SEO training is a topic that my friend Bill V. knows absolutely nothing about. But as a facilitator with The Alternative Board he knows business and what works. One of the adages he always hammered into my head was “hire for character, train for skill.” I’ve been thinking of that adage a lot lately in pondering the value that the professional SEO training offered by the Search Engine Academy has for businesses. And it was on my mind when I stumbled across this blog post on the Harvard Business Review website by business author Bill Taylor that dealt with precisely that subject.
What made Taylor’s observations especially meaningful to me was the corporate example he fastened on: Southwest Airlines. And no, the example had nothing to do with how Southwest Airlines handles search engine optimization. Instead it has to do with the principle that Southwest Airlines relies on: hiring for the right attitude.
As anyone who has done much hiring and firing can understand, finding the right candidate for the job is a challenging task. First you have to sort through the obviously unqualified candidates. Then you have to determine if the skills of the apparently qualified candidates really measure up. At the same time you’re asking yourself, “how well with this person integrate with our corporate culture and mission?”
Alas, can I see a show of hands of HR directors out there who have hired based on skills and experience and found that the new hire is lazy, unaccountable, surly, ungrateful, uncommunicative, or immediately looking for the next great opportunity – with one of your competitors? Let me see, I think just about all hands went up. I know mine did (ok, I’ll include small business owners like me along with HR people, since we have the same challenge).
Southwest did it the other way around and succeeded in spades. I like this quote from the article:
When it comes to flight attendants or baggage handlers, Phelps and her colleagues prefer to recruit, say, teachers or waiters or police officers (and often do) than grizzled airline veterans.”
This fits nicely with the situation you might have looking for someone to manage your SEO department. In the first place, SEO knowledge is difficult to assess, especially if you only know “enough to be dangerous” yourself. Secondly, and regrettably, SEO tends to attract people who are lured by the idea of quick and easy money online.
The solution: look first for the right candidate based on who well they fit with you and your organization and then invest (modestly) in the training necessary to bring them up to speed in SEO. There are a number of ways to do this, and Search Engine Academy offers an excellent program that will take a person with basic Internet skills from 0-60 in just 5 days. And at the end of the course we certify the student’s knowledge to make sure he or she assimilated what they were taught and we also offer a 6-month mentoring program that helps the student apply what they’ve learned to their “real world” business situation.
So hire that outstanding person who’s weak on SEO. And then send them to one of our certification SEO training workshops. My buddy Bill V. will be proud of you.