It seems like this topic has been a bit of a bandwagon as of late, and I’ll give it a shot, jump on, and throw my $0.02 in.
This has always been something that’s proven difficult in the more than four years that I’ve been in this industry. In my history hiring and training SEMers, I’ve personally interviewed and hired over 30 search engine marketing specialists, and trained well over 100 people (between sales, service, and search marketing specialists). With whatever credibility that lends, I can honestly say that finding and hiring experienced search marketing specialists is the most difficult.
The reasons are obvious: This is a new industry, those with knowledge and experience are mostly self-taught (and often independent consultants), it is not a glamourous industry (if it were, there would be a greater interest), and the combination of marketing and technical aptitude to truly become an expert is quite unique.
So, what do you do? Well, there are two answers for two different kinds of SEM positions: Those that are in-house performing services for that specific company, and those providing SEM services at Internet marketing companies.
For hiring in-house, I wish you all the best of luck in finding someone who is both qualified and wishes to work in SEM for an extended period of time. I’m not saying that because of my position and passion for search marketing, but the reality of the situation is that *most* people you will find that you feel are qualified for your organization’s needs (usually based on having managed a PPC campaign, or performed a bit of SEO in the past) will lack the passion and drive to become and maintain expert knowledge of SEM to be stuck in that position for an extended period of time. And if you think that the cost of hiring, alone, is expensive, try on for size the cost of letting your pay-per-click campaign go stagnant.
For hiring at an Internet marketing firm, well, there’s enough competition in the space that I’m sure our competitors have figured it out.
There is hope, however; but that will usually depend on your corporate culture, training resources, and your people management expertise, so I’ll leave that part of the puzzle for the rest to figure out.