The SEO job market has been on fire lately!
Companies are investing more in SEO and agencies of all sizes are scrambling to hire new SEO professionals.
I know I spent a tonne time interviewing candidates lately. Separating good candidates from bad ones can seem like a daunting task.
How do you ensure that the person you hire will become a good SEO?
How do you separate BS artists from practitioners?
The secret is in the interview questions you ask!
Here are eight interview questions I like to ask SEO job candidates.
Do an SEO interview
When I do SEO interviews, I don’t ask standard questions that you would have in a typical interview. Most standard interview questions bore me.
That doesn’t mean someone on my team doesn’t ask them (we always have to make sure you actually know SEO), but once a candidate gets past that phase, I prefer to take a different approach.
While many SEOs will ask very technical interview questions like “what is a canonical tag”, I have found that a slightly different approach works best.
The technical knowledge is great, but the SEO trivia is easy to remember and train.
If a candidate doesn’t know how to use a specific SEO tool, I can show them in an hour, so it’s not worth asking questions like that in an interview.
I’ve found that most technical SEO questions are usually the interviewer trying to show off how smart they are rather than assessing the candidate’s SEO knowledge.
Too many SEO interviews are spent simply letting the interviewer talk about themselves all the time. I am not that interviewer. As much as I like to talk about myself, the interview is not the time to do so.
Instead, I would rather look at their approach to problem solving as well as their thought process, customer interaction skills, and general view of SEO.
You can’t train critical thinking as well as you can train SEO best practices.
But if I can find someone who thinks rationally, critically and logically, who knows the basics and has technical skills, then I can train them in other things.
Best Interview Questions to Ask SEO Candidates
1. Tell me about yourself. What are you looking for in your next role?
This is the first question I ask. It’s the one you heard in every interview.
What am I paying the most attention to with this question? What the candidate thinks is important:
- Do they talk about themselves personally? Professionally?
- Do they go straight into their work history?
- Do they read me stuff like a checklist?
There’s no real wrong answer here – unless they’re reciting qualifications like a checklist.
Talking about what they’re looking for in their next role lets me know immediately if that role will be right for the person, or if they’ll hate that role and be likely to quit soon.
I want to make sure that not only are we meeting our needs for the vacancy, but also that the candidate will be happy and have room to grow. This resulted in much less turnover.
2. Tell me about your greatest accomplishment in your last job.
This simple question is my favorite. This answer will most likely decide me instantly on the rest of the interview.
You’d be shocked how many people can’t answer this question.
Take a look at your average resume. Most people list what they were instructed to do or assigned to do, but they don’t tell you what they actually did in that role.
This is a chance for the candidate to brag – tell me about their results:
- What ideas did you have?
- What impact have you had on a client? (If you’re coming from an agency, I’ll rephrase that as “tell me about the biggest impact you’ve had on a client.”)
I’ll ask a few follow-up questions about candidate lists, but this is basically a conversation about the job to make sure he or she was actually involved in making it happen and find out what role the person played.
Here are some good follow-up questions: “How have you measured this success?” “What idea sparked the idea for this project?” and “What was the biggest challenge in getting there?”
3. Why SEO?
I will only ask this question when hiring for entry level positions or if the candidate has less than two years of experience.
I am curious to know why they chose this profession. What motivates them?
If you tell me “I need a job” or “it pays well”, you don’t get the job (or you probably don’t get paid well).
4. Tell me about your personal projects, websites, blog, side hustle, conferences, etc.
There are two reasons for this question:
- I want to make sure there is no conflict of interest. I interviewed a few people who wanted to keep their full-time consulting business with competing clients in addition to our full-time job.
- I’m trying to find someone who doesn’t stop their SEO thinking at 5pm (this is the main reason I’m asking this question.)
I want someone with a passion for research, marketing and technology.
SEO is a job where you have to keep learning and growing, and I’ve found that people who are passionate about it will do it on their own. I’m looking for ambition here too.
I do not care How? ‘Or’ What this passion manifests itself. You don’t have to have a blog or a side hustle or a personal website or speak at conferences.
Just have the passion and show it to me.
5. Tell me something that most SEO pros think is true that you think is BS (or, something you think is true that most SEO pros think is BS).
This is my second favorite question to ask and the one I usually save towards the end. It is a modified version of a large Pierre Thiel (which I personally am not a big fan of) interview question.
I had to limit this one to SEO or marketing because people tended to get really political about it (flat earth, vaccines, election, etc.).
While these are fun answers, they’re really not work-relevant and I don’t want to discuss them in this context.
That said, if you go on a wild tangent about something racist/sexist/bigoted, you can bet you won’t get the job offer.
This question is a huge help in assessing a candidate’s critical thinking skills. I’m looking to see how they react when put in place. (I guarantee that no one anticipated this question and it will take time to answer.)
I want to see the candidate feeling uncomfortable – with no prepared response – because that’s how many customer interactions go.
I also want to see candidates defend their answers because I’m going to ask for a few follow-ups asking them to do just that.
This is a great area to determine if they will “vibe” with your SEO philosophy. You can get into things like subdomains versus directories, or pet peeves like XML sitemaps.
6. Given a random URL, tell me how you diagnose SEO issues. What is your first step?
Sometimes I also replace that with “tell me your approach to doing keyword research” depending on the role and the candidate.
For SEO-specific skills, I like to be open.
For this question, I will continue to ask, “So what? So what ? »
I want to see how their thought process works.
Not everyone is the same. Some will start with research or explore; others will begin by understanding business objectives; others will pull out their checklist. (You can earn bonus points if you mention any of my SEO tools.)
I’m not a fan of checklists.
Also, I don’t want to hear “I would run this tool”. I want you to tell me what you are using the tool to do.
For higher level positions, I’ve often asked candidates to do a few slides on how they would improve a random site.
It’s never a client site (we really don’t ask for free labor). This is usually a branded site of any clothing brand that I notice the person is wearing or the interest I see in the background of their Zoom.
Or, if they tell me they play hockey, it could be a hockey equipment manufacturer, etc.
If I want to be outlier about this, I’ll ask them to rate wtfseo.com or something. It’s always random.
7. Suppose the customer wants to do this thing. You think it’s a bad idea and recommend something else instead. The meeting is tomorrow to discuss. What is your game plan for the meeting?
This is my favorite hypothetical question to ask.
The is a good answer to that. I’m looking for a data-driven and actionable plan.
Unfortunately, many candidates instead give what I call an “ego response” where they say something like, “I’ll tell the client that I’m the expert and they should trust me,” or something like that. similar.
He’s not the person I want to hire.
8. Do you have any questions for me?
Sometimes the best interview question is to not ask a question and let the candidate do it instead!
The main goal is to give them more information about the job, ease their worries and make sure they’re the right person – but you can learn a ground depending on the questions they ask you.
For example, if they immediately ask about raises and promotions, that’s a red flag telling me that they may be a flight risk.
A better way to ask this question if you’re being interviewed is, “What does success look like to me in this role?”
Often, candidates will ask a question about whether or not they should do something they hate doing (like metadata or reporting), and this can help find out how they interact with teams.
(Note: Regardless of your SEO level, you will continue to perform some of the “basic” SEO tasks from time to time.)
The primary goal of any interview is to determine a candidate’s skills, loyalty to your company, and fit with the company’s culture and future colleagues. With the right questions, you can ensure that the most qualified candidates move to the next level in your hiring process.
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