I recently wrote a post
over at Fresh Egg about getting into digital media, but more specifically getting into SEO. I thought it would be useful to elaborate on that post a little and write about what it takes to actually land an interview with an SEO agency.
Search engine optimisation is a relatively new industry in the grand scheme of things, but its influence and profile has grown massively in a very short space of time. What this has led to is a situation where literally millions of people have basic SEO skills and knowledge, but comparatively few people have the well developed skills and innovative mind sets required for doing SEO properly. What this means then is that if you want to be asked in for an interview, you need to prove to a prospective employer that you're not one of those people who just know
SEO, but are instead someone who really understands
SEO. Here is how to do it.
1) Get Advice
This article can tell you so much, but it cannot hope to answer the specific questions you might have about the SEO industry or how you should best display your individual skills and experience to employers. Before you even draft your CV (résumé) or covering letter, get some advice from people in the industry. SEO specialists don’t bite, and if you can display the fact you are just trying to better yourself, many will be more than happy to help. Visit SEO blogs and forums, and start following some SEOs on Twitter. Ask them what they personally would like to see on an SEO applicants CV? What they think of the experience you have and where you need more? Or simply if they know of any jobs going?
As with SEO in general, if you want to learn fast, there is no substitute for getting "stuck in the muck" and getting your hands dirty with the people on the front line.
2) Don’t Fake It
Whatever you do, don’t try to pull the wool over your prospective employer’s eyes. Yes it might get you an interview if you say in you’ve been practicing SEO for 10 years and html is your mother tongue, but you will get found out and thrown out before you can say Yahoo! (which, by the way, would be the wrong answer). If you don’t know what PHP or SERPS stand for, please don’t pretend you do. An employer will be much more impressed if you are able to identify your weaknesses and state what you are doing to make them stronger. As SEO is changing all the time, you cannot be expected to know everything. Instead, employers are looking for people who can LEARN.
3) Expand Your Knowledge Base
Even though I have just said you don’t need to know everything and employers appreciate honestly, they also appreciate some initiative and being proactive. If you are a master link builder for example, or a widget wizard, you should try to gain some knowledge about areas you are not so hot on, such as internal link structures, or optimised content creation. You don’t have to know the ins and outs, but knowing what is going on over the fence, or better yet over many fences, will get an SEO company's attention guaranteed.
Picture the scene… a prospective employer is glancing over your CV and can see your skills clearly outlined (you’ve probably bullet-pointed them). They have already begun pigeonholing you as one type of SEO or another, and are starting to build a mental image of where you might fit into the company. Now they start reading your covering letter and see that you are interested in the recent developments in social media, or how traditional PR agencies are starting to move online. Suddenly you are a flexible entity in their mind again and they start thinking about how they can mould you and develop your certain skill sets over time. Once an employer starts thinking about how useful you could be to them, the interview is as good as yours.
By the way, it makes little difference which they read first, the CV or the covering letter, the effect will be the same.
4) Make a Splash
According to People Management
, 64% of HR professionals think it is appropriate to look up information about candidates on the web before recruiting, and 41% of those asked have rejected a job application based on what they have found.
This might sound a little scary, and you might want to check Google’s closet for any of your skeletons before you apply, but believe it or not, this can work in your favour. If you are getting involved in SEO online hangouts as suggested earlier in this article, you have an opportunity to sell yourself better and more thoroughly than you could in any interview. If any type of company is going to Google you, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be an SEO company. And do you know what the worst thing they can find is? That’s right, nothing.
If you haven’t made a splash in the SEO world, or at least caused some ripples, how could you have learnt anything? There are very few good SEO books worth speaking of, so unless your dad is Matt Cutts
, it’s not looking good for you. You could try and argue that you just like reading other people’s thoughts and finding, but this is not really doing the engaging, the questioning or the experimenting that employers are looking for. Plus you’ll never get a chance to argue your ‘strong, silent’ angle as you won’t get asked in.
Quick tip – if you communicate online under a pseudonym or username, drop that into the covering letter
5) Do Them a Favour
If you really want to show a recruiter that you know your stuff and want to get on their good side right off the bat, why not do some work for them before you even get asked in for interview?
Get onto their website and check the first few words in their meta title
. This might be something like “SEO Company” or “Digital Marketing”, and is likely to be the main keyphase they are concerned with and want to be visible for in the search engines. Now go out and build some links using that keyphrase as the anchor text. It doesn’t have to be loads, just 3 or 4, and make sure you mention the links in your covering letter. It might sound like a cheesy way to win them over, but they will be mightily impressed at your knowledge, initiative, work ethic and desire to be part of the team. Even if it’s just to say thank you, they pretty much have to get you into the office now.