actuality, it frequently doesn’t because the smarter, more experienced person might not be able to communicate that they are smarter and more experienced (and therefore not get the position).

    After all, why do some folks make so much money selling worthless spammy SEO to people who should know better? Because they know how to market and communictate to their customers.

    So, while a good self promoter might not be a good SEO, he’ll probably be a busy, well-off SEO and get the jobs / gigs at the expense of people much smarter than he/she.

  14. Todd, I think you have two paragraphs that contradict one another. In the first you state “I’m talking about use of social media as a vehicle for personal and professional networking specifically in the area of getting employed and evaluating a potential employee / contractor.”

    I do think employers will be looking at the Internet when searching for employees and doing background checks, no matter what the work.

    Yet, in the second paragraph you state “For I do believe the care and detail you spend on building your social network & online reputation will directly correlate to the care and detail you show in your SEM work.”

    I don’t think is necessarily the case. Just because I neglect my Facebook page or Linkedin profile doesn’t mean I’m not putting the effort into my client’s SEM work. I think it’s more important I participate in forums or blogs to keep up to date on trends in SEO. I wish I had time to build up my social network, but it simply isn’t possible.

  15. Hi Todd, judging by your checklist, I’m your girl, lol. You just made me feel really good about my online presence–even down to the abandoned MySpace account. Yep, Twitter is where it’s all happening now.

  16. Scott, I do think if you’re sloppy with facets of your online reputation management that it is quite likely that such sloppiness could extent to your work product…not necessarily in your knowledge of SEM but in the execution of it.

    And, while it isn’t a total sin to neglect your professional network when your busy with work, wise folks know not to neglect it for too long because ultimately, it would hurt them in the long run.

  17. Good point. And social media could be a place where dissatisfied clients relate their experience. So I could see strong activity in the social mediums could help offset this.

  18. Todd, to add a bit of clarity, I used to watch SEO want ads for an unstated reason, and I saw well-known “SEO people” hiring “SEOs” at $7/hour to start. That’s an in-house job, on-site, full time as far as I could tell. And training was provided.

    Imagine a room full of mimimum wage workers with the job title “SEO” and you might be able to understand some of the disagreements. No matter how forcefully someone may want to define SEO for all of us, it clearly has different meanings in different environments.

  19. We recently hired a new SEO manager, and going into the process I was dead-set on many of the requirements listed in this article. We were going to hire someone who was at least semi-visible in the community, we were going to hire someone who uses social media, someone with a presence, etc., etc., etc.

    We ended up hiring someone whose name I didn’t know until I interviewed him, who isn’t a big Sphinn user, isn’t Joe Social Media User, doesn’t have a blog, etc. …. and we got ourselves a real winner. Our SEO dept. is already much better for his presence and I now see my previous wishes/requirements as naive.

  20. There’s a saying from pop psychology that “You are your own best advocate”. You might have the best talent, aptitude & results but if that isn’t known by the community at large, you will be fighting an uphill battle to land the jobs / gigs against better known folks who might well be less talented than you.

    Good personal / professional marketing places a perception in the marketplace that you excel at your chosen craft (whether it be true or not). These are the folks that get contacted first when talent is needed and these are the folks that can command the highest fees for their time.

    Very talented folks are doing themselves a tremendous disservice by not bringing their aptitude into public display.

  21. At first, I thought this was an extremely pretentious post. To admit that you wouldn’t hire anyone you hadn’t heard of is a bit self indulgent, wouldn’t you agree? Reading through the comments, I tended to agree with most opposing viewpoints that a good SEO doesn’t necessarily have to be active in the social media game. (In fact, I’d argue that often they are mutually exclusive)

    Then I read your last comment:
    ‘Very talented folks are doing themselves a tremendous disservice by not bringing their aptitude into public display.’

    That’s VERY good advice. In fact, I work for a well known SEO company and feel that I fall into that category. I’m underpaid and under appreciated. In order to change that, I need to spend some of my own time getting my name out there as an SEO of REAL value. In the process, I hope to increase the reputation and value of the company I work for. Expect to hear more from me in the next few months!!!

  22. Todd H…glad you got some good advice from my article…it isn’t that I wouldn’t hire someone who was rather unknown…rather that I would start that person with a “Strike 1” that would have to be overcome through other means.

    The thrust of my article was to encourage the mass of very talented folks who aren’t known by many in the community to lose their anonymity as a way of enhancing their future prospects. It isn’t that you even have to be a social media ninja…just that you play the game well enough to get a solid profile that you can show off to others.

  23. This last paragraph Todd is great. Your article and follow-up discussion had already convinced me I need to spend more effort on social web sites, especially Facebook. This last paragraph reinforced this. It will take time, but I’ll work to develop my profile.

  24. Todd, I’m with you on this one. Twitter is a fabulous medium for communicating thought, and learning. I’ve made some solid friends through twitter–it’s not fake at all.

    Social media is most certainly not SEO, but there’s no harm in SEOs being on social media. I just can’t see the reasoning to be honest.

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