The word “recruiter” tends to polarize people in the search marketing industry. Some people find search marketing recruiters to be as welcome as ants at a picnic (see Chris Winfield's comment on My Facebook Page and Marios Alexandrou's blog post on the subject). However, recruiters serve a necessary function in finding “hard to find” talent for companies and so long as there is a massive shortage of qualified SEM employees available for companies to hire, professional SEM recruiters will do an excellent business.

Anna Martin agreed to answer my questions about this “mysterious” profession that has reached out to so many in our industry....

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living?

I´m a Sr. Marketing Recruiter at LG Marketing (a division of The Laurel Group) in Seattle. I personally focus on Online Marketing, Product Management and Product Marketing positions. My background is a mix of recruiting, business development and account management in telecom, online media, software and advertising.

Founded and supported by the Executive Search firm The Laurel Group, LG Marketing helps companies and organizations identify the marketing professional of the 21st Century: expert in brand creation and experienced in technology.

Our team answers to many of the same executives supported or recruited by the Laurel Group; we understand the significance of “getting it right the first time” - as there is no margin for error. We understand the importance of people to the success of an organization. That is why the DNA of our firm and of each individual on our team is to listen, learn, and deliver. This spirit ensures that our clients receive the same quality and dedication in the services we offer, as they have come to expect in a retained executive search.

2) Why would a company engage a search firm to find SEM talent as opposed to finding folks via the normal hiring processes?

SEM and SEO are the ´du jour´ skill-sets of the moment and it appears that will only continue. Most HR managers don´t have a background in marketing, let alone one in SEM /SEO to understand the nuances of these positions. Equally important, hiring managers don´t have the time to train or instruct their HR teams. With increasing frequency, I am - recruiters - are called upon to serve as their experts in the marketplace and essentially an extension of their team.

3) How do prospective candidates “get on your radar”?

I talk to a lot of friends/colleagues in marketing circles. This business emphasizes “word of mouth” marketing. I truly believe in connecting with as many talented marketers as I can - even if I don´t have anything at the moment that is a fit. You just never know how you can help one another down the road. I´m also a big fan of social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. I´ve had some very qualified candidates reach out to me on both. And, of course we have a deep and rich internal database that in many respects is the life blood of our work. What´s unique about my work is that I have the opportunity to tap into the executive search network as well via the Laurel Group. I´m also a big believer of tribal knowledge and collaborating with my teammates to absorb their insights.

4) How do you evaluate a candidate´s “search savvy” without knowing SEM yourself?

I think where we add value as a firm is that we do understand search. Chris Berta, the head of our marketing division, ran the Online Marketing at Washington Mutual and also worked for AvenueA, and Amazon in Marketing capacities. Personally I picked up a lot when I worked for an interactive design firm as well as a media and large software company. My colleagues on the marketing team here have worked in product management or advertising so we bring a rich tapestry of skills and experiences to the table. All of us have worked for both fortune 500 companies as well as start-ups. In some cases, our former employers are the very same clients we now serve. You can imagine the insight we have from the get-go because of that.

5) Overall, how effective are SEM candidates at verbal & written communication skills? Are we a bunch of social geeks or do we communicate effectively & professionally?

Great question! I find the SEM community to be extremely savvy, creative and articulate. Overall I´d have to say they are great communicators. In fact, I´ve developed a couple of great friendships from placements I´ve made and I feel quite lucky to have done so. 99% of the people I reach out to are open to having a conversation or at least staying in touch for future opportunities. And I also get a lot of offers from people saying they will happily share my contact information with their network. This is a huge part of my business and I´m extremely appreciative of it.

6) When I was last in the job market 2 years ago, a staggering number of people responded to my emailed resume. Why might I want to work with search professionals when I´ve been so successful working without them?

Well first of all, it costs you nothing to have us be your advocate. The client pays our fee and they have hired us to find the best possible fit for their position. What you gain is much more access and visibility. This goes back to us as recruiting professionals having deeper insight into particular companies beyond what an everyday candidate would have. We spend quite a bit of time with each of our clients really trying to ascertain what will make a successful 'marriage´ for them. We discuss long-term goals, organizational structure, who the key leaders are within the company, etc… This is information that you as a candidate simply wouldn´t have access to. The relationship that we develop over time through placing multiple candidates (within different verticals i.e. technology, sales, finance, marketing) allows us to really give you tremendous insight into various aspects of that company and also helps prepare you for your conversations with them. We focus on determining through in-depth conversations with our candidates whether or not they are a good fit for that organization (and vice versa). Subsequently I´m able to present you to them in a more robust way. This is not just a resume going into a black-hole but also bullet points about our observations about what you could bring to the company, what some of your key achievements are and also a range of what you require compensation-wise.

Ultimately this saves time and resources for both the client and candidate.

7) Social media seems to offer an exciting new way for employers & potential employees to connect. Is Social Media an opportunity or an obstacle for a recruiting professional?

I do not see it as an obstacle at all - quite the opposite actually. Unfortunately for any client, there is still going to be a limitation on how much time they can spend looking for and vetting a solid candidate because they have their business to manage. We can absolutely be that extension for them and dive much more deeply than they ever could due to limits in their resources. As I said, I like to use social media as a way to broaden my search and reach out to a larger candidate pool.

8) A caricature of an experienced SEM would be an independent, free-thinker who has certain work expectations not in line with corporate norms (e.g. hours, dress, work environment, work process). Are your clients open to hiring such individuals providing they´ve got da skillz?

Absolutely - like you said as long as they can get the work done, clients are typically flexible. I think clients in the online space in this day realize they have to be open to alternative work lifestyles to remain competitive. And frankly here in Seattle , where we have so many start-ups as well as savvy fortune 500 companies, that´s been the norm for quite some time. Big companies and small in the Pacific Northwest are open to telecommuting, flexible schedules, awesome benefits, etc...

9) There seems to be an incredible amount of job turnover in SEM. Do your clients have plans in place for SEM employee retention & advancement?

Since this is a rather nascent function in most companies, there has not been a structured retention or career progression that has been developed except in some of the more established companies. You can look at a Microsoft or a Yahoo and they are large enough to have a career progression for their SEM employees. We actually see a lot of people who have worked in corporate environment become consultants and start their own SEM firm to be hired back by some of the very companies they just left as a vendor.

10) You and I both know the best time to establish a relationship with a recruiter is when you aren´t looking for a new position. How can a SEM facilitate this in a professional manner?

I´m completely open to SEM professionals reaching out to me via LinkedIn or e-mail to set up a time to chat. I typically request a resume first so I can get a sense of their background and be more prepared for the discussion. Again even if there isn´t an appropriate opportunity at the moment, it doesn´t mean that something won´t come up in the future.

May 21, 2008

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.


Great interview, Todd, and great responses, Anna. I am relieved that so many companies understand the need for flexible timetables if I ever decide to go the in-house route :)

Anna; I'd like to know how employers feel about "marketing at any cost"

Do employers these days feel that anything goes on the internet? Is there a right and wrong way to marketing? Are there any morals or ethics at all when it comes to marketing on the internet, and is that something you actually look at when hiring people?

Another thing; being that my college days were 30 years ago, it appears that kids just are not taught right and wrong now. Is this how it appears to others? Or maybe it's just me?

Hey Todd,
I'd love to hear what kind of money you and Anna, if possible, think it takes for a company to hire an experienced and proven SEO.

Also, are companies becoming more or less open to SEO's working remotely? Thanks.

"The client pays our fee and they have hired us to find the best possible fit for their position."

I'm sure they would rather deal direct with candidates - rather than believe some recruiter who thinks they know SEM (or the company).

The recruitment industry is a parasite (I worked for one for about a month and then left - and this was a very profitable agency). We get them calling us unsolicited. And we all know they're chatty so they can extract maximum info (oh you're looking for work - and has your present company found a replacement?!).

Fanning the flames of the employment market, while inflating the costs (which presumably impacts workers wages if their employer is paying an agency a premium - for doing next to nothing). It's legal/bureacratic BS, which partly developed so companies can screen candidates in ways which are illegal for them to do themselves now (age, sex, race)

I know personally a few people who have made sickening amounts of money from recruitment - straight out of school! Great, but have they sold they're souls?

How does everyone feel about being paid to promote their clients - even though they may not be the 'best. Any SEO's feel they're selling they're souls?

We all gotta make a living, so where do you draw the line between right and wrong. Sure I'd like 2 cars, but if everyone in the world had 2 cars we'd all be dead.

"being that my college days were 30 years ago, it appears that kids just are not taught right and wrong now."

If this is true, it's thanks to your generation and the previous one (along with global warming, unhealthy work life balances and bs politics). Perhaps not you personally.. but you can see we are in grey waters.

Our generation would be the most justified of all past human existence to destroy the world, given the mess we've been born into. The baby boomers sold us out (and gave us the highly profitable but zero contributing recruitment industry)!

I feel slightly better now ;)

awesome interview.. Todd, and great responses, Anna. I am relieved that so many companies understand the need for flexible timetables if I ever decide to go the in-house route :)

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Search Engine Guide > Todd Mintz > Interview with Search Marketing Recruiter Anna Martin