Passing an SEO Job Interview in 2013

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Are you going to move on from your current SEO position? Take your time to get prepared and get the SEO job of your dreams. Below I have outlined some of the recommendations you can find handy for this pretty complicated process.


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As the industry of inbound marketing evolves, SEOs have to get even more prepared for tricky complicated job interviews. I’ve recently asked some of my friends in SEO about the most difficult questions they had to answer. The hardest thing for them was to discuss SEO with people who were not really proficient in the sphere! In some cases, they were even asked to reveal exact formulas for getting top rankings, Google algorithms, etc. (if that happens to you, please do show some sense of humor)!

If you are lucky enough to get interviewed by someone who IS experienced in SEO, let’s analyze what you should know and how you should talk about it in 2013.

First things first

Just as in any other sphere, you should pay very good attention to the criterion mentioned in the job description. Read the description carefully and identify what the employer is looking for. Rankings and traffic? Pay-per-click management and lead generation? Viral content creation? Everything combined?

When you fully understand the needs of an employer, you should adapt your resume and covering letter. Additionally

  • Be friendly and professional when addressing an HR specialist or directly an employer
  • Double-check your spelling
  • Make sure your online profile looks professional too – get a closer look at your tweets, Facebook shares, Flickr pictures – everything that can be found online for your name.

Talking about your SEO experience

Your experience with promoting websites is probably the most important thing for your potential employer. Make sure that your description makes your portfolio look diverse and persuasive:

  • Describe the smallest and the biggest projects you’ve ever had, what kind of workflow you followed in each case
  • Have you worked with international projects? Did you take another approach when working on smaller local websites?
  • Describe your success and failure (or biggest difficulty), try to explain how you acted in a difficult situation (losing rankings, traffic, de-indexing, duplicate content, site getting to a “sandbox,” etc.) and what solutions you found to manage the problem.

Why not take a laptop or a tablet and showcase some of your projects – for instance you can show the screenshots or reports from Google analytics or what kind of changes you suggested for this or that website (don’t forget to blur your customers’ domain names!).


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This interaction will create a more memorable impression than just giving an oral description or a link.

Talking about link building

Here’s a tricky question once discussed at Search Engine Roundtable – what are the ways to build natural links? I’d agree with some commentators – you cannot BUILD natural links, links come out naturally on 3d party blogs and websites when you produce truly useful or viral content. Okay, so what kind of links do we build? Those that look natural.

If you need to refresh your knowledge of the ways to build links, take a look at these fantastic posts:

If I held an SEO interview, the chances are high I would ask you about the Penguin update, the link disavow tool and your experience with it. I’d suggest looking through your current SEO data and noting down the figures in advance, so that you won’t have to answer “Well, I noticed just some minor changes…”

Talking about SEO tools and services

SEOs tend to use a lot of tools to get more data in less time, so get prepared to talk about the tools and services you prefer. I would probably mention:

  1. The tools provided by search engines: Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Adwords Keywords Tool, Bing Webmaster Tools, etc.
  2. Tools for tracking SERPs: Rank Tracker
  3. Link ideas and competition research: SpyGlass
  4. User experience analysis: ClickTale
  5. Guest blogging: MyBlogGuest, HARO
  6. PPC analytics: SEMrush

Don’t ignore the details

I bet you easily recognize the difference between CPA, CPM, CPL, and CPC? You shouldn’t have any problems with CMS, CSS, and XML either J But your potential employer can also ask about KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index), LPO (landing page optimization) and RTB (Real Time Bidding).

If you feel you need to refresh your industry knowledge – go ahead. (The acronyms I mentioned above can be found in this list:

Prepare your own tricky questions

At the end of a job interview, job seekers usually feel relieved and exhausted and forget about a very important part – asking your own questions. Here’s a list of some question you may ask:

  • What kind of work will I be doing in general?
  • Is this a new position that has opened up because of more work?
  • What kind of tools or software are available in the workplace?
  • How large is the team?
  • What would I be working on first?
  • Is there a budget for conferences or training?


The way you talk during the interview can make or break whether you land your dream job or not. But you can make the most of preparation, so that your skills and experience will not go unnoticed! Good luck!

Inessa Bokhan
Inessa Bokhan is the co-founder and chief internet marketing manager at SEOlots , a startup SEO agency. She’s been working as a copywriter (software development and marketing topics), pay-per-click manager, and has provided strategic consulting to search marketing clients. A cycling freak, in love with cats.
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  • Debarup Mukherjee

    This is post really helpful.
    I will surely keep these in my mind….

    Thanks Inessa for this lovely post.

    • Sahil

      Hey Inessa! Surely an excellent article as Debarup mentioned. Especially liked the questions you have mentioned in the second half of the article which a job seeker can ask the employer, that will really show how confident and passionate an SEO is. I also do think that SEOs should also be able to showcase their link building abilities, analytical and reporting skills in the interview.

      • Inessa Bokhan

        Thanks, Sahil! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the post. To be honest, it’s possible to write the whole book on SEO job interviews – so much information could be included 🙂

  • Christopher Rwgan

    Nice, concise stuff, Inessa. I might also suggest Schema, RDFa and Knowledge Graph.

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Thanks Christopher! Yep, I’d probably ask the candidate about those ones too!

  • rambabu

    Being an expert , yes SEOs shouldn’t forget to ask politely some of their mind having questions as you mentioned at last of the article! Great job!

  • Aj Singh

    When I saw the title in my RSS feed, I had to click through and read.
    Not because I’ll have an SEO interview, but because I knew it’d definitely help me in understand and developing my own seo skills.
    Cheers 😉

    • rambabu

      yes, totally agreed!

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Hey, Aj! Thanks for stopping by here! I myself enjoy immensely taking SEO and marketing tests and quizzes to practice my SEO skills. I think that’s really important to keep on updating what you’ve already learnt 😉

  • Zach Kasperski

    Hey Inessa-

    Interesting post! I like what you’ve compiled, specifically the point of asking the potential candidate about what kind of tools they use to monitor campaigns. Thing is, even larger companies don’t use paid-for tools when monitoring campaigns; they often use free tools like Open Site Explorer, Hubspot Marketing Grader, and Woorank, to name a few. Nonetheless, I think this post is broad enough to bring value to anyone who’s interested in getting a job as an SEO.

    If I had to add one thing, it would probably have to do with Mobile. We are seeing an ever-increasing user-base when it comes to people finding services and products on their mobile devices. The discussion around SEO for mobile will only increase as the platforms develop.

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Hi Zach,

      Thanks for your opinion! I’d agree that lot of companies either use some free tools, or invest in developing their own ones tied to their needs and projects. I just mentioned the ones I’ve been using for quite a long time (and they also have free accounts).

      And yes, you are totally right speaking about the rise of SEO for mobile – job seekers should definitely focus on that one too!

  • Sef Cruz

    Applying for a JOB for SEO work is quite challenging if the employer has no personal experience in seo or at least background knowledge about it. It was a good idea to show some online portfolio and result of a project that has been completed. This post is really helpful and at the same time, knowledge refreshing as well.


  • Chris (from DesignBigger)

    Maybe I’m being a little bit of a Wil Reynolds fan, but if an SEO doesn’t mention the tie-in to PR and how that can positively affect link profiles, that could be a sign that they need to be a little more forward-thinking.

    • Inessa Bokhan

      A great point, Chris! The sad thing is many companies wouldn’t like to hear that, since PR can require bigger investments in promotion, and they simply want you to “make their website rank high, add some keywords and place links, well, you know…” And here comes the time to educate your employer and explain how things actually work!

  • Mohsin Mallik

    Hi Inessa, after following the steps you mentioned in this post, anyone will be very well equipped for a SEO job interview. I am relevantly new at SEO and don’t really know much about it. Trying to learn from the resources like this. I have 2 question regarding this post , what is a link disavow tool? and how does it work?

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Hey, Mohsin! Please, do respect the search engines – they are priceless at answering “what’s a…” type of questions 🙂

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Instead of saying “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” g o with “in my experience” or “from what I’ve seen.” It gives you a little more room to come up with a good answer, even if it’s not 100% on the money for what they were asking for. There can be some wiggle room when you back up your answer!

    • Inessa Bokhan

      Great tip, Nick! Thanks for contributing 🙂

  • Norm

    You left out talking about buying links from websites in Russia and India.

    • Inessa Bokhan

      True, but I’d rather say, this question (about paid links) should be on the list of an employer, as well as the question on SEO’s responsibilities for the results and consequences. Even if somebody used paid links to optimize some websites, they may not include them in the portfolio and you would never learn about that 🙁

  • karthik

    Hi Inessa,

    I have worked more than 100 international projects but still i am not satisfied and not confident to face the interview s you have given good tips about the interview please i request you to send some news letter about the latest SEO updates