SmartRecruiters Blog

How to Interview a SEO/SEM Marketing Manager

If you do business on the internet, you will need a marketing manager to cover your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). At a bigger company, SEO and SEM are separate fulltime jobs, but at a smaller company these tasks can overlap. More than anything else, you are looking for someone with a strong analytical mind and knowledge (ideally from experience) about growing a website.


When you interview a SEO/SEM marketing manager, evaluate for best practices, failing fast, and data driven. Ask:

  • What do you like about marketing?

An open ended question gets the interview going. Talk for a few minutes about the industry. Do they get that marketing is about getting the goods in hands of customers who would benefit from them (whether the customers know this yet or not). A SEO/SEM marketing manager must know the industry standards and have that I’m-a-step-ahead-of-the-competition mindset. Will the candidate find reward in doing his or her job well? Observe the enthusiasm in which the candidate talks about marketing tasks and accomplishments. You want people that love what they do.

  • Where do you see room for improvement on our website?  

Now, don’t expect a full SEOmoz analysis, but do expect a couple observations. For a talented SEO candidate, it doesn’t take much time on a website to notice the website is not perfect. A prepared candidate should have at least spent some time on your website before the interview. Listen to their suggestions. If you know much about your website, you may hear some things you know, such as there are no meta tags on the “About Page,” but hopefully you’ll hear a suggestion you haven’t considered. Does this new suggestion make sense with the best practices you already know? The explanation  and ensuing conversation will not only test the candidate’s knowledge of best practices, but it will also test the potential SEO/SEM marketing manager’s ability to work with the new team on an SEO strategy.

[EDITOR’S UPDATE: As the IrishRecruiter has pointed out in the comments section, you don’t want to scare the candidate away, or expect to form an action plan off the conversation from this question. The goal is to learn about the candidate’s bility to form impressions of websites and branding.  A safer version of this question is: “Where do you see room for improvement at www.AnyOtherCompany’” It’s best to pick a website you know a bit about, so you can weigh their understanding / perspective on Internet growth.]

  • How have you successfully reached CPA targets in the past (for paid search)? And when have you failed to do so?

A SEM marketing manager must always be thinking about the cost per acquisition (CPA). Obviously, you want someone that has successfully acquired the right type of people (at the right price) to the website. With search engine marketing, you want someone who has pushed the limits. Someone who has tried new things, measured results, and continuously optimized.  Fail fast, fail cheap. Hearing a SEM marketing manager talk about why an ad/s failed, will give you a feel for how they will adapt when a marketing campaign does not work out as planned.

When interviewing an SEO/SEM marketing manager, remember that this person should eat and sleep results. You want someone that has the ability to recognize the variables and accurately measure the variations in outcomes For SEO, you want someone who has the vision to see what quality terms can be improved upon in Google rankings. For SEM, you want someone who is data-driven, thinking in terms of A/B testing, and finding reward in running multiple tests in order to find the optimal advertisement or landing page. Make a job offer to a marketer who loves keeping up with the evolution of Google’s search engine.

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David Smooke

David Smooke was the Director of Content Marketing and Social Media at SmartRecruiters and is the Founder of ArtMap Inc & AMI Publications.