How I Got My Job in SEO

This is a "How I Got My Job" guest post by Al Ruggie. Al recently landed a new job as the press liaison and search engine optimizer for 911 Restoration and Milestone SEO

What is your job title?

Press Liaison / Writer – We are a mid-sized company that has plenty of opportunity. I saw that we didn’t have anyone working a PR angle and so I took on the role. Initially I was hired to do SEO and copywriting, but I have since taken on additional duties to provide added value to the company. 

How long have you been in the role? 

I have been employed with the company since September 2014. 

What did you do previously? 

I have had a myriad of occupations in my time, but my most recent employ prior to this job was working for a company called Gibson Overseas where I named and wrote the advertising copy and press coverage for more than a third of the dishware and cookware produced in the entire world. 

What was the motivation for change? 

My previous employer didn’t enjoy hearing my ideas on how we could and would eventually have to shift our operations from being a B2B company to being a B2C company that sold predominantly online. When I started we sold less than a $1,000.00 per month online and when I left with my copywriting help through the online sales site we pushed the figure up to over $10,000.00 per month. So I was essentially let go for doing my job too well, or at least that’s how I sell it. I was unemployed for three weeks or so while I looked for this opportunity. 

How did you start your search? 

I began my search through friends and asking if they knew of anything in the entertainment industry where I was previously employed before the job at Gibson. I had worked for The Cleveland Show, which was part of the Seth MacFarlane enterprise before Fox decided to discontinue it. I was given a few leads from old friends for new gigs that would start immediately doing menial labor in PA positions, and then I was also offered roles higher up the ladder, but that wouldn’t start for a few months until the next season of shows rolled through. I decided I liked eating too much to not have a paycheck until those jobs started and so I continued my online job search through sites like LinkedIn and Career Builder and oddly enough I eventually found this opportunity with 911 Restoration through Craigslist. 

Where did you learn about the job initially? 

If “learn about the job” means hear of its existence then I heard about it through Craigslist. If “learn about the job” means learn how to do the job, then I learned about it mostly onsite, but paired with my years of English education the training period was a breeze. 

Detail the hiring process from start to finish. 

I suppose the hiring process started when I updated my resume to include some things that I had written in the past. I was shifting from a resume that was mostly oriented around entertainment industry jobs to more of an advertising based approach. I included links to a lot of writing examples that I had produced online, and I beefed up the duties that I did at each job. I sent this resume to the link that I found on craigslist for this job and within a few days I had gotten a call from Larry one of the managers of the SEO team asking me to come in for an interview. I wore a suit. Everyone else in the office was wearing jeans and t-shirts. I knew I was in a good place for a writer when I realized that I was supremely overdressed. I interviewed with Larry and Jen who specialized more in the protocol changes for SEO content. I was asked a number of general writing questions from Larry and a lot of computer / writing questions from Jen. 

I really didn’t have many answers for Jen, but I think my honesty won her over. I may not have known all of the specifics of SEO, but just through being honest and personable Jen could see that I was eager and willing to learn anything that I didn’t know in order to do the job. Larry it seemed wanted to know more about me as a person to see if I would be a good fit for the rest of the team. It was almost as if they had planned to do a good cop bad cop type of approach in the interview process, but then when we all started talking and a few jokes started to fly about Star Wars and other things that I noticed around the office, then tensions were diffused and I loosened my tie a bit metaphorically speaking. 

I was asked to come in again for another interview with one of the owners and the director of the marketing team. When I came back the second time for another interview I met with Miri who ran the marketing department and she essentially wanted to know about my goals in life and who I was as a person. I think that they could tell I was more than capable of writing anything they needed, as I had the credentials in order to prove it, but at this stage I feel that my personality was what was being tested. I remember being asked something about if repetition bothered me, and I described how when I worked for the dishware manufacturer I managed to find hundreds of ways of describing white plates, over and over and over again. This won over Miri in terms of my ability to reproduce quality content daily. I was asked about my ambition and what I would like to see myself doing in 5 years. I was completely honest about this answer and I told her that I would love it if I could afford to buy a house in Southern California and own my own company. She asked if I wanted to be her competition (it was a joke) and I replied how I was more interested in creating an online entertainment empire to rival the major studios and compete with news agencies and the like all in one go. I likened my approach to the tack that Vice has taken in sweeping the internet world with quality content that is driven by truth seeking rather than corporate pandering. Again, my honest was what served me best in this situation. I was asked a number of additional questions about my availability and salary expectations and then when we had ironed out a training period and a schedule for compensation I was offered the job officially. I accepted and started work the next week. 

How long was the process from start to finish? 

I was interviewed on a Monday first, then a Wednesday and I started working the following Monday. 

How many interviews did you have in total through your job search? 

I set up 5 or so. I went on two before the interview for 911 Restoration, and then after meeting the team here and discovering what my duties would be I realized that it would likely be a better fit than the two companies I interviewed with, and it was much more likely to be what I was looking for than the other interviews that I had set up but hadn’t gone on yet. I cancelled the other interviews. The first two were for sales positions that were masquerading online as marketing jobs that needed copywriters. When I actually went to these places and talked with them they were actually door to door sales positions. I am not a salesman. I am a writer. 

How many jobs did you apply for in total? 

I honestly don’t even know. It was more than 50 but less than 200. I basically exploded on the internet job search as soon as I was terminated from the last position. And when applying online its very easy to mass blast anything that looks promising. I used a number of different kinds of resumes and sent them out according to what kind of job I was applying to. For example, I created an entertainment resume for TV and film gig jobs. I created a content writing resume for online marketing jobs, and I created an advertising resume for copywriting jobs. I created a general resume for management positions in all fields, and I sent them all out every day to every new job that appeared on all of the sites that I used to search for occupations. 

Did you write your own resume? 

Yes. I wrote all of my own resumes. I am a writer so this part was easy for me. I did look at online templates and created a number of differing versions of these resumes for the different kinds of gigs that I was going after, but I ultimately created all of the resumes I sent out to everyone. 

What was the biggest surprise you encountered in your job hunt? 

Honestly the last time I searched for a job was in the depths of the great recession and what I was most surprised by this time around while searching was how much easier it was than a few years ago. I received vastly more interview requests than I did a few years before and my resume wasn’t that much improved in order to warrant the uplift so I am attributing the escalation to the progression of the economy during my absence from the job seekers pool. 

What sites or resources did you find most useful in your job hunt? 

I have always been a huge fan of craigslist to be honest. I have found both of the apartments that I have lived in during my life in LA through the site. I have found two of the four jobs I have had in LA through craigslist. I have also found things like cheaper lift tickets to the local snowboarding mountains on the site – so in my opinion it is still one of the better resources for job hunters – or anyone looking for cheap lift tickets. I did find though that LinkedIn was much more versatile and useful than it was the last time I explored the job world. I think that it will only be a matter of time before it overtakes craigslist as the main tool for job hunting. It isn’t just about your profile anymore, it functions as a platform for employers and employees to find each other more efficiently with job boards specific to industries and online applying with easily updated online resume building so that you aren’t limited to one page to represent yourself like you are in the paper resume world. In my opinion if I were searching for a new job today it would be high on the list of resources I would take increasing advantage of in order to find the dream job. 

What advice do you have for other job seekers? 

Be honest. Be honest with yourself and with any potential employers. If you get asked a question you don’t know the answer to, it is far better to admit ignorance than to fain understanding. Almost all jobs can be taught to a prospective employee fairly quickly and when you lie you just make it seem like you would lie about anything, and that is a huge red flag for employers. Since taking this job I have been in a number of interview processes for hiring additional employees here and one of the things that makes me want to give someone a job is their eagerness. I don’t mean they need a job so badly that they will do anything, I mean that they are willing to do anything to do a GOOD job. This is more important to me when looking at people to hire than someone who thinks they already know it all and is unwilling to open their mind to new possibilities. 

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