A Test for SEO Job Applicants to Reveal Aptitude in a Few Questions

Kathy
Anyone have a test for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) job applicants to reveal aptitude in a very few questions?
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[filtered from 23 Answers]

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Matt
Question 1 – Create (paper,mindmap,etc) a site structure for a brand new site that sells toilets and wants to rank. Should include layout, categories, and articles. Question 2 – Name 3 tricks to rank an article that worked for you and if I were to search in Google I wouldn't find at least 2 of them. Question 3 – Explain how to perform a technical SEO audit of my website.
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Brenda
These questions TOTALLY depend on what specialization in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is in question. I would NEVER expect content writers or GA specialist to know the details of a technical audit.
The OP needs to provide more information before this question can be addressed.
Matt » Brenda
I agree. I figured OP wanted an SEO expert to manage all things SEO for their business.

Mike
Question 1) Let me talk to clients you have or are currently working with.
Test over.
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Fudge » Mike
Know too many smooth talkers that have clients and no skills.
Mike » Fudge
If you talk to clients that they have worked with for 2-3 years, you should be able to get a pretty good gauge of how well they can do the job. Very few clients are going to stay with someone very long who is just a "smooth talker" if the results aren't there.
Brenda » Mike
WHY? What about those just starting out who are smart, eager and 100% capable but have been working for an Agency and are NOT allowed to divulge client lists/interactions?????
Mike » Brenda
Sucks for them.
Just like any test is going to suck for people who are really good at ranking pages but are terrible test takers or terrible at articulating their thoughts.
I know someone who can run rings around 95% of the SEO users I have encountered. She would bomb any kind of SEO amplitude test you gave her though. She doesn't know half the SEO jargon out there. Doesn't pay attention to the latest news or drama in the industry. Just keeps her nose down and grinds away.

Meakin
Tell me your opinions on the following:
1. Neil Patel
2. John Mueller
3. Pagespeed and Core Web Vitals
Then…
4. How did you learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
5. What's a term you tried to rank for but couldn't?
6. Tell me about your biggest SEO fail
7. Scenario – your rankings have dropped significantly over one / two weeks, tell me what you would do to start diagnosing and fixing.
8. What are the most important things for SEO to be successful?
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Grayson » Meakin
1 – don't care
2 – don't care
3 – too fast to care

Meakin » Grayson
Hired!
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Patrick
For an employee or is this for an agency?
I've been in the game for a little over half a decade. It depends on what you want them to do.
But I'd love to chat and pass over some ideas Kathy

Kathy » Patrick
Employee. Good question. Big difference. I didn't advertise for a top level SEO. I just need someone to do the grunt, systemized stuff, but this guy comes along and says he can do more, and then wants more $. I do not want someone to just turn it all over to, but someone in the middle would be great. I'm willing to entertain this option. So what is the next level and how do I test his skills for that? I'm thinking that would be someone who knows when he runs a keyword report why some keywords are a waste of time or not, not just because they are too competitive, but because the target market doesn't give a hoot or they won't convert. Or knows that a less popular keyword will actually get us more conversions even if the traffic is less. Or someone who knows how to analyze reports and identify problems, maybe even fix some. And as I describe this I catch myself because I see myself going off into the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)world because I'm both. I really need to define for myself what that next level is, or maybe I should ask him what that is?

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Kathy
Here's the situation. I was ready to hire for bottom level SOP implementation. Schollaert suggestions above are perfect for this role. But I have an applicant who claims to belong in the mid-tier in terms of skill and salary. Ok, so I can say no and just fill my low level job, but if he's willing to do all that and can at the same time bring more to the table to save me time and money, I'm willing to entertain that thought.
At that MID level position what's important to me would be more than anything would be to be a problem solver. There is still a lot of SOP here, but if I give him a task to do and in the process he can see that something different may be more effective based on what he knows about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), that means a lot to me. I don't think he belongs in this mid-tier unless he can do that.
I'm not hiring a technical SEO here. I'll outsource that. Nor do I want a content strategist. That's high level.
I just want a couple of simple of questions to ask that can tell me quickly whether he has the problem solving skills I need and that he has enough background in SEO to even suggest creative solutions.
Does that help?

Meakin » Kathy
Massively! I'm in the same position myself. I've found it's easier to try and identify talent at the low level and promote them. Let me know how you get on!

Allen
I have a third interview with a company and they are having me do an audit on their site and present it. I thought that was pretty smart. This is after they asked a lot of very good SEO questions.
This is for a higher-tier position for a premiere agency so they are pretty selective but pay accordingly. But I feel the audit could still be used even for less experienced SEO users.

Kathy » Allen
Yep. I'm leaning in this direction.

Ted
Tell me the biggest keyword you could rank for and what it took to do it. Then tell me the biggest keyword you couldn't rank for and why it didn't work.

Kathy » Ted
This is good actually. What I can do is ask him to identify the best keyword target for a SPECIFIC client. That would reveal how well he can run tools to get data, analyze the data and also whether he takes the time to look beyond data and get to know the client. It would also reveal his aptitude in marketing.
Recently I tested a content writer who wanted to learn SEO content strategy. So I gave him my skincare distributor client and asked him to come up with a content plan. I had already done this, so it would be easy for me to assess his skills. In a few days he came back with a plan identical to my own, right down to what I call the backdoor approach which was don't just target the products, build the community by filling the blog full of instructional content that included team and business building for her esthetician clients.

Kathy
This comment is nested above, and some may miss it, so I'll repost it here. This is probably the most brilliant test I've ever heard of.
I have a friend who hires software engineers for his company. In the interview he gives them all a test and instructs them to call if if they have any questions. He purposely makes the test impossible to complete because there is not enough information. He said in one batch of 10 applicants, only one called to say he needed ___ in order to complete the assignment. You had to be really good to even identify what ___ is. He got the job.
Also, the last guy I hired said to me in answer to one of my questions, "I don't know but here's how I'd find out." That was a big thumbs up from me, not only because I could see he wouldn't let a problem stop him, but it also showed me he wasn't ashamed to say he didn't know. How many web developers or others have you worked with that will waste an entire day trying to solve a problem because they can't come back to you and say, "I don't get it." I'd love to have a question to ask that will reveal that in the interview process.
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Schollaert » Kathy
This sounds great! Having people work a difficult (or impossible case) indeed shows both attitude and skill – good luck!

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