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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

SEO Job Interview Observations

Over the past year I've interviewed for a half dozen SEO jobs at substantial companies where they've decided to stop out-sourcing and bring the SEO position in-house. While I have not yet decided to take any of those jobs, I have noticed some things that may prove enlightening to anyone considering making the move to corporate SEO.

Cartoon Copyright © by James Cook of SEO
  1. If contacted by a headhunter or recruiter attempting to "Qualify" you for the interview, be patient and realize that you'll be explaining SEO to them as they may only have a passing understanding of SEO and a have a short list of our industry buzzwords in front of them.
  2. If the company interviewer or human resources director doesn't understand SEO and has that same list of SEO buzzwords in front of them - be patient as well. The reason they are hiring an SEO is because they need your expertise. Just realize it will be about personalities at that point and not about your qualifications.
  3. If the company you'll be working for has a home page that is a flash movie which starts playing music immediately, includes the word "Enter" or has a 30 segment image slice, politely decline the interview. You'll never convince them that text is what gets them good search engine ranking.
  4. If a query returns 12 pages on the SERPS, and they all include the same lame byline without keywords, make sure your job description includes "Content Development." PS: "Content Development" better be in every SEO job description.
  5. If a query returns 120,000 pages on the SERPS, and they all include the same lame byline without keywords, make sure your job decsription includes "Keyword Research." PS: "Keyword Research." better be in every SEO job description.
  6. If the job description puts the SEO position in the Marketing Department, smile and apply. Marketing is where SEO belongs. Textual content as a sales tool is welcome and extensive use of real words as content is encouraged.
  7. If asked, "Do you have experience with SEO in the field of "_____ (fill in the blank)" turn and leave the building, because they don't understand that experience with SEO is the same in every business except for the different industry buzzwords.
  8. If the job description puts the position in the IT department, look out! They'll expect an automated and programmatic solution to SEO. Automated keyword extraction tools, which take keywords from body text and insert them into Title Tags is in your future. You'll inevitably spend your time debugging scripts so they don't insert stop words into those tags, rather than actually writing effective tags or training content management staff to do so.
  9. If asked if you have experience with one particular content management platform, run - unless you are certain their CMS platform allows for manual editing of Title tags, metadata, and embedded links in body text - and that system allows for CSS attributes that can be altered to support SEO concerns.
  10. If the company asks if you have experience with any one particular reporting system for web site statistics and log file analytics, answer "Yes" because they all serve the same purpose, provide the same data, and export the same Excel or CSV reports. The only difference is the login username and passwords and internal navigation.
If you get the job and any of my observations here helped you in the interview, how about a link to my site from your corporate home page? ;-)


Blogger 2hp said...

That's some funny stuff there.

What kinds of expectations have these companies you've interviewed for expressed? I assume they all want to "rank better". But are they looking to drive sales, increase pre-sale exposure for their brands, displace competitors, etc? I'm just curious what conception they have of the value of SEO. This is especially important, I'm finding, since monetizing traffic (once you've gotten it) is a whole 'nother ball of wax. They're going to look to recoup the cost of your salary somewhere!, lol.

Jack Mardack

3:00 PM  
Blogger SEOptimism said...

Hey Jack,

The companies I've interviewed with are pretty big corporations with some scary budgets who definitely want to do everything you listed. Drive Sales, Increase Branding Visibility, Displace Competitors, plus a surprising number of major web properties will gain dramatically in web site ad sales. But most simply want more sales, period. You got me thinking on this one, so I've added a new post to respond to your comments.


4:20 PM  
Blogger MagnetikWes said...

Great article. We are currently looking for an SEO person to work along side our other experts and man oh man are some of these people living in LALA Land. They think they know something but they haven't a clue. Thanks for the resources to find someone.


1:30 PM  
Blogger David Ogletree said...

I am currently in the market for an SEO position. I seem to get a lot of interviews. Everybody wants you to talk to 4 different people. They all ask the same questions. They have not read your resume or looked at your blog. They all ask you "what are current seo trends" or "what is new in SEO". One company even asked me to evaluate a site for them. A lot of the companies are located in very expensive cities and want to pay you hardly nothing. Everybody seems to want you to have experience with large websites or agency experience. I have not had any offers even though I answered all their questions right and know what I'm doing. I have been doing affiliate marketing for 4 years and have been in IT for 10. I really thought finding a job would be easier than this with my skills.

9:52 PM  
Blogger happytobe said...

Great article! Since a lot of SEOs would be reading it, I am adding this info below.

I am looking to fill an SEO position at a multinational search marketing company in New York.

The candidates need to be in New York for interviews.

-Experience in professional SEO a must
-Technical web skills desirable
-Presentation and client servicing experience will be an advantage
-New York based applicants prefered.

Send in your resume to be considered for an interview to

Accepting resumes from 26th June 2007 to 25th july 07

12:48 PM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

Great articles here Mike!

This is exactly the type of information I was looking for here tonight, as I am going for my first SEO/SEM position and feel I have a better understanding of what to expect come interview day.
I have a couple of sites under my belt now and very immpressive organic results starting with multiple #1 spots and several top tens since the SEO light flipped on. Your TTB (time to blog) and information shared are both greatly appreciated. Please feel free to look me up when in San Diego.

Thank you,
Kenneth A. Steele

10:53 PM  

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