We get dozens of emails and phone calls each week at the agency I work for from people seeking an ‘in’ into SEO. These are people who have no commercial SEO experience (generally), haven’t worked agency side or client side and simply want to get started.
It’s that old adage of the vicious circle: it can be hard for those with no experience to land a job in SEO and without landing a job they’ll never get the experience.
Personally, I love recruiting and working with people who are new to SEO. I’ve written just recently about what makes these people so great to work with. As you can imagine, though, we get a huge volume of enquiries for each of these roles that becomes vacant. So just what is it that separates the good from the bad and the great from the good in a junior SEO interview? If not experience, what’s required?
Here are 5 attributes I look for when recruiting junior level SEOs.
1. A Genuine Enthusiasm for Search
This starts right with your covering letter and CV. The Guardian published a brilliant piece about writing a CV when you have no direct experience. I highly recommend you read it!
You have to get across in writing initially that this is what you want to do. Tell me what you’ve done to learn about search off your own back and why search is for you.
In a face to face interview, you have a great opportunity to demonstrate enthusiasm. If you’re serious about getting started on a career with a search agency, you simply have to convey why. What do you love about it?
I’m not suggesting you’ve got 3 machines in your bedroom and you do SEO in your room in your own time 24 hours a day! But if you have a genuine enthusiasm and passion for something, it shows when you speak about it.
2. A Commercial Understanding
Far too often, SEO professionals become embroiled in rankings and traffic, when in reality, that’s not the ultimate goal. Our clients couldn’t care less about their rankings if they’re getting leads and sales through their websites. The rankings are just an effect of a good organic search campaign. So, on that basis, I look out for people who, despite having no direct experience of SEO, can demonstrate an understanding of its role in business. An ability to really get to the nitty gritty of what a business wants and deducing objectives that can be transferred to an SEO campaign is a valuable asset for any search professional, whatever their level of previous industry experience.
3. An Aptitude for Learning
This one’s harder to demonstrate in many ways. But given how steep the learning curve in SEO is for people just starting out, it is incredibly important that people learn quickly.
If you’ve taught yourself a skill before (no matter what that was) tell me about it. It shows that you’re able to learn. Anything you’ve gone off and learnt off your own back (self taught or through classes) whether search related or otherwise, shows a desire to learn and an ability to do so.
4. Transferrable Skills
I’m always looking for transferrable skills in junior applicants. Maybe you’re a great copywriter. Maybe you’ve written for some great publications – even if they’re offline. Maybe you’ve done some web development. You might have some excellent graphic design skill. You could be an absolute whizz with numbers and an incredibly analytical person.
If you have skills that can be applied in SEO, shout about them! That means that even as someone who has never done any hands on SEO before, you can walk right into the team and add some value from the outset.
5. You’ve Done Your Homework
You won’t get to an interview unless your cover letter and CV makes the reader believe you’ve done your homework – not just researching SEO but the agency that you’re applying to work for too.
I’m always looking out for someone who’s read up on SEO, who’s in tune with what’s happening in Google. Not necessarily because what you read is always right! But mostly because it shows effort being made to take as much information in as possible.
Reading up on the role and the agency is critical as well. If you get to interview stage, you’ve shown an understanding at the outset. But be prepared for an interviewer to dig a bit deeper during the interview!