More students than ever before begin university this autumn and they’re likely to graduate into a tough job market.

So what can would-be SEOers do to boost their employment chances?

This summer, an average of 70 graduates chased every job, while the number of positions available fell by 7%. That’s according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which has urged graduates to take any employment while they job hunt, whether it’s flipping burgers or something more relevant.

Some of the students beginning or completing their courses this year will be considering a career in the growth-industry of online marketing and SEO. 

If you’re one, it’s never too early to be thinking about boosting your skills and experience so that you have the edge when you come to look for jobs. 

My advice is also relevant to non-graduates who want to prove their talent without the time and cost of university life.

Build experience now

University is the perfect place to hone your online marketing and optimisation skills. There are so many societies and clubs that need help promoting themselves and their events, that you have every opportunity to build a portfolio.

Aim to leave university with at least one promotional success under your belt. If you’re already looking for a job then consider volunteering your skills to a local charity or club. 

This will show you’re passionate about your chosen career and not afraid of working hard, even in your spare time.

Broaden your skills

Why do you want to get into SEO? Is it because you’re keen on marketing, because you’re quite techy, or even because you enjoy blogging and know that’s a big part of optimisation?

No matter how expert you are in one particular field, you need to demonstrate at least an understanding of the other skills required.

It’s great if you’re strong in one particular discipline but there’s so much that goes into an optimisation campaign that you need to be quite broadly skilled to go far in our industry.

Practice your interview skills

Interviewing is hard for many otherwise excellent candidates, so take the time to brush up your skills. There’s lots of advice online so read it.

As the director of an SEO agency, we are frequently recruiting so I’m privileged to interview many outstanding candidates for employment. For me, one of the most important elements to the interview is the candidate’s questions.

Make sure you have some ready. A particularly good question for forging a link with an interviewer is: ‘How did you begin your career?’ This shows interest, sparks a conversation the interviewer will enjoy and could give you some useful information.

Research every agency you interview with

You should never go blindly into an interview but this is especially true of marketing interviews. 

If you want to work for a particular agency then show them. Read the corporate blog, explore their existing clients and build up an understanding of that particular agency. 

You should spend at least a few hours preparing for every single interview if you want to rise above the competition.

Tell them what you admire about their current work. If you’re naturally cocky and very confident of your ground, tell them what you would do differently or how you would enhance a current campaign.

Optimise yourself

Do you have a website where you showcase your work? A blog where you charm readers with your interesting observations? An up to date LinkedIn profile?

As a potential employer, if I Google your name, will you rank highly? Make sure your online presence impresses if you want to work in SEO.

Stand out from the crowd

You’ve probably already seen ‘Zeefax’, a piece of self-marketing genius from a guy named Zef Narkiewicz.

I also remember a graduate a few years back who got a job at a top firm by buying paid search advertising around the names of the directors. When they ran vanity searches, he had a personalised advert ready waiting for them.

Not everyone can come up with such strokes of genius but they show the value of standing out from the crowd. Do what you can to be a memorable candidate, whether it’s means ambushing potential employers at SEO conferences or sending your CV printed on a cake.

Remember, we’re marketers. We appreciate a candidate who markets themselves well (please note. This was not a plea for cake).