Hiring an SEO Specialist can be tricky. Here are 21 questions (with answers!) to asking during a job interview.
What is your SEO experience? What is your technical SEO experience?
Even though technical SEO isn’t as important as human-centered SEO understanding the fundamentals of SEO is important. Your SEO hire should have the appropriate level of knowledge you need for the position. If you’re hiring a beginner, understanding H tags, meta descriptions and alt image text should be standard. A middle-of-the-road SEO should be able to upload a disavow file, run site audits, and understand a robot.txt file. If you’re looking for an advanced SEO, ensure they can read some code and are familiar with implementing schema and sitemaps.
What is your writing experience?
Writing is so important for SEO! Having experience with front-facing content is a must for any potential hire. Ask for samples!
Tell me about a time you solved a problem.
A lot of SEO is problem solving. If your hire can talk about the process of investigating a problem, researching an answer, and implementing a logical, backed, solution you’ve got a winner. Bonus points if they talk about how they struggled, failed, tried again, or pulled in someone more experienced when they were stuck.
Tell me about a time you worked with someone who is difficult.
There is a lot of customer service in SEO. While 90% of the work is done with your team, knowing how to talk to customers at the best of times, and at the worst, is an important skill for your agency.
Do you need a lot of variety in your day-to-day?
Some SEO tasks are tedious! They may require 5 or 6 hours of sitting and writing meta descriptions or alt image tags. While each client is different there can be a lot of “sameness” with tasks. Look for someone who is comfortable plugging away for hours at a time but still enjoys client interactions.
What are some ways you would practice link building?
There are a lot of ways to build backlinks. Consider the tactics your organization uses and look for someone who values the same operations. Overall, watch out for the mention of spammy backlink building tactics. To know what you’re looking for, read more about backlink building here.
What are your thoughts of the future of keyword-focus in SEO?
This is a good question to ask to see how much attention your potential hire is paying to your industry. There’s a lot of back-and-forth on the future of the importance of keywords. Some say they are, and always will be, fundamental and important. Others, including Google, have started focusing on a more natural language AI-driven use of content. This answer will help you gauge your interviewee falls in the debate and if it aligns with your organizations SEO tactics.
What are some industry tools you are familiar with?
There are a ton of tools on the market. Some popular ones include: Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, ScreamingFrog, Schema.org, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Hubspot, and more!
Where do you go to learn about industry news?
Twitter and Medium are some easy social options. Other industry news outlets include:
- Search Engine Land
- Search Engine Watch
- Search Engine Journal
- The blogs at: Moz, Ahref, SEMrush, Yoast, Google
- Google Webmaster Central
- Neil Patel’s website
Click here to read our list of industry resources.
Do you guarantee results?
The answer should be no! Guaranteeing a #1 ranking, or a 30-day promise should be a read flag. SEO is a long-game strategy.
When you start with a new client, what is your first SEO step?
This answer will be different for everybody but will offer you a good understanding of how this person works. Some may start with a site audit, others may start with a client questionnaire. There’s no super wrong answer however look for more then “I’d use SEMrush”. What on SEMrush and why?
I know why I love SEO. But does your potential hirer? I could wax poetic about how I enjoy the puzzle, helping people’s business grow, helping people find the answers they need, making the internet a better place, etc.. Also, SEO is just plain cool. I get fired up talking about it. I’m even that terrible person that HOPES someone will ask me about my job at parties. Is your potential hirer excited about SEO?
What platforms are you familiar with?
SEO Platforms can include:
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
What is your project management experience?
SEO is the sum of outcome of many little projects. You want someone who has experience with planning, implementation, and (most importantly) follow-through.
How would you explain SEO to a client?
There are a lot of facets of SEO that are technical, jargon, or just confusing. Clients can sometimes try to be keyboard experts. When talking to clients about SEO it’s a balance of explaining it in an understandable way, creating a common language, and managing misconceptions. Look for someone whose answer doesn’t hinge on an ego-based response but instead focuses on building a relationship and discussing the iterative process of SEO.
What did you love/hate most about your last job?
If your interviewee hated developing social media campaigns but loved managing the database and talking to clients then they’ll probably be a good fit. If they hated doing and reporting on research – maybe not so much.
What makes a website search engine friendly?
There are a ton of knowledge-based questions you could ask: How would you check for a Google Penalty? What is your go-to backlinking strategy? How do you use structured data?
How did you learn SEO? How long have you been doing SEO?
These answers vary depending on the expertise you’re looking for. Certificates/degrees aren’t required for SEO. Experience is more important.
What is your particular area of expertise?
Some people excel at content writing others at backlinking or keyword research. This is a good question if you’re hiring for a team and looking to fill a void.
How closely do you follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?
You’d ideally look for an answer that showed they applied critical reasoning while also not risking a clients website or your businesses reputation.
Tell me about the last time you did SEO training, to some degree.
This doesn’t have to be formal education or training. The purpose of this question is to see if your interviewee is staying on top of the latest in the industry. If they haven’t followed industry news, attended webinars or conferences in the past few months consider making that a necessary part of their training or consider a different candidate.
5 fun questions to ask during an interview:
- If money were no object, what would you be doing with your time?
This question can tell you a lot about someone! It shine's light on who they are outside of the 9-5.
- Star Wars vs Star Trek (or Cake vs. Pie; Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings)?
Fun questions like these help you figure out if the Gryffindor your hiring fits in with your team of Ravenclaws. After all, you don't want your Vulcan at war with the Jedi's on your team. Plus, if something is a big part of your office culture (like baking is for IQnection) it helps let you know if your new hire will jive with the members of your staff. Camaraderie is important.
- Tell me about an unexpected adventure you had.
This is a nice way to connect with your new hire. It also shows attitude and problem-solving skills. While it's backpacking through Europe or being a Jeopardy Contestant (like Meredith here at IQnection), how people talk about their experiences says a lot about them.
- Who was your favorite Teacher? Why?
This is kind of an unusual question. You could sub in "Boss" for teacher. Using "teacher" adds that touch of nostalgia that can lead to a really interesting, and authentic, conversation. It also lets you know what they may value in a boss/manager without being so on-the-nose.
- What are your hobbies? How did you get into them?
If Marvel has taught us anything it's that we all love a good origin story! You could ask this question about SEO (How did you get into SEO?) and still have a satisfying answer. Asking this question about a hobby can reveal more about a candidate then just something like "I love computers". It offers an opportunity for authenticity from you and your potential hire.
What are your favorite questions to ask during an SEO interview? Are there any that you have found help you check culture fit? Let us know!
Are you trying to get a job in SEO? Read this post about How to Learn SEO (that will get you hired)!