1. Which blog do you subscribe and read?
Basically, if an SEO person is monitoring relevant blogs, that should be good because we see it as a way to keep up his/her continual learning. The answer to this question can also reveal how this person provides SEO solutions which could be based on the learnings from blogs, forums or subscriptions.
2. How do you handle clients and colleagues who are hard to please and convince them into implementing your SEO recommendations?
One of the things that define a successful SEO is the ability to maintain good relationships and giving up on a tough client would probably derail your SEO campaigns.
3. Can you describe what is your worst crisis and how you handled it?
Not necessarily an SEO-related crisis. Will determine the character of an applicant through tough times at work (difficult to meet deadlines, resource problems, etc).
4. What is your criteria in determining work priorities?
Is it the deadline, the type of client, the easiest task, the hardest task? It reveals their ability to manage time and managing it well.
5. Describe Search Engine Marketing to your next-door neighbor who doesn’t know much about computers.
This will be important in conveying the message in the right language effectively. Our audience may vary but as long as we adapt to their level of understanding, we won’t have much problems.
6. Why do you want to work for our company?
Is it about the challenge, the type of accounts or just to make resumes look good?
7. Why did you pursue SEO as a career?
More than looking at their key skills in their resume, their answers also help identify the things they like to do and make use of them if possible. We can then define jobs that are closely related to these answers.
8. Do you maintain a blog about search?
Have a look at the contents in case you haven’t done so. Verify if you agree with the points stated or if the blog is just a plagiarized content from a notable blog. Worse, the blog could be promoting schemes you explicitly abhor or perhaps the site is made for AdSense (MFA).
9. What is your idea of an ideal SEO performance measurement?
An answer that limits keyword rankings should sound an alarm. But a mention about conversion rates, traffic referrals from search or ROI measurement should be a sign of relief. Next question could be how to implement these measurements.
10. How do you describe a typical SEO campaign?
The response will determine how a candidate understand the whole program not only on roles they take (low level) but also on the overall structure of the campaign (high level) and identify areas such as roles, dependencies, goals and expected values, track progress and on how they benefit from and/or help team members.
11. Explain your preferred way of performing keyword research.
Candidates would probably tell how they do keywords to make an impression rather than risk telling something about a set of things done by someone else and fail to answer follow up questions. Even keyword tools have their own limitations too, so a human involvement in this keyword research exercise should be emphasized.
12. Describe how search engine robots crawl the web.
This question will gauge a candidate’s understanding the basics of SEO. No exact answer is necessary as long as the logic of the answer follows the universally accepted idea (robots follow links, indexes text, etc). Questions may also be like how Google compares page A and page B for keyword ranking or the factors Yahoo! considers when indexing content.
13. If you have had client presentations, what are the challenges and learnings you can share?
The candidate will be able to demonstrate his/her ability to win the favor of colleagues and clients by giving concrete and sensible examples through his/her answers to this questions.
14. Elaborate about one SEO project you have done in the past, its challenges, achievements and client feedback.
The purpose is to see whether the candidate has sound understanding of SEO workflow on which comes ahead and what comes next. It could also reveal how the candidate handles client relationships and ability to create a compromise on difficult situations without sacrificing quality of work.
15. Who is your “SEO idol” and why?
It could be an in-house SEO person in the candidate’s office, Danny Sullivan or Matt Cutts or Aaron Wall or Rand Fishkin. Sure you know who are they, don’t you? If they don’t have one, it’s fine.
16. What type of tools do you usually use aside from in-house company tools that you can’t disclose?
Are they using Compete, Alexa, Web Position Gold or Advanced Link Builder? Having a sound analysis is always a good thing. But the basis of such analysis must also be accurate and relevant.
17. How much do you know about Google Big Daddy, Google Dance, Microsoft AdCenter or orientation of Google data centers?
The answer must be carefully analyzed. Perhaps, the purpose of this one is to tell whether candidates are used to making up answers on questions they don’t actually know or being honest about not knowing at all. I’d prefer candidates who do the latter.
18. How do you prevent “Keyword Cannibalization” among pages within your site?
19. Rank what are the five most important on-page SEO factors when ranking pages and explain why you came up with such choices.
This will identify what are the priority factors that are considered by the candidates. Since we don’t exactly know what are the most important SEO factors, it will be unfair to judge them based on their choice. At least we can tell through our experience if they are hypothetically correct.
20. How do you promote SEO on other colleagues who don’t belong to the search team (designers, web developers, marketers, programmers)?
Is this candidate more focused only on the things s/he is tasked to do? Is s/he more proactive in seeking to correct existing methodologies that are detrimental to SEO or any marketing efforts for that matter?
21. What are your favorite SEO tools and describe how you use the data they generate and what benefits they provide?
This might reveal how experienced and how analytical a candidate is in terms of taking advantage of the data available.
22. How do you execute link campaigns?
Establishing good amount of original content on the site? Establishing many online partners who serve immediate invound links? Widgets? Directory submissions? The list is long but it’s not difficult to distinguish great answers from lame ones.
23. How do you leverage organic search and paid search for optimal search results?
For folks that have experience in both disciplines as shown in their resumes, it will be good to see how they’ve managed their search campaigns together.
24. When will you recommend to a client that organic search is a better option than paid search? (And vice versa.)
Candidates must know the basic advantages and disadvantages of organic and paid search in order to determine which among the two is applicable, in cases when clients can’t afford to have both.
25. What is the difference between 301 and 302 redirection and the difference between visibility:hidden and display:none on CSS codes?
It is also important to have at least familiarity with technical aspects of SEO.
26. How do you check for proper “404 Error” page rendition within a website?
If candidates can provide clear answers and demonstrate a good understanding of issues that affect crawlability of a site, then this is a positive sign.
27. At which stage should you be involved in a web build project?
If s/he fails to mention “during the planning stage” or similar response, it’s not a good sign at all.
28. After a year of SEO and your efforts yielded minimal (read: less than expected) results, what will you do?
Again, this calls for the candidate to come up with initiatives. The first sentence of their reply could determine if they are able to take responsibility or just give up on the project easily.
(With ideas from a similar blog by Duane Forrester)