• http://twitter.com/andrew_rayner Andrew Rayner

    Just a small point on Q9, this could be addressed best with Google+ Local (formerly Google Places – can’t believe it’s changed it’s name again!)

  • Bill Hunt

    Conrad – great post on how to do a good technical position interview.  I do think companies should adopt this sort of hands on process since it does show how prospects think and solve problems.  I have asked people to bring their laptop if they have one to see what tools they use and how they think since people your looking for most likely have done this before. 

    On Question 4 – I would be discouraged by someone who went to Majestic or SEOMoz to answer this question since that would tell me they are a link building fan boy and not a problem solver.  Your question “why are they outpacing our growth in search” and the data from Comscore is a function of traffic.  I would want them to be more focused on the delta in traffic and provide a process to compare top 1000 words us to them in paid and and organic and see where the largest gaps are vs. where we have fewer links.  That step would come after they know which keywords we have a gap on.  A majority of the time the gap can be closed by fixing crap snippets for high ranking terms.  Then we move into improving rank via template changes and link building.  That to me shows the difference between a small site search pro and one that can work at the scale of the enterprise. 

    Are you having success finding people that can work in paid and organic and be an Excel master?  I find people are good at one or the other and few other than those who have had their one sites or been a 1 person show at a smaller site have these blended skills. 

    And for those that will copy this as your process – if you find a person who can actually make it through this gauntlet don’t insult them by offering them a $35k salary.  

  • Christopher Regan

    Honestly, I’d expected another Fortune/Huff Post crappy count-down/up fluff piece when I clicked into this article. But, alas, great points — and, well thought-out and well written. Question #11, when asked, will astound you most often with silence, though….
    Thanks.

  • Rachelle King

    When I read question 11, I thought How Cocky!  Then I realized once you stated “a tough month or two or six with a poor fit”, this question made a lot more sense. It not
    only touches on social integration of search but if someone can answer this
    then it means they took the time to care about the person they could be working
    with day and day out. No matter how great a person’s skills and knowledge are
    if you clash on a personal level it can make the work environment strained
    which takes away from productivity, not to mention actually enjoying your job.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3NIT4IMLYV5FGVTCXYWEPTKYDQ Christian

    You had me at “Ranking reports are a waste of time…”

  • http://twitter.com/kirstyshark Kirsty Shark

    As someone who is relatively new to the industry and would love to get to the level where I could make it through that interview in one piece, but how the hell does someone learn all those things?

    I’ve been devouring everything I can online but I still feel a million miles away from what you describe above. Any courses in my area are way too basic. 

    So maybe for a follow up post, how can people learn to be an SEO pro? Is it all networking and reading the right things online, if its experience how do you structure your experience in the right way and are there actually courses out there that cover advanced SEO well?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AlessiaCorriere Alessia Corriere

    I am totally with Kirsty on this one… I mean, I don’t think that I’d be able to answer most of those questions, apart from a few. But, I’d love to be able to get to a level where all of these questions are a walk in the park. 

    Thanks :)

  • http://twitter.com/cryptblade cryptblade

    Hard to even source technical SEOs. The “SEOs” these days are pathetic. I’ve had to sit through many interviews with SEOs who never touched HTML. WTH???

    Sat through 1 interview with a jobseeker – she claimed confidence in knowing SEO and learning quickly. Claimed she did SEO work on title tags previously. So I asked her, in general, what were the accepted character limits on title tags? She had no idea.

    …I think she knew she bombed the interview from that point.

    Sooo…. mazeltov to Conrad for even SOURCING candidates that are technical enough for him to get through any of those questions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507536131 Michael Shostack

     While not on the SEO side, I interview lots of people for the paid search side of things from entry-level up through manager level. Many of the advanced things we know are from hands on experience, and living and breathing the business every day. It is also about being connected with the right folks so this info gets shared with you, and of course religiously reading blogs like this one because there are no good schools that teach this stuff.

    In general though, if you are more junior, I think everyone would agree that you are not expected to know all of this.  The more important skills to show your interviewer (and what a good interviewer will be looking for) would be how you approach the problem when you don’t know the answer.  Most of our day is spent addressing problems we don’t know the answer to, and being able to find those answers is what makes someone valuable int his field.

    Of course if you don’t know answers to these sorts of questions and are going for a higher-level position, you might need to reevaluate where your experience places you in the market as SEM/SEO is unfortunately one of those areas where having a ton of related experience in say, display, or email marketing, doesn’t qualify you for more senior roles (or even mid-level roles) in these particular disciplines due to how technical they are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507536131 Michael Shostack

    I think an important thing to add to this thorough process for a technical interview is to clarify what level of candidate these questions are for.  I would never expect a junior person to know all of these things (although I would be watching to see how they approached figuring them out to measure problem solving ability).

    That said, for technical roles, it is often disappointing since the majority of candidates for higher-level roles I’ve found to be lacking on the technical side lately. Definitely important to have some sort of pre-interview screening checklist or test to weed them out so you aren’t wasting even 20 minutes of your time with someone interviewing for a senior role who doesn’t know how to calculate ROI.

    Depending on where they come from, I might be more lenient on the tracking side, particularly depending on if they come from certain agencies that are known for having silos between the analytics/tracking team that implements and handles all the technical tracking stuff, and the people that do the work on the accounts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749852742 Conrad Saam

    Kirsty and Alessia – First, thanks for making it through the post.  Secondly – sadly I find very very little education that is timely and detailed in the search world.  Colleges and training centers just aren’t picking up the right people who are advanced and current in search.  

    Thirdly – there’s lots of bad information out there.  Lots of it.  Many companies with solid reputations in the industry are either shady or misguided.  I’ve found that many agencies cater to their clients (which makes sense at face value – but few of their clients really grok what it takes to be successful in search.)

    So what to do?  Now this is my opinion, and I’m sure I’ll be flamed for this, but . . .  if I were advising someone on how to get into the industry, I strongly believe the best way to do it is to work in house for someone who really gets it and is current.  Someone who believes in in-sourcing this skill b/c they take a very long term view of search.  Someone from the old guard who has gone in-house.  Someone who works for a brand that has never been burned (goodbye JC Penny and Findlaw).  Where do you find these people?  Every industry has some shining stars in search – in legal its Gyi Tsakalakis and Steve Matthews for example – it’s just a matter of IDing them through some painstaking research.    

    And remember during an interview, you are interviewing them too.  I’d have a list of questions to see how they respond to theory espoused by people like Vanessa Fox, Matt McGee and Danny Sullivan.  I’d probe to see if they think they are smart enough to outwit the engines (bad sign).  I’d want to know if they are focused on ranking reports (another bad sign).  

    The best opportunity is one that will let you get hands on dirty with data and tactics.    

    Hope this helps.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/seo.jaipur Seo Jaipur

    If You Want Right Answer Q9- Rank better for ‘Romantic Italian Restaurants in Redmond Add in Google+ & Google Local Places.

  • MeyerKaty

    my roomate’s st ep-mot her brought ho me $1 3342 the previous mo nth. s he g ets pa id on the computer and bought a $369300 condo. All she did was get lucky and profit by the advice uncove red on this web page ===>> ⇛⇛⇛⇛► http://getitmust.blogspot.com/m

  • http://twitter.com/kirstyshark Kirsty Shark

    That is good advice Conrad, thanks.