Attention Prospective SEO’s: Please Know What You Are Applying For!

By | February 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm | 5 comments | SEO | Tags: , ,

**Disclaimer:  This post as all with posts, contains my own views and no-one else’s – not my employers, my mothers, my friends or my pet dog – simply mine**

This is a rant; A bloody great big rant.

When I left school in 1996 I was a fresh-faced, naive and inexperienced boy entering the real world.  I was given advice about a variety of things when I left and one of them was “Swot up on the company you are going to for an interview”.  This advice also extended to researching the role I was applying for – it would appear that some people don’t adhere to this advice anymore.

Having partaking in several interviews in the last week and a half I am continually astounded by the audacity and bare-faced lies that people put across during an interview.  The job spec we were interviewing for was a junior SEO role and required basic knowledge of:

  • link building
  • on-page optimisation / copywriting

Experience was preferred whilst online search experience was necessary.

As explained in my previous post There’s a Difference Between Reading Something and Doing Something you can’t know everything – nobody can, but you certainly know something a bit more when you actually do it – the proof is in the pudding with that one.  But to sit and watch some people tell lies with words they don’t understand is not only soul destroying but also infuriating!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of bending the truth, but simply waffling around something when you don’t know it makes you look a much bigger idiot than you actually are.

Know the difference between Website Development and SEO

This one keeps rearing its ugly head.  I’m a web developer by trade – we all know that, but I know there is a gaping divide between Onsite SEO and XHTML & PHP – so should any coder who knows the words Search Engine Optimisation.

When asked “What on-page elements or tags do you look at when initially optimising a site” do not reply with answers such as “make sure the CSS is working properly; make sure your links are coloured; make sure a customer can navigate my site easily”.  Even when given hints with “title tags, meta tags?” don’t reiterate the importance of semantically correct mark-up – it’s got fuck all to do with mark-up if you are taking each individual tag & optimising them in a Word document! (At the early stage admittedly, but still!)

Don’t say you have link building experience when you don’t!

In a true case of ‘caught out’ you cannot say on your CV, in your covering letter and in your interview at an SEO company that you are a link builder when you cannot explain even one method of getting links.  I’m serious, if asked “How would you go about getting a link for a client in the X industry” do not sit there and waffle around how you would look at their site and see how you could improve their site with links from guestbook’s whilst not actually giving one of over a hundred methods of gathering links that are common knowledge – hell, even a plain “Get someone to buy them” would have been better than being insulted.

When asked for working examples of your previous success – don’t say they are offline!

Whilst the job spec was for a junior several potential candidates had web development experience and were ‘avid readers of SEO material’ and ‘extensively experienced in SEO’.  However, when asked for working examples of live SEO projects you have, do not reply with “They are all currently offline”.  Also, it’s best to come up with several keywords you rank highly for when asked and not saying “Well, we went for a variety of them” – give me ONE – JUST ONE!  Hell, if the tables were turned I could tell you now I have had 1st page rankings for Sailing Holidays, Personal Injury Solicitors, Bingo, Designer Clothing etc – I’m applying for an SEO job FFS!!  Ok, cutting them some slack – they were applying for junior roles – but just ONE example of a phrase would have been good, even if it’s an uncompetitive term such as ‘snowy mountain holidays in brazil in April’.

How would you improve a sites Search Engine Rankings? – The answer is not Twitter

This is unforgiveable.  Any book you read will either be out of date, full of 101 or full of factual information.  No book I know of says that to affect your 1st page results in the major search engines should you create a base of twitter followers and promote your clients website with tips and promotional messages.  This is where the lines of SEO & SEM really blur and another testament that you have to DO it to KNOW it otherwise you are just regurgitating what the other person said.

With the industry so blurry in its initial advice I can see why someone would trip up on this, but to focus on this as the first thing you think of is very worrying indeed.

At least know what PageRank is

When coming for a job interview, particularly when you say you have experience in giving clients SEO advice at your current role, be prepared to talk about the role.  When discussing varying offsite page elements that some SEO’s look at to determine credibility and authority, such as toolbar Page Rank as a basic indicator (despite its revered inaccuracies within the industry) do not reply with:  “PageRank, I don’t think I have heard of that!”

As you are reading this you might be asking “Perhaps it is your interview technique” or “Perhaps the questions weren’t phrased right” and I hear you – but they were reworded, broken down and spoon-fed until you knew that the glazed look in their eyes was recognition of the fact they did not have a clue!

Seriously, I might be a little bullish in my analyses of the responses or I might have just let the waste of time get the better of me but if you are applying for a role as an SEO – it also helps if you know what SEO actually is!

About the Author

Kev Strong

Kev Strong is an online marketing consultant at Newcastle Upon Tyne based digital marketing agency, Mediaworks. A lover of all things search and an ex-web developer, Kev Strong (a.k.a Goosh) is a specialist in advanced search engine optimisation.


  1. Peter Handley (12 years ago)

    We’ve mercifully not really experienced that – and in some respects this sounds a bit like y first interview all those years ago.

    I got around that by saying what I had learned not to do… Stuff keywords tags, makes sites out of flash and images, though I guess I’d experiences enough of the wrong things to discern some of the right.

    We did not that long ago have a recruiter add lies along these lines to an applicants cv, which was as embarrassing for the interviewee as much as the interviewer!

  2. Goosh (12 years ago)

    Yeah Pete, don’t get me wrong we have seen some great applicant’s as well. Some of them have really excited me and I can’t wait for them to start, but its the liars that boil me (as you may have seen :p)

    One great thing about the place I work is that we are willing to give people a try – but you have to show the right spirit and be honest enough if you don’t know – unless its about something as fundamental as Page Rank

  3. Seobelle (12 years ago)

    Just reading this now – love a good rant!
    I was skeptical about interviewing a candidate as his CV was sales the recruitment agent really pushed saying he used to be sales to pay the bills but did SEO for fun – and had loads of books on it and really wanted to make it as a career!
    I caved and did the interveiw which was a car crash the guy had been given an seo book but never read it and try to balg his way through such a waste of time for everyone involved!

    • Goosh (12 years ago)

      cheers Sadie, you’ll find plenty of rants here. lol.
      I must have sat in on around 20 inteviews since i entered seo fulltime and i can count on one hand the ones that could coherently explain what seo was. It really is soul destroying sometimes.

      2nd interviews are a must as well as we’ve caught a few ‘flukers’ out with actual seo real-world queations

    • Stormy (6 years ago)

      At last! Someone who unrssdtande! Thanks for posting!