SEO-er Even Though Junior Should Ready for Being Tasked to Make Backlinks for Agency Where They Get Paid



u/Anonymous-barista

I was tasked to do link building as part of my hiring process for Junior SEO. Is this normal?

Hi all. Recently I applied for a junior SEO position at a tech company. The position does not require much experience and they rely on an extensive hiring process to find the best candidates.
Shortly after application, I receive my test tasks for the first stage of the process. There are several tasks and everything seems fine – some analysis, keyword uses, nothing out of the ordinary. They assure me that the answers are only for the hiring process.
One of the tasks, though, is link building. I have to find several websites or blogs that would link an article from the company I'm applying to. At first I thought I'd have to list the websites, maybe mock up how I would approach them or something. I was wrong. They want to see the final result – they want to see active links placed in the websites because of me.
To me it seems a bit sketchy in a way. Like I'm doing their work for free. I know it's not much but I don't feel comfortable. I'm fine with doing some hypothetical tasks that don't get used outside of the interview. This task, though, crossed the line for me. And how would I even do it? Outreach for a company I don't even work for?
I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? Is this normal or am I overreacting?
P.S. Sorry if it's difficult to understand the situation. English is not my native language and I don't want to provide too many details.
[UPDATE] Wow, this blew up way more than I could have imagined, so I thought it warranted an update. I contacted the hiring manager and they changed the task. Now it's writing an example of an email I would send for outreach. They said they're changing the task for all upcoming applicants. Great, I guess, but I think I still won't be pursuing the job since: a) They did this in the first place; b) They changed it without notifying active candidates. So if I hadn't reached out to them, they would've expected me to still do it. That's still an asshole move in my books. I just hope they have made a mistake with choosing their hiring manager (or the manager made a mistake) and other applicants have better luck.
So, moral of the story: don't do free work, kids, even if the company seems amazing. This kind of BS just ruins the market and eats up your time without any guarantees.
So, thank you all for your comments! Now I don't feel like I'm crazy or should be grateful for a big company to even consider me as some people irl have suggested to me.
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kaiililin
Link building takes a lot of time amd effort same. So I don't think it's worth of your time to do the test. They just want the work to do for free. Just be careful there are lots of scams around online jobs.
zero-talent
Most decent employers will ask you to do some task to establish your piratical skill level, however experienced you are. But bad employers will try and get you to do free work. I was asked to build out an ENTIRE technical audit for a client they were pitching for. That's a straight up no – they were asking for free work and later found out they weren't even hiring. Sneaky pricks.
Your situation is the same. They are basically asking you to do free work. They probably have asked this of many others. No saying for sure this is the case with you, but there might not even be a job at the end of it.
They lose nothing. You have spent your time getting links. It's a win win for them. Job or no job at the end of it, they don't sound like a decent company to work for anyway.
ivickings
Well, It's completely abnormal. This is the first time I have seen such a test. You should give away this job as they want the job done for free.
Or
Make a list of the websites for link building and then suggest how you can approach.
But doing link building is complete NO.
MediaJel
Hope this helps:
IMO, I do think that they are getting a free little value out of their candidates when they should be paying for this. If they are asking for multiple links, this is unethical. However, if they are asking for you to provide one or two samples of a proper link it may be the final vetting for the job. Get clarification and explain your concern. You could also just do bookmarks for the articles, which would not matter if you worked at the company or not. You could also just post them on your social media. Did they ask for a "Do Follow" link? It may just be a way to see your problem solving abilities.
We are hiring for a similar position and as the department lead I would be more interested in how much you know about the process of getting content and keywords indexed with the search engines, how well you disseminate information on Google and how well you conduct your research. Do you understand the best practices of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), what are some of the ways that you can optimize a site, etc…
Never would I ask for something that is a benefit to our company or a client until you were on our staff.
If you like the company or need the job, ask and inform of your boundaries. It sounds like you already have a good grasp of these.
PurpalynDigital
They cannot ask a candidate to do that, not at all. A BIG NO. This is one smart (cheap) way to get your work (link building) done without any payment or effort. BUT, here is the big thing, usually it takes few days or a couple of weeks (to stretch your imagination) to hire a fresher, especially in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). How can one expect to see actual links within this short period?? This is the main question here, I guess.
Yet, coming to the main point. A company cannot do that and should be made (in)famous for that particular act of theirs.

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