In the last nine months, I have seen a hiring blitz as Adobe moved its search program in house. Seventeen search marketers were hired and each has turned out to be extremely capable. One colleague compared the new search marketing team to the Seal Team 6 that took out Osama Bin Laden.
Through an interview with Jay Middleton, Sr. Manager of the Worldwide Search Marketing team, and my own observation, I identified three principles that have been fundamental to this team building process. They are:
- Have a clear and compelling vision
- Make hiring the top priority
- Hire passionate people
Have A Clear & Compelling Vision
Jay’s vision to build an in-house search team combining SEO, Paid Search, and Site Search to leverage the synergy among all three inspired me to join the team.
Developing a vision takes time and planning. Jay collected data for three years before crystalizing his idea into a powerful business case that he communicated to the decision makers within Adobe and also to job candidates.
This business opportunity was especially important in recruiting the management team. Jay understood that the best people have multiple career options and that he would need to articulate a compelling vision to persuade them to join Adobe.
Once the managers were in place, Jay’s sense of mission not only motivated them to contribute their skills, but also ignited interest among people in their networks, further attracting talented team members.
Make Hiring The Top Priority
“We are building a complex structure, and one bad building block could bring down the whole Jenga tower” Jay exclaimed. Before speaking to Jay, I didn’t realize how much attention hiring takes. I thought I had seen the whole process because I interviewed every candidate, but there was a lot going on behind the scenes that I did not see.
For example, Jay explained how he trained the recruiters to look for the right people. Because Search is such a new and specialized field, most recruiters don’t have experience finding candidates with the right skills.
Jay didn’t just tell the recruiters what to look for; he gave them examples of ideal LinkedIn profiles and told them where to look. The “where to look” part was especially important and was only possible because of the effort Jay has put into making connections across the industry.
Even when Jay is not in the hiring process, he is thinking about building his network and is diligent about spending a few minutes every day making connections to others in the industry.
Hire Passionate People
This principle is the one that is most often violated. Most hiring managers try to match candidates to a batch of qualifications, but hiring “Navy Seals” requires a completely different mindset.
Jay taught me that while prior proven experience is essential, passion for Search is what distinguishes a great candidate from a good candidate. Any candidate that gets past the recruiters should have the basic qualifications to do the job, but passionate candidates bring innovative ideas and specific skills to the team.
In our case, we hired a diverse set of team members that includes MBA’s, consultants, and math majors. We have already seen several situations that would have ended in disaster if team members had not drawn on their collective experience and developed innovative solutions to solve unexpected problems.
Although the Adobe Search Marketing team is still new, it’s already evolved into an especially high-functioning team.
Not only has the transition to an in-house search program been smoother than expected, it has also produced significantly improved results. One program doubled its ROI almost immediately, and many other programs are not far behind. My interview with Jay reinforced my conclusions as a job candidate and team member.
To build an elite SEM team you need to a have a clear and compelling vision, make hiring the top priority, and hire passionate people.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.