For the first time in a long time, I've been on the other side of the interview table.
I left my job in early May to take some off, do some contracting on my own, and get myself back to neutral. Now, I'm starting to look for my next opportunity, and for someone out of the job hunt for four years, it's like walking into Narnia.
There are dozens of articles about what interview questions to ask when you're hiring, but far fewer on what the job seeker should look for in their next employer.
Most forget that finding a new job is a two-way street. It's a marriage: The decision to work together is just as much the job seekers' as it is the employer's, and it isn't one that should be taken lightly. So before you jump the gun and say yes to your first offer, here are some things to look for when you're evaluating your next gig.
Make Sure Their Vision of SEO Matches Yours
The search industry has been through a whirlwind of changes in the past couple of years. So much so that everyone has a different vision of what SEO actually is – and more importantly, where SEO is going. Make sure your next company matches your vision.
Whether you err on the technical side or think UX will be a stronger search signal in the coming years, look for a company (and a boss) that puts the same emphasis on what you value.
Keep Your 'Must-Haves' Short, But Stick To Them
Just like employers have their qualifications and "nice-to-haves," you need to make your own list of non-negotiable items. What are the core things that you need to be happy at your career? Chances are it isn't having a Mac over a PC.
This also goes deeper than health benefits and a 401(k) matching program, albeit those could be some of your must-haves. For me, the opportunity to speak at conferences and continue blogging are among my must-haves, and I had to turn down opportunities that wouldn't allow me to do that.
If you value flexibility, you won't be happy somewhere requiring you to be at the office 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you need collaboration and a boss who makes time for you, but they only give you 20 minutes during the interview, then it may not be the right fit.
Keep your list short; stick with four items that you won't negotiate on, and if someone matches them, then having to use a PC may not be the end of the world.
How Much Freedom Do You Need?
This isn't the freedom to work from home or leave at 2 p.m. on Fridays to beat traffic; it's the freedom to actually implement your SEO strategies.
Are you the type of person who has an idea and expects to run with it right away? Or are you well versed in weaving through roadblocks to find a way to make it work? There's nothing that will beat you down more than getting to a new company, having these great ideas, and then not being able to do anything about it.
Get clear expectations ahead of time of what this workflow will look like. How many approvals do you need to get before making changes? Can you make the changes yourself or do they go through an IT team? In most cases, asking other team members, not your director, can paint you a better picture of what this process looks like.
Also, don't get too warped by the agency/corporation stereotype where agencies typically can do whatever the want and corporations are stuck to 9 layers of legal hierarchy before any changes are made. There are plenty of agencies that serve clients with sticky approval processes, and there are plenty of corporations whose digital teams can innovate like start-ups.
Stalk the Crap Out of Them
Even before that first phone screen, you've been stalked. Hiring managers using social media and search engines to pre-screen applications is nothing new, and as the job seeker, you should be using those same tools to find out what your next company is like.
Are they active on social media? What are they posting? You can usually get a good glimpse into their culture from their Facebook page and see how much of a thought leader they really are from Twitter.
Additionally, what are people saying about the company? What's the sentiment of tweets that mention the company name? Find current employees on LinkedIn and see how they present themselves and the context of their posts on Twitter. Look at their Glassdoor page to see what employees are saying so you know exactly what you're getting into before you get started.
What are some other ways to know you're making the right choice for your next SEO job?