Questions to Ask when Interviewing for an In House SEO Job

by rishil on October 28, 2010

SEO JobsI often get offered jobs in the UK to Head up SEO for businesses, both agency and in house. Some of these offers have been in excess of £100,000 per year  – and I would guess thats a pretty good salary for a UK SEO. Now I am not averse to money, but neither am I motivated by it. I do what I do because I really, really enjoy it. I don’t have that many expenses, and am comfortable with what I earn.  However, I appreciate not everyone has this outlook, nor can they ignore the call to earning more.

At the moment there are loads of SEO Jobs being offered (check out SEOGadget, Holistic Search and Blogstorm for some really cool SEO / SEM jobs), and many of us would be tempted to dive in and start applying. In my opinion the SEO industry is booming, and almost all the SEO agencies I know are looking for skilled staff, while many more businesses are looking to build in house teams. Which means that potentially a decent SEO could choose and pick from these vacancies, such that they get the best deal. However the best deal should not just be on the ££££ signs.

There are many other aspects to picking the right SEO job, for example growth – working with the right team will propel you further towards success I the long term. I wish I had that opportunity when I started out in SEO – there are many SEO teams I would gladly work for , and actually regret not having taking up couple of the offers I had (I normally turn down London based opportunities cause I don’t like working in London).

In the past year, I have spoken to many SEOs in private about their worries – and although I dont claim to be the best person to speak to, I am always happy to advise based on my experiences, and having another independent person to speak to sometimes helps making a decision, even if the other person is there just to bounce off ideas.

What kind of Questions Should You Ask In An SEO Interview?

I am not advising the run off the mill questions about benefits etc. I am more concerned about the job itself.

1.       What is the current internal SEO organizational structure.

A big salary isn’t an indication of a big team. You need to find out what sort of people will work with you on the account, who supports you, and who you support. It is important to make sure you find out who makes the decisions.

2.       What is the full Online Marketing Structure?

Seriously, SEO cannot function in silo, it is important to know what other online channels your potential employers are involved in, and what the teams are like. (I would normally get names etc and go and research these people!)

3.       What budgets do you have?

I am always surprised when SEOs apply to jobs (I have interviewed a fair few) they don’t enquire about the current budgets for SEO. What could be worse than taking on a job and then realizing that they don’t actually have the financial resources to actually carry out any real work?

4.       What volume of the revenue comes from SEO?

Why would you NOT ask this question? SEO interviews in my experience have been very vague – and if you don’t know what volume of revenue is generated by SEO, how do you judge your potential importance to the business?

5.       What tools and resources do you have?

I have often walked into organizations that don’t have real SEO tools or resources. This is normally OK for those who are technically skilled and can build their own, but for those who aren’t, may be an issue. (one of the worst ones I have been to didn’t even have analytics on their site that recorded SEO data…)

6.       What other teams work regularly with the online team?

It may seem trivial, but judging inter-departmental relationships is important. For example a great relationship with the PR departments may make your link building efforts that much smoother.  Or if the business has its own creative department, you could probably work on creating great content, especially stuff like infographics.

7.       What training, conference budgets are available?

For SEO, where there isn’t any real formal training, and guided by the fact that the industry is so dynamic, it is important to be constantly on the self education move. Part of that of course can be guided by reading decent blogs and conversing with other SEOs on Twitter. But the other art of the equation is meeting SEOs in the flesh, attending events. (By the way, of late I am getting extremely impressed with the digital and SEO events in the UK – the quality has gone up notches.  Distilled Pro Seminar was incredible, as were Think Visibility and the A4U Conferences.)

These are some of the more important questions that come to mind. I am sure that others can think of more, and feel free to drop me a comment if you can think of others.

Judging the Book By Its Intro

There are also other subtle indications that your potential employers are a decent bunch to work with. Take for example Tom Critchlow’s Interview questions for Distilled:

Distilled Sample Interview Questions

Distilled Sample Interview Questions

That to me indicates a fun company to work for – they are actually bothering to find out my skills and ideas.

Similarly, iCrossing has started being a lot more transparent with what it expects from its applicants:

iCrossing Natural Search Analyst Profile

iCrossing Natural Search Analyst Profile

What Should You Evaluate?

  • What was your interview like?
  • Did it feel you could build a relationship with the person managing you?
  • How clever were their questions?
  • A mediocre interviewer may mean you could ace the interview, but remember that may actually be their level of expertise in the day to day job – would you be able to work for someone mediocre?

Personally, I love the idea that the Distilled team have created with HireMarshall, it shows how much time and effort they have spent in trying to hire the right people:

Hire Marshal gives you an easy way of creating application forms for recruitment. Multiple reviewers can then score applicants and decide collaboratively who to interview.

TL;DR

So the next time you attend an interview, make sure it isn’t a one way process – interview them as well. It may just save you the headache of regret if you take a job that will depress you daily.

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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Iain Harper October 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Wise advice Rishil – great post. Picking up on the point about mediocre interviewers, this can be a really big problem for client-side roles and not just for SEO, but digital marketing in general. It’s not always necessarily that the interviewers are themselves ‘mediocre’ – very often they’ll be accomplished in their own areas of expertise – it’s that they’re fish out of water when it comes to in-depth discussion about SEO etc. This is especially true for senior roles where the interviewing has to be done by more senior managers. Candidates aren’t asked sufficiently probing questions, which makes demonstrating knowledge/expertise difficult, and the interviewers have no means of evaluating the more technical responses.

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Matthew October 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Great Post Rishil…

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steveplunkett October 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm

When interviewing at @Rockfish, I asked “What would be expected of me?”

Answer was “integrate search everywhere it belongs and raise the profile of Rockfish in search”

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Tola October 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Interesting Post Rishil.
Asking questions like this would definitely separate the boys from the men, or girls as the case may be. However, there definitely has to be a level of diplomacy or it could come of as though the interviewee is turning the tables on the interviewer and becoming the interviewer themselves. But definitely something to consider for future interviews. Thanks…

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Nishan October 29, 2010 at 11:17 am

Great post, very good read and perfect for future use. Cheers Rishil.

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Geoff October 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Cheers Rishil, this is a great post that raises some really important points i.e. will you (as the interviewee) be happy in the new role. By seeking these type of answers you also show great interest in the post making yourself more seem more employable to the interviewer.

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Gary December 11, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I would also ask/establish what their goals are and determine whether you are able to achieve them given the resources available. No one wants to set themselves up for a fall!

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Moosa Hemani February 9, 2011 at 11:12 am

Nice Advice Rishil but i have few concerns on this…. don’t you think this is rude to ask the company about What budgets do you have? and on the other hand i din’t think the person will be that open to give you the clear answer to this question? will he?

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rishil February 9, 2011 at 11:14 am

If they are serious about hiring you, they should be able to give you ball park figures, if not, an indication of scale. I would.

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hyderalis February 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Good questions..I’d like to add one more “How many projects/clients are there currently for seo? ” . I experience this from my last job where they didn’t tell me about their current projects which was only 2 & I also end up landing in their co. without profound knowledge & also the tools they are using is being cracked one.

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elieli777888 September 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

Hi,

Just came across your post, i know it wasnt written too recently but the points you have raised are integral in the SEO interview process. I have recently relocated after working as an in-house SEO for an online gaming company (3 years) and am experiencing the interview process currently.

This post has revolutionised my way of thinking with regards to interviews on a broader scale, not only the SEO scope.

Thanks.

Reply

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