By Jo Turnbull
In my second post as part of the three part series of “How to Start and Develop Your Career in SEO”, I interview those who have been working agency side to find out about what it is like working for an agency.
For those starting off in SEO, they will have to decide whether they want to work for an agency or work for in house, working for the one client.
1) What are the skills you look for when interviewing SEO candidates for agency side?
Erin and Kris at SES NY
Creativity and diversity. I’m not looking for someone who only excels in one area. I’m looking for someone who can take ideas and translate them to the right medium — organic, content, email, PPC, social. Everything we do is so integrated, so it’s more important to me that they an understanding and can work across all facets of digital/SEO. They’re the “general specialists” — a term I adopted from Marty Weintraub — the T-shaped marketer.
Agency experience is also critical. It’s not required all the time, but knowing how to navigate the politics of an agency, juggle multiple clients and keep up with the industry is a big plus. Those are stuff you can’t really teach.
Joe Lewis, SEO Strategy Director at iProspect
We hire a range of skill sets internally, from strong team managers to technical staff who have no interest in man management. That said, there are some core skills and attributes that we always look for.
There’s often a great need to be able to defend ideas and present in a captivating way. Though not all agency staff are outgoing and argumentative, there is a certain cache associated with ‘lighting up a room’ whether someone has a technical or an account management role.
The ability to handle multiple threads is also really useful (a bit like a web crawler) because agency life is all about being able to handle tough questions at short notice, as well as handling multiple tasks at once.
On one hand, the attitude: The willingness to learn, contribute and grow, both individually, as part of a team and within the specific company –with its culture, philosophy and characteristics.
On the other, the capacity: The knowledge and experience that the candidate already has, as well as the ability to communicate and coordinate, which is key when you work at an agency with clients, especially for more senior roles.
Annabel Hodges, Editor at State of Digital
Agency life is incredibly varied and often reactive with last minute requests thrown at you from all sides, so the number one asset I would say a candidate needs is the ability to multi-task and prioritise on the fly. Keeping a cool head when last minute deadlines are thrown at you can be far from easy however those ‘throw everything in’ late night pitch brainstorms and planning sessions can also be incredibly exhilarating.
My general philosophy is that attitude and passion can’t be learnt. SEO can. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t look for good background experience within the industry, but when it comes to the crunch, I would always choose to work with the person I feel has a real desire to do or try more over the one that has the additional years of experience.
Actually, since I joined Kahena, we have done a TON of hiring, so this is something I am extremely passionate about. Depending on the position I am hiring for, SEO experience is somewhat important. But even more important than those are a few key character traits which standout and really encompass who we are as a team. I look for individuals who hustle, but in a humble way. I like self starters, people who have a drive to learn, and those who want to keep growing and innovating. I am not interested in people who are happy with the status quo. Definitely not in the SEO world since a status quo doesn’t exist.
2) How would these skills differ if interviewing an SEO candidate for client role?
They’re not differed that much. Maybe a big more project/client management, but everyone should be able to talk to clients. That’s why we don’t really have project or account managers because everyone on the team has some face time with the client. That way you hear it directly from the client and eliminate as much middle man as possible.
Having worked for FTSE 250 companies in house, as well as at the largest search agency in the country, I can attest to the very different nature of the lifestyles. Sometimes agency staff can feel overwhelmed by the volume and intensity of the work, but when most of us stop to think about it (usually in the pub) we realise that we’re somewhat addicted to the challenge and the buzz. Pleasing challenging clients and meeting tough deadlines with a strong team can be very satisfying.
Additionally, the range of work that agencies have to deal with means that a typical week is often varied and people are quickly channeled in directions that they feel are right for their skill sets. Becoming a specialist is much more achievable in agency side.
I’ve worked both in house and at an agency. The difference is that when working client side, you usually look for someone who has had already experience of working agency side. This is because in house roles require the person to know the product inside and out and the role requires someone with a strong background to be able to lead or manage by themselves the activities that an agency would, but from the inside.
That’s an interesting question because in many ways, when we take on a client, we consider ourselves part of their company. We don’t bill them by the hour, rather they …read more