Entry Level Applicants: Where Do We Even Start?

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

Editor’s Note: This week on PPC Hero, we’re writing about the interview process and how to find the right candidates. Make sure to tweet us your comments @ppchero. Carrie Albright continues the week by discussing what we look for in entry-level candidates.

Hanapin Marketing is the PPC Agency of Experts – but at some point, every expert was an entry-level employee. No matter the education or enthusiasm, if you haven’t worked in a field, you start at the beginning. One of the best reasons to hire these entry-level candidates is because you as the employer are the one to helps them grow and flourish and eventually become the expert you always knew they could be.


In looking for the right candidates for an entry-level position, the process moves away from “What work history do you have?” to questions about initiative, passion and drive for success. We look more for the qualities we want to promote in our team, rather than the experience that will push them ahead in the organization. We take this process very seriously, and fully expect candidates to enter it with the same intention and respect want these new hires to target this company and this position. We reserve the right to be choosy with the our beginners, as we know the investment that goes along with training a “newb.”


In the last year, we had 335 applicants for our

Production Associate role – we hired 6 of them.


We usually average around 70-100 applicants for every 1-2 production associates we hire. The hiring process is thorough – including written essays, application documents, and an Excel test – before they have a chat with our hiring team. Only a select few are then invited to an onsite interview. And from there, we determine if they’re the right fit. So how do you know if someone with zero experience will turn out to be your next ROCKSTAR?


The three themes we use to effectively vet our candidates are:

  1. Value alignment and a passion for the company’s vision and values
  2. Possessing what we’ve termed the “PPC Paradox”
  3. Good work habits (Sounds simple, right? Not so fast….)


Value Alignment


One of the first things to learn about our company is the emphasis on its values. For our team, the values are creativity, reliability, integrity, resourcefulness and our own special form of embracing office culture – Hanathusiasm. Although we don’t expect our entry-level candidates to have paid search examples of workplace behavior, we do want to talk through how they handle complicated situations. Eventually we want to put them into the role of an account manager, which means handling workload stress, responsibility for performance, and client-facing communication. Our office also relies on the company culture to keep the team happy and healthy. If you can’t be yourself in your job, if you can’t find outlets for stress or frustration, handling the every day job can become a real challenge.


In talking with entry-level candidates, we want to see that they are also enthusiastic about these values. We want to know that integrity is an important part of their work ethic; that they value resourcefulness when learning new content and trying things for the first time. You don’t need a background in PPC to understand the role reliability plays when working with a team. We rely on our values to keep us moving forward in our goals as a company, and any new addition to our team needs to promote these as well.


PPC Paradox


Creative vs Analytical copy

A few years ago, Amanda West-Bookwalter and I created a breakdown of the traits a strong account manager should posses, entitled the PPC Account Manager Paradox. It’s based upon the balance of behaviors and characteristics commonly found in our most successful – and well balanced – account managers.


To say you must possess these qualities is perhaps an overstatement, but the goal is to fill our posse of newbies with folks who cover all parts of the employee spectrum.

To recap the aforementioned article, the 5 paradoxical characteristics are:

  • Creatively Analytical
  • Patiently Urgent
  • Humbly Braggadocious
  • Performs Tactical Objectives Strategically
  • Appropriately Inappropriate

Each of them speaks to the diversity of the workload, the expectations of the team member as well as the assumption that at some point, the employees will feel comfortable being themselves (i.e. Appropriately Inappropriate). This list of traits is intended to not only filter out less-fitting applicants, but to truly allow our candidates to self-qualify when they learn of these paradoxes. You needn’t be a PPC expert to be able to communicate the urgency with which you approach your work, all the while being patient for the appropriate amount of data and significance to accumulate.

Good work habits

Homer Simpson Work Ethic copy


There’s nothing more annoying than being asked the overused interview question, “What’s your worst quality.” Well, except for the very more tired responses of “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Yes, we want to know your worst qualities, but more importantly, we want to hear where you feel like you have room to grow. How are you at stress management? Regardless of PPC history, you are likely to have faced stress at some point in your life. How do you work through it?

We also want to know that you’re motivated to grow and develop. Self-identified lifelong learners can give us a feel for how motivated you’ll be to keep us on the cusp of our industry. Are you ready to invest yourself in us as much as we’re planning to invest in you? (Reminder: Entry-level employees undergo a 10-week training process. We’re not trying to invest our precious time in someone who isn’t going to stick around).

As we’ve posted earlier this week, there are crucial steps to nailing the interview process. What we look for in entry-level candidates are individuals who can send us all the right external signals in during the interview, but equally importantly, show themselves to be someone who will bring dedication, passion and enthusiasm for the work he or she will be conducting.

Although we hire a fair number of entry-level candidates, when we bring them in the door, we’re looking at our Future Account Managers. We’re envisioning the product that will come from a year or two of rigorous training, unfaltering initiative and a general commitment to being part of our well-oiled team. So fear not, ye under-experienced candidates – there is a place for you in the marketing industry and we’re not afraid to seek you out!