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How to Prepare for SEO Job Interviews: A Guide for COVID-19 & Beyond

It has been very long since I’ve had any SEO interviews, or have been part of any, but one of the things I am noticing, hearing from other people, and reading about, is how SEO job interviews are changing. Gone are the days when you can comfortably talk about spammy tactics to achieve results, or do a simple cram-up of SEO knowledge as much as you can before the interviews — to impress the managers. With the shift in requirements, you need to know how to prepare for SEO job interviews properly.

What the SEO Hiring Managers Are Looking For

What the SEO Hiring Managers Are Looking For

Before we go into a detailed discussion about the preparation part, let’s understand a few things that managers are looking for. Obviously, this will differ on a case-by-case basis, but here are some general trends, in my opinion.

  1. It’s OK if you do not know everything about SEO: If you don’t know everything about SEO, the managers will know. In fact, that’s necessarily not a bad thing. Even today, I don’t know a lot of the elements of SEO, or there are items I am doing for the first time. What’s bad about not knowing all the finer details of SEO is trying to hide that fact, and making up some BS about it. That’s the last thing you want to do. And here’s a secret: Even your manager might not know everything.
    • Sidenote: When I talk about not knowing all of it, I meant in terms of personal experience of executing a particular aspect of SEO. For instance, I might know a specific logic of 301 redirecting something. But can I do it with some crazy regex coding? Probably not!
  2. Success Stories: If you’ve been doing SEO for a few years, say at least 2-3 years, managers are looking for success stories and the numbers to support those in your resume, as well as when you’re talking with them. It could be anything from increased traffic for X site section by Y percentage to increasing ranking of a very sought after keyword. It sort of also depends on how well you’re able to communicate theses stories. What did you do to achieve those results, who was involved, etc.
  3. Problem Solving Abilities — or at least having the inclination for it: Almost everyone now knows how to use Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and the common tools out there. What will really differentiate you is to show how you will solve for certain types of errors, or how will you create a specific type of report if someone were to ask for very specific requirements. What segments will you create, if any, etc. The mastery in these tools comes from your ability to solve problems with it. That’s one of the core reasons they exist for, minus the regular traffic, landing pages, visits, etc. type of reporting.
  4. Creating Uniqueness: Essentially translates into the how, why, and when you use the tools. In fact, this doesn’t even need to come from tools. It could be your cool way of internally linking to content. A bonus here would be to come up with something that can scale things.
  5. Ability to communicate effectively, and working seamlessly with other members: As organizations grow, they also grow in complexity. That complexity brings in additional roles on the same website that you have been, or will be working on. On a typical day to day basis, you’ll likely end up interacting with Developers, Database Administrators, Network Engineers, and Scrum Masters. Obviously, this holds truer for bigger organizations, but even if you’re working at an agency that has such clients, you can play a significant role in reducing the bottlenecks.
  6. If you have more skills than just SEO: I know it doesn’t sound ideal, but any company would sort of love a jack of all trades. Depending on the job requirements, it’s not mandatory to have expertise in other marketing channels, but if you do, you can really set yourself apart. You can still keep your core focus on SEO, but can use your knowledge in other marketing channels more effectively for SEO.

How to Prepare for SEO Job Interviews

Preparing for SEO Job Interviews

Now that you understand what the hiring managers are looking for, you can prepare yourself accordingly. A couple of things you can do are the following:

  1. Include stats in your Resume. Show the numbers in written format, and then talk about the same verbally at the time of the interview for double impact.
  2. Stop wasting your time on how your resume looks like. Undoubtedly, don’t go with a horrible looking one, but a simple text format — that’s easy on the eyes will suffice. Your numbers, experience, written skills, and personality will make way more of an impression, than how cool or beautiful your resume is. I mean sure, you can do something crazy unique to get their attention, but really, your skills, experience, and potential are the real game winners here.
  3. Remove non-relevant roles from your resume. They don’t have a place for it — unless you’re ready to talk about and connect it to skill-set required for the SEO position you’re applying for.
  4. Polish your LinkedIn. You don’t have to include crazy stats on this platform, but more so what you do, what your role is. I personally don’t like to make my work numbers that public because I think it shows integrity. But, you can if you think it’s okay to do so (while making sure you’re meeting all the legal requirements for such activities, and that you’re adhering to your company’s policies).
  5. Be honest, real, and sincere about your abilities. You don’t have to undermine yourself, but you also don’t have to oversell.
    • A: They’ll likely catch on, and you’d end up leaving a bad taste.
    • B: There’s a reason they called you for an interview! Clearly, they saw something. Don’t make their job easier to eliminate you from the list of potential hires.
  6. Please, please, please ask questions. If you don’t ask questions for the SEO job you’re applying your candidacy to, I’d probably think you’re not interested. I mean, you have to know certain things, right?
    • For instance, what SEO tools they currently use?
    • How many team members?
    • Are they already working with agencies, etc.
  7. A kicker to everything mentioned here is if you are running your own blog or website. That makes a big impression on the managers. Nothing speaks better to a success story than running a blog from scratch and kicking a** in the SERPS. It’s a big vote of confidence to your work and your abilities.

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What About Core Technical SEO Items?

I think this would depend on the SEO role you’re applying for. Goes without saying that if you’re proficient in these areas, it would work out well for you, but what I am trying to say is don’t let it hold you back. For example, you know what a robots.txt file can do. But would you necessarily know to come up with a crazy regex rule to disallow certain types of URLs? Probably not? Can you learn that? Probably yes!

Conclusion

Honestly, a lot of the interviews are about potential too! The hiring manager should be able to see what you can do for them, if you’re given the proper training. Nobody expects you to know everything from a-z.

Job requirements, by default, are always asking for more, in the hopes that they may actually get someone like that who literally knows everything mentioned there, in the salary budget they have. I mean sure, it helps them filter our garbage candidates, but still, don’t let it deter you from applying.

And remember, if they’re calling you for an interview, it means you met their criteria. So, without reading too much into it, and doubting your abilities, I’d say take yourself up on the challenge, and go get that SEO dream job!

Other Resources

  1. Quora
  2. LinkedIn