Recruiting via Referral Bonuses ($12k sound good?)

I love the idea of referral bonuses as a recruiting tool and I have a proposal in the pipeline for our leadership team to offer referral bonuses for each position (not just “key” ones). I’ve always wanted to write on them but this great post I saw the other day combined two fun topics for me: social recruiting and referral bonuses.

Here’s a word for word snag from the post. If every job ad looked like this, the world of recruiting would be wildly different.


It’s our belief that growth is limited only by how much we can surprise, delight and reward our customers with software that rocks. We want to build more, faster and that’s why today, we’re announcing a new effort in bringing talented software engineers to the SEOmoz team.

Have Engineer Friends? Send ‘Em Our Way

Why should you send your engineer friends to SEOmoz? Three big reasons:

  1. They’ll be joining an amazing team at a great company earning top salaries at a place that values their contributions (see below)
  2. You’ll get $12,000 in cash* (OK, probably a check, but still!)
  3. They’ll also get $12,000 in cash**

We’re seeking 4-5 very talented engineers (possibly more) with experience handling large-scale problems like machine learning, web crawling, building and optimizing web services (APIs), coping with large quantities of data and dealing in massively distributed systems. You can learn more about the job requirements here.

Engineers: Challenging Problems, Brilliant Co-Workers & Some Cool Bonuses Await You, Too

As part of this process, we’re making things interesting for talented engineers, too:

  • If you refer/apply yourself, you’ll receive a $12,000 cash hiring bonus**
  • If you’re not in the Seattle area, we can offer up to $10,000 to help you (and your family) move to the area
  • If you make it to our final interview round (for a chat with our full team), you’ll walk out with a free iPad
  • Start your new job right with a $5,000 shopping budget to spend on the hardware/software/accessories of your choice (for either home or office!). Need a new desk and chair set for you spare bedroom to work those odd hours in comfort? Go for it. New laptop? No problem.
  • Salaries for engineers at SEOmoz are substantively above the average/median for Seattle (according to Payscale, Glassdoor, SimplyHired). We’ll be on par with the offers you get from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. in cash, and we’re even better on stock.
  • Benefits at SEOmoz rock – we have a great health and dental plan (for you and your family / S.O.), we’ll cover your home Internet and your cellphone bill, 20 days of vacation time annually, transportation options, 401K plans and more.

That said, we should all be picky about where we work and where we interview. It’s not just about the salary, the bonus, the iPad or the shopping spree – there are other things that matter to us (and likely to you) when considering where to work:

  • Will I be working on fun, interesting problems that will challenge me professionally and grow my skills?
  • Will I learn from my co-workers and influence them positively?
  • Does the company compensate generously and appropriately?
  • Does my work make a recognizable impact on the company and the world?
  • Am I contributing to a mission I believe in and a company whose core values I respect?

It’s my belief that SEOmoz does a solid job on all of these:

  • The problems we face include “web scale” challenges – crawling, indexing and building metrics on billions of pages; collecting, filtering and making sense of millions of pieces of social data from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms; serving massive amounts of data to thousands of paying customers in a performant environment.
  • The engineering team at SEOmoz is a remarkable and talented group. You’ll be side-by-side with engineers with impressive backgrounds and serious accomplishments on the product and technology side.
  • We are in the top quartile of compensation for software engineers in Seattle and our benefits, stock options and perks are considerably above the average.
  • What you build will have a direct, measurable impact on our subscribers – and you’ll be able to see it in the membership statistics and hear it directly through our many feedback channels (we get more than 300 messages about our products each week!). And, you won’t just be helping SEOmoz customers – our mission of making it easier for ideas to be shared on the web is carried out every day, and we have tons of great stories and feedback to show it.
  • We think it’s great that Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the entire web ecosystem have built such remarkable platforms for sharing information. But, it’s hard to get noticed in all the noise and hard to know what will help make your ideas scale and spread. That where SEOmoz comes in – our software is meant to help companies and organizations of all sizes and shapes to better spread their messages in organic, white hat ways. It’s a mission we’ve found incredibly rewarding and we think you will, too.

Why Do We Need So Much Engineering Talent?

Because SEOmoz is taking off.

Today, we provide some of the web’s best and more popular software to help marketers understand, evaluate and improve their SEO efforts. In the months to come, we’re expanding to help marketers conquer all of organic marketing – from SEO to social media to blogging, local campaigns, content marketing, PR/media and more. This means huge challenges like increasing the size, freshness and quality of our web index(currently ~45billion pages, moving up to 100 billion), building a “mention” index on our Blogscape platformthat lets marketers see where their brand names are being used across the web (even if no direct links exist), scaling analytics, improving our machine learning algorithms, exponentially growing our data storage while simultaneously making things faster.

And, unfortunately (or fortunately), our requirements for engineering talent are extremely high. We interview a lot of candidates and need not only the best and brightest in challenging fields (machine learning, large-scale crawling, natural language processing, large-scale distributed systems, etc.), but folks who fit with our core values of TAGFEE.

We owe it to our customers and our mission to build amazing software and that means recruiting remarkable engineers. It’s great to be a profitable startup, but money sitting in the bank won’t do us, or our community any good. We want to put these dollars to work and build something revolutionary – we’re aiming to be the future of organic web/inbound marketing software.

Top 10 Reasons Why Should You Join SEOmoz

Because a post like this wouldn’t be complete without a top 10 list!

  1. Interesting, Challenging Problems (strategic and technical, and often on a very large scale)
  2. Engineering Centric Company (development and software are the core of our company’s product and the largest team – you won’t be in the “IT department,” you’ll be a key member at the heart of SEOmoz)
  3. Customer Focused Roadmap (we don’t just build things that sound interesting, we build things we know our customers want, need and use – and when we do, we get great feedback directly from thousands of paying members)
  4. Transparency (you’ll always know how the company is doing week-to-week and quarter by quarter. Virtually every metric except salaries are shared throughout the organization)
  5. Profitability (we’re in the black – no burning runways or panicked cries for venture capital. We’ve got a proven business model and we’ve been doubling our revenue for 3 years)
  6. Excellent Compensation (We pay in the top range of salaries for software engineers in Seattle based on experience + skills. You won’t have to sacrifice pay to work at a great startup vs. a behemoth)
  7. Amazing Co-Workers (Ask anyone in the Seattle tech, marketing or startup community and they’ll tell you – SEOmoz’s people aren’t just talented, they’re truly good people who care about each other and are a pleasure to spend time with)
  8. Flat Organization (If you struggle against the politics and bureaucratic inefficiencies of a big organization, you’ll love it here. We have smallish teams, 30 people in total, and only a single layer of management – you’ll report directly to the VP of Engineering)
  9. We Listen (Our engineers have contributed substantively to the product roadmap, to new ideas we implement, even to how we decorate the office)
  10. Great Benefits, Perks + Fun Stuff (we play Xbox Kinect on Friday afternoons, snacks in the office, 401K plans, flexible and generous vacation time, a great health/dental plan and more on the way)

So, what do you think? If you were an engineer, would this posting sell it for you?

6 thoughts on “Recruiting via Referral Bonuses ($12k sound good?)

  1. Leon Noone

    G’Day Ben,

    Sorry to sound like a wet blanket. It seems to me that SEOmoz has got the selection process absolutely upside down and back to front.

    Selection is a retail transaction. The employer is the buyer. The applicant is the seller. And the purpose of the “job ad” is to attract the “ideal” candidate and deter everyone else. As I’ve written many, many times: if your job ad attracts great numbers of candidates, you’ve probably written a lousy ad.

    Pay bonuses and incentives as a reward to employees who perform really well: not to job applicants whom you hope will do so.

    I suggest that SEOmoz should start by preparing an output centered job analysis rather than a process centered sales pitch.



  2. Keith McIlvaine

    That is fantastic! Kudos to SEOmoz for building a compelling posting. Love how it not only answers a WIIFM for candidates but talks about the company and culture. That is one heck of a sales pitch for the company, fantastic!

  3. Kristen

    As a client of SEOmoz I love their approaches.

    Sure, this is an ad to “sell” the company. But unlike what Leon Noone suggests, it’s not a bad idea.

    This job posting has gone viral. It’s everywhere. Not just on SEO industry job sites or stuck within the sphere of Seattle.

    They’re using this posting as PR, and it’s working.

    People are retweeting this, posting it on FB and republishing it on their blogs (ahem). It’s reaching far more experts than it would if it were a standard job listing.

    Will they have an abundance of unqualified, or underqualified, individuals applying? Sure. Does that mean it’s a poor method? No. They’ll reach people across the globe who are experts and interested in trying a new, challenging career + move with a fairly young company that’s obviously breaking the rules of the norm.

    I say cheers Rand and the SEOmoz Team. Keep mixing it up.


  4. Leon Noone

    G’Day Ben,

    Like Kirsten, I believe that selection is, in part, a PR activity. That’s well covered in my writing over many years. But whether any publicity is good publicity………..?

    As selection’s a retail activity, I suggest to clients that before they embark on a selection exercise they ask themselves this question; “Is this the process I’d use to buy a new car, laptop, furniture or for that matter anything for the business?”

    I wonder whether SEOmoz would pay a car dealer $12,500 to sell them a new car!

  5. Kristen

    It isn’t exactly the same as buying another resource though.

    These are highly skilled people with choices in the market (remember those?).

    SEOmoz is basically trying to convince the top talent to come to them rather than get pulled into, say Google or other competitors in the market.

    It takes more than just putting an ad out to get the top contenders.

    So, I disagree that a company should ask itself whether this is a good investment in the same manner as it would consider one software system over another.

    Sometimes to get the best talent you have to go beyond the normal avenues of hiring.

    I suppose only SEOmoz will know if this experiment in hiring/PR is worth it.

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