Live Blog: How We're Recruiting an SEO Manager Without a Single CV

This is a continuous, step by step story of how we're recruiting a new teammate to our fully remote team, without reading a single CV.

Four years ago we ditched the CV as a hiring tool, because screening a bunch of papers took us a ridiculous amount of time and gave us no real value to understanding the candidate's ability to work.

So we had to find a more adequate way to evaluate applicants and thereby save our precious time. As we're currently looking for an SEO Manager, it's a great moment to demonstrate the whole new process we've built.

So let's get started.



1). Defining The Tasks of a New Employee

December 15, 2017

To avoid making a failed hire, I need to be 100% clear on EXACTLY what I need my ideal worker to achieve. Otherwise, I'm setting my future teammate (and myself) up for failure.

So before I began to source candidates, I defined the position and wrote down a list of tasks I need the new hire to do.

Here're the tasks I put together for the SEO Manager role:

👉 Develop and execute effective SEO strategies

👉 Conduct keyword research to guide content creators

👉 Coordinate content creation, from creative briefs to publication

👉 Develop and execute outreach strategies

👉 Optimize and update our existing content

👉 Review technical SEO issues and make corrections

👉 Collect data and report on traffic, rankings and other goals you set


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2). Defining Basic Skills of a Top-notch Worker

December 15, 2017

As three companies combined, we have a total of 72 people, most of whom are hired without reading a single CV. Instead of wasting hours sorting through dozens of résumés, we've used short tests that immediately disqualify some of the least suitable, most time-consuming applicants.

To make the sure application process demonstrated candidates' abilities, I first wrote down all the basic skills they would need to get my attention. I started with a list of 24 items, but narrowed it down to 10, since no one would bother to answer 24 questions.

Then it was time to come up with some questions that would allow candidates to demonstrate they have the necessary skills.

It's like turning a standard job requirements list into test questions; this way I can actually check whether the candidate truly meets the conditions.

Sadly, applicants tend to embellish their CVs a lot, reducing the utility of résumés as initial screening tools.

Building an efficient assessment

Drafting a good test is not an easy task. There's always a feeling of “what if I'm not asking the right questions” or “what if I'm missing out on a good candidate because one had a bad luck”.

I'm not gonna lie, I still have these feelings, but the amount of successful hires has given me the courage to carry on and try new things.

He're some tips and tricks I use.

💡 In my tests, I always try to simulate real work that reflect the qualities I'm looking for in the new hire. E.g. "What would you, as a potential project manager, do in a situation where your team is about to overstep a deadline?"

💡 Sometimes, I even come up with a question that immediately disqualifies a candidate if they answer incorrectly. E.g. I would never hire a recruiter who hasn't heard about LinkedIn.

💡 I keep my tests short and challenging, around 10 questions for up to 15 minutes.

💡 80% of the questions are closed-ended. It makes the evaluation easier and faster.

💡 I always add few open-ended questions too, in order to catch personality. E.g. Asking what title they would give their biography or if the person likes surprises and why.

💡 I also give my tests a passing percentage - how many points a person must get to become a potential hire. Usually, it's around 70% or 80%, sometimes even 100%.

As my recruitment process is still ongoing, I can’t reveal any of my questions yet. However, I can briefly describe the reasoning behind each question.

Here're the skills and/or knowledge I want to check for the role.

1. Strategic thinking – I want to make sure that the candidate is aware of various SEO techniques and can evaluate each one's efficiency.

2. Keyword research – I want to determine whether the candidate understands how to identify keywords that are worth targeting.

3. Creative writing + general knowledge – I combined text and images to see how creative they can be under time pressure, and how familiar they are with mainstream events. Also, if I have trouble choosing between two candidates (who are technically equal), this task helps in showing the candidates' nature too.

4. Link building – This question attempts to understand whether the applicant also has deeper competence in SEO techniques, or just knows the basics, which is definitely not enough to fulfill this role.

5. Ranking - Same reasoning as #4.

6. SEO tools – The next two questions have several correct answers. They aim to confuse the applicant with similar, multiple-choice answers, and measure whether the candidate is tuly familiar with the area.

7. SEO terms – same reason as #6

8. Technical question – I want to check if the applicant also knows the technical side of SEO.

9. Goal-oriented thinking – With this question, I try to understand whether the applicant can manage their activities, according to business goals.

10. References – In the end, I let everyone talk about some of the projects they have done and are proud of. This sort of question gives so much valuable information about how a person thinks – what they consider to be a successful project and how they describe it.



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3). Writing a Relevant Job Description

December 16, 2017

I don't believe in long job postings, because most people just scan these without reading. No matter how damn good a job description I write, it's still going to be generic and wouldn't reflect the actual work.

So I decided to put my energy elsewhere, to raise interest in the position, and let the test indicate the job requirements.

Some of my team members have admitted that during their recruitment, solving on-the-job tasks helped them decide right away if they really want to work for us.

However, I still had to write something about the offer, so I added some introductory sentences to the start screen of the test and wrote a blog post, as an alternative to regular career site.

The start screen of the test

With the start screen, I focused mostly on raising the likelihood that, if a person would find this offer through their social channels, without knowing anything about us, they would still get excited and try to take the test.



Blog post as a career page

Since Hundred5 is a young, remote company, and has no public reputation yet, it's important to talk about the company just as much as the role. So I also wrote few paragraphs about the people on our team, to give people a sense of who we are.



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Next update: 4). Sourcing the Best Candidates

When you start looking for a new team member, the first thing to consider is how people will find out about your open position. I'll soon write about how we've had the best luck.


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