Finding The Right PPC Employee

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with another great question set titled “Finding The Right PPC Employee.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What are some subtle signs that the candidate your are interviewing won’t be a good fit for the job? Why?

  • Seeming lack of interest in learning is a no go. Other signs: disorganized, lack of attention to detail, weak Excel knowledge. – Amy Bishop (@Hoffman8)
    • Exactly – always have to be hungry to learn more and try new things. – Matt Umbro
  • If they don’t read any industry blogs and don’t know who the major players are. Exception is if we’re hiring for entry level to train. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
    • I always ask this question and it surprises me how many have no idea or come up with the most generic blogs. – Matt Umbro
  • Lack of attention to detail. Doesn’t love “numbers” and “data”. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
    • I actually don’t mind not loving “numbers” and “data…it’s more about showing passion for the work. As an example, I don’t mind numbers and data but I love doing the work and exploring new ideas. – Matt Umbro
      • Ok, they don’t have to LOVE numbers/data, but at least not hate dealing with them. – James Svoboda
        • Agreed, and must have some aptitude for numbers. – Melissa Mackey
  • “full time” PPCer whose only experience with PPC is “managing” a vendor or agency. – Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
  • If their approach to an answer is inflexible, it’s clear they’ll struggle with different styles of a team/ clients. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • Timidity. Must be willing to crunch data, bag budgets and break balls. – Colleen McCaskell (@ppccolleen)
  • Their emails have poor grammar, misspellings, etc. if they can’t communicate properly with you, they won’t do well with clients! – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
    • Yes! If you have to teach them to write they probably aren’t a good fit. – Matt Umbro
  • If they don’t have an analytical mind set. They need to question everything and should want to know how everything works. – Orlando Valencia (@ValenciaSEM)
  • They don’t ask questions. You need to be curious & want to learn the why and how. Curiosity leads to ABT. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • If you tell me that you read Search Engine Land, that’s great, but if you don’t give me niche blogs I’m not impressed. – Matt Umbro
    • If you are relying on blogs to actively gain knowledge you probably won’t be all that knowledgeable. – Andrew Bethel
  • I always ask candidates to do a little homework ahead of time. if it’s clear they don’t put much time/effort into it = bad sign! – Erin Sagin
  • Or in general, if they seem like a person who will easily become bored with analysis. – Amy Bishop
  • A lack of appreciation for nuance and detail. Being too focused on being Right instead of understanding. – Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
  • All they talk about is nonsense they read on the industry blogs. – Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
  • I ask them what kind of mobile phone they have, and they actually brag about their phone… like it’s not just a phone. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • Also am a stickler for good references. some people seem TOTALLY AMAZING until you talk to their past bosses. – Erin Sagin
  • If they only do the lowest level of work on a test task. The folks who make great workers always go above and beyond here. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Big red flag is if they don’t express an interest in learning or knowledge sharing. That should be at the core of a great hire. – Maddie Cary (@MaddieMarketer)
  • If you use the word “hack” when talking about doing anything in an account. – Andrew Bethel
  • Thinking ‘expert’ means having it all figured out – NOBODY has it all figured out. – Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
  • I wasn’t very analytical-driven @ first, & now everything I do is driven by data& analysis. A curiousity & thirst for learning. – Heidi Smith (@heidinksmith)
  • I ask them what direct marketing books they’ve read, and they’ve not read the classics. – Steve Gibson
  • I look for examples of problem solving and the thought processes behind it. Can they identify issues and then come up with a plan? – Roger Sikes (@rogersikes)

Q2: What is a unique question you like to ask PPC candidates? Why?

  • If I were recruiting, I’d ask them what direct marketing books they’ve read. – Steve Gibson
  • When taking over a new account, what’s the most common problem you see that you know you’ll get the best results by fixing? – Amy Hebdon
  • Pretend I’m your grandma. explain what paid search is to me. shows how well they can dumb stuff down for not-so-savvy clients. – Erin Sagin
  • I like to ask about industry trends…let’s see if they know the pule of the industry. – Matt Umbro
  • Not sure if it is unique but I like to know if people consider themselves analytical or creative. – Amy Bishop
  • To share a big mistake they made & how let client know. Surprising how many people 1) blame someone else or 2) dont call client. – Maddie Cary
  • Open ended, but I always ask what they enjoy most about PPC. I’ve been able to determine knowledge/comfort level from it. – Roger Sikes
  • Also like to ask a lot of situational questions. I don’t ask for data points but I really appreciate answers that include them. – Amy Bishop
  • Are you a starter or a finisher? – Melissa Mackey
  • I look for something on the resume that stands out – some random software or skill & ask a ? about it. Easy to find BS here. – Mark Irvine
  • I like to know what a person likes to work on but also what they think they’re best at. Interesting to see how they compare. – Michelle Morgan
  • Favorite question is still “What are you passionate about?” Think it helps identify mature candidates who know what they love. – Maddie Cary
  • How they handled & solved a difficult person/situation. Crucial for client relations & gives an idea of how they handle conflict. – Heidi Smith
  • It’s not necessarily a question, but I try to “scare” people about what they will encounter and see how they respond. – Matt Umbro
    • Those are good situational questions that I like to ask, too. “How do you handle a vague/upset/absent client?” – Amy Bishop
  • Name the biggest single client characteristic predictive of PPC success. See if they understand business context. – Peter Thistle
  • How do you load a dishwasher? What is your daily routine like? Coffee, Tea or Red Bull? Dishwashers have patterns, if you can’t figure it’s pattern for cleaning dishes you might have trouble with PPC. Daily Routine – Another example of having a pattern and being organized. Coffee, Tea, or Red Bull – Coffee is the only correct answer. If they say Red Bull I kick them out right then. – James Svoboda
  • Always good to ask how & why someone got started in what they do. – Barry Abraham (@brickwaybarry)
  • An old boss’ favorite was “Define integrity.” You learn a lot about a person by their answer. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
  • Not actually a question, but: you do PPC for [company x], pls build me a sample campaign on paper, you have 10 mins, go. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • Where they see PPC going? They have to explain past & current trends, plus connect the dots to predict the future. – Erika Schmidt
  • What they despise most about PPC. Then we can see if they’ll be a good fit, depending on if the position requires it. – Orlando Valencia
  • Someone once asked me, if I was a donut, what kind of donut would I be? not sure what they were getting at… i didn’t get the job. – Erin Sagin
    • I was once told that you’re supposed to ask these dumb Q to see how they handle dumb Qs from a client. – Mark Irvine
  • Depending on experience, I have them explain their auditing and optimization techniques. – Roger Sikes
  • I was asked once “what is a common misconception people have about you” – I thought it was a great question. – Rick Galan (@RickGalan)
  • As an aside, has anyone walked out of an interview because it was clear the agency wouldn’t be a good fit? – Matt Umbro
    • I’ve cut the call short before. Then they emailed a day later offering more salary. Weird. – Susan Wenograd
    • Nah, and I’ve never shut down an interview with a poor candidate. Just wrap it up as quickly as possible. – Amy Bishop
    • I’ve cut interviews short because of that. Haven’t had the guts to walk out though. – Melissa Mackey
    • I once left an interview (not PPC) when I was younger because a woman scoffed at me for bartending. – Mark Irvine
    • Haven’t walked out, but did tell them they weren’t looking for me. – Alma Smith (@Alma_Smith)

Q3: How does your mindset/expectations change when hiring entry level vs. a veteran of the industry?

  • Entry level must be willing to learn and have aptitude & attitude. Veteran: must really know their stuff. – Melissa Mackey
  • Entry level I’m looking for ambition & willing to learn. Veteran I’m looking for someone who can run into battle immediately. – Mark Irvine
  • Entry level is more about are you willing/able to learn. Veteran is more: can you do the job day 1? – Michelle Morgan
  • Expect to teach entry people almost everything. Experienced should be able to teach me a thing or two. – James Svoboda
    • Would you expect an entry level to at least have “cracked open” an Adwords account before? Or to completely train? – Kurt Henninger (@KurtHenninger)
      • Expect to mostly train because talent pool is not deep, but would love it if they have experience. – James Svoboda
  • For entry level, look for core competencies (communication, crit thinking, drive). We can teach PPC, can’t always teach those! – Maddie Cary
  • I would prefer to see what the veteran is able to do (quick account audit, etc) rather than primarily focus on questions. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
    • We called this the reverse job shadow at Hanapin and it was very effective when hiring more senior positions. – Sam Owen (@SamOwenPPC)
      • It makes sense to me. Even if they have diff strategies/mindset can still see how much they observe and how they think. – Kirk Williams
  • With entry level, my biggest thing is that they’re a hard working. if you’re dedicated, you can learn paid search pretty quickly! – Erin Sagin
  • Surely it must do. For example, how much PPC knowledge they have. What they’ve actually done. – Steve Gibson
  • Everybody needs to be willing to learn but in different ways. Entry level needs to be prepared to dig in, focus, take direction and ask questions. Vet needs to be flexible, collaborative, and eager to keep up with the industry. – Amy Bishop
  • I expect veterans to bring their ideas to the tables and look to implement quickly. I expect newbies to implement my ideas. – Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
  • Entry-level: look for strong foundation, an quick learner who shows a good balance of creative & analytical thinking. – Roger Sikes
  • For veterans, looking for confidence in knowledge paired with openness to learn & grow. Some vets believe they’re perfect. – Maddie Cary
  • Quite simply, I expect vets to do the work without asking entry level questions. – Matt Umbro
  • When I am looking for veterans, I’m looking for someone to build a program, not run adwords. Inhouse is a little different tho. – Rick Galan
  • Also- w/ vets, you have to be on the lookout for bad habits! Sometimes un-training these types of things can be a nightmare. – Erin Sagin
    • Or even if they are just stuck in a “my way or the highway” mindset. That’s a pain, too. – Amy Hoffman
  • Vets should be able to hold more of a conversation vs a traditional Q&A interview. – Amy Hoffman
  • Vets should be able to write account strategy and deal directly with clients w/o supervision. – Melissa Mackey
  • Entry = I look for certain traits that can define how good they will be. Experienced = We can have dynamic PPC discussions. – Erika Schmidt
  • Entry should be eager & ask q’s. Vet should have GOOD experience, which will need to be tested. Not all experience is the same. – Orlando Valencia
  • Veteran: Strong knowledge is a must. If they approach things different from us, justify how they do it and why it is better. – Roger Sikes
  • Vets should bring PPC tricks I never heard of. Also expect them to have a solid process for handling tasks & client requests. – Paul Wicker (@Wickerpedia)
  • Trainability & potential vs. expectation of immediate results and/or new ideas. Oh, and price. Unfortunately. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Interviews with veterans should feel more like a deep & interesting PPC conversation, whereas I should see passion in newbies. – Erika Schmidt
  • Does anyone feel like vets should be implementing more vs spending time w/ confs and social media? Pot, kettle, black I get it. – Jesse Semchuck

Q4: Talk about an instance where you hired someone who ultimately didn’t work out? What did you miss in the interview?

  • Mistook previous experience with Adwords as actual aptitude. – Melissa Mackey
  • Expected them to have the basics after X years in digital. Should have had them do hands on or a theoretical campaign. – James Svoboda
  • Got conned by a guy w/ a great online rep…later realized all his awesome linkedin reviews were from his wife and parents. – Erin Sagin
  • I hired someone once when we desperately needed help…the candidate seemed to know his stuff but ultimately failed. Moral of the story is remain by your principles, even if you desperately need help. – Matt Umbro
  • Had one hire that had big agency experience – had great knowledge, but wasn’t as strong as expected w/ implementation. – Roger Sikes
  • Sometimes passion needs direction. Basically understanding when a good hires needs more from me. Hiring for tactical need vs team fit. Needs to be a balance. – Jesse Semchuck
  • I’ve seen more issues with personality clashes than incompetence. Interesting to see other responses. – Colleen McCaskell
  • Friend references that don’t have experience. – Orlando Valencia
  • Mistook bright friendly demeanor for willingness to take direction and work as part of a team. – Peter Thistle

Q5: What do you believe is the most overrated aspect of hiring for PPC? Why?

  • Bar none: Being AdWords Accredited. Because you can cheat. – Michelle Morgan
  • Sometimes I think personal brand is too big of a factor, to be honest. – Amy Hoffman
  • Spewing industry terms without context. Bragging about being certified. Name dropping. – Melissa Mackey
  • AdWords certification exams. – Roxana Hassel (@RoxanaHassel)
  • AdWords or Bing Certifications. They are good to have, but don’t tell me anything about your abilities in PPC acct management. – Maddie Cary
  • Media spend managed. That by itself is a dangerous vanity metric because it doesn’t show you managed it well. – Amy Hebdon
  • I don’t like hearing about success stories without context – you may have raised conversions, but what specifically did you do? – Matt Umbro
    • Right and you raised them 50% but.. was that from 4 to 6 or 400 to 600? Context is key. – Amy Bishop
  • All the stuff you can do in the adwords interface/editor. – Steve Gibson
  • If you’re proud that youre certified: red flag.
    If you’re not/never been certified: red flag.
    If your certification lapsed welcome! – Mark Irvine
  • Industry cred means nothing. So many people in our industry are great presenters and can’t get results. – Jesse Semchuck
  • Years of experience. Quality of work, not the amount of years doing it. Some of my most brilliant pupils had no experience. – Roger Sikes
  • The more jargon they use, the more suspicious you should be. – Colleen McCaskel
  • Account spend, especially if just a bid manager with no growth. – James Hume (@zerospin)
  • Yeah, certifications are overrated. Certs are good for getting your foot in the door for interviews & to help out your agency. – Erika Schmidt
  • More than anything else I want success stories and the pain you went through to get there. Determination. – Jesse Semchuck
  • I am always impressed w/ outgoing college students who have taken the exam. At the very least, they are showing initiative. – Roger Sikes
  • I don’t care if you’re “AdWords Accredited.” If you mention that you are I’ll get suspicious you don’t really know SEM. – Matt Vaillancourt

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Alma Smith (@Alma_Smith)
• Amy Bishop (@Hoffman8)
• Amy Hebdon (@amyppc)
• Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
• Barry Abraham (@brickwaybarry)
• Colleen McCaskell (@ppccolleen)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Heidi Smith (@heidinksmith)
• James Hume (@zerospin)
• Jesse Semchuck (@jessesem)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Kurt Henninger (@KurtHenninger)
• Kyle Crocker (@kacrocker)
• Maddie Cary (@MaddieMarketer)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
• Orlando Valencia (@ValenciaSEM)
• Paul Wicker (@Wickerpedia)
• Peter Thistle (@PeterThistle)
• Rick Galan (@RickGalan)
• Roger Sikes (@rogersikes)
• Roxana Hassel (@RoxanaHassel)
• Sam Owen (@SamOwenPPC)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)

Being the Right Streamcapper

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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