Landing Your PPC Dream Job: Nailing The Interview Process

This post is the second part of a series of posts on how to get hired for a job in PPC and draws on my experience as an agency owner and marketing educator. View the first post: Getting Noticed by Hiring Managers.


If getting your resume noticed is half of the battle, then the other half is nailing the interview process and getting a job offer. Today I want to share some tips for this process, drawn from hundreds of phone screens and in-person interviews.


For every 100 people who apply for an open position, I estimate that half are thrown out due to a lack of perceived relevance by the hiring manager. We talked last week about how to make it through this first cut, and I hope that you have already implemented these tips.


The next filter that will happen during the hiring process is that the people who submitted the top resumes will be invited to conduct a 15-30 minute phone screen by the hiring manager. If that screen is successful, then one or more in-person interviews will be used to determine which (if any) candidates will receive an offer.


Understanding The Purpose Of A Phone Screen


The purpose of the phone screen: Spend a little time now so we don’t waste WAY MORE of each others’ time in the future.


When I was hiring for positions in PPC, the phone screen was the best filter I had at my disposal. Anyone can create a resume that looks good on paper, but it is much more difficult to fake your experience over the phone. This allowed me to prevent uncomfortable situations during in-person interviews with under-qualified candidates.


A typical phone screen would go like this.


Me: “Hi Candidate, this is Jeff Sauer. Is now still a good time to talk?”


Candidate: “Of course.”


Me: “Thanks for considering our company. I like to start off by you telling me about yourself. What got you into marketing and what excites you right now?”


Candidate: “Well I first started…”


Me: “That’s an awesome story. Thanks for sharing. So what are you looking for in this new job?”


Candidate: “I need more responsibility/a raise/a change/something new/my company sucks/my manager sucks/I heard good things about your company/I just thought I would apply.”


Me: “I hear you! Now I have a few questions for you. Tell me what tools you are using for managing campaigns? What is your favorite feature in AdWords Editor? How do you feel about (recent news from the marketing world or Google Change)”


Candidate: “Well… (good answer)” OR “Well… (bad answer/obviously faking knowledge)”


If they provide good answers and their tone matches the resume matches, they will be invited for an in-person interview. I stop the interview there and tell them they will be hearing back to coordinate schedules.


If they provide bad answers, I give them more chances to prove knowledge. Some candidates are just nervous or introverted for the phone screen. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, especially if the resume is decorated.


At the same time, a precedent has to be set. If a candidate simply has no phone skills, I imagine how they would handle a client situation. Would they be equally shy or boring on a client call? That can be a big strike.


If I am not going to invite a candidate for an in-person interview, I stay on the line for the full 30 minutes. Depending on the situation, I may outright tell them that they are not a proper fit (I hate wasting their time). Others, I will say that our scheduler will get back on next steps.


The In-Person Interview


The purpose of the in-person interview: To find the top two candidates for your company based on culture fit, domain expertise and company need.


Inviting someone for an in-person interview is a big deal. Not only does it burden the candidate to be available for 1-3 hours during the business day, it also occupies the hiring team for hours at a time.


When phone screens are done properly, only serious candidates will be invited into the office. This saves time and minimizes lost opportunity for the business. (If 3-4 people in a company take part in the interviews, it can cost over $1,000 in billable hours for each person interviewed.)


To do well in an in-person interview, I offer the following advice:


Interviewing At A Large Corporation For An “In-House” Position


Emphasize your team-player skills and how you can be a valuable contributor to the team. Share any experience you may have managing vendors or subcontractors. Demonstrate a knowledge of how the puzzle fits together, and where you can play there.


I don’t have personal experience working for a large corporation or interviewing there, so I can’t provide direct advice. I do know that there are almost always more positions available than people they can find to fill them.


Interviewing With A Small Business Owner


Most business owners are concerned about 1) missing out on opportunities, 2) spending money unwisely. They take comfort in you knowing their concerns and setting up a method to give them confidence things are going according to plan.


Stress how you can ease their concerns in your interview and ask what levels of check-in they want to see along the way. Confirm how they want to communicate and your role in the process.


Close communication is often what makes/breaks relationships between business owners and their teams. It’s one thing to be an expert in PPC, but a completely different thing to be able to bring peace of mind to businesses.


Many PPC experts will develop tools and frameworks to manage these relationships. In PPC Course, I provide a client kickoff questionnaire as well as videos on how to budget for profitable AdWords spend. Mention in the interview that you have developed methods for budgeting and project management, and you will be regarded as the brightest shining candidate!


Interviewing At An Agency


The interviewers are wondering if they think they can work with you. Are you competent? Would they want to sit next to you each day? Would you be a good ping pong partner or happy hour regular?


Are you too competent? Are you a threat to their job? Do you wear too much perfume or cologne? Are you too enthusiastic? Not enthusiastic enough?


The best thing you can do is research the agency before you set foot in their offices. Who are the owners and what are their backgrounds? Has the agency won awards? Is their website credible? Are you connected with anyone on LinkedIn?


A little research about the agency will go a long way toward getting hired. It will also help you understand what type of commitment you are getting yourself into.


Second Interviews


It’s a lot of work getting hired, isn’t it? Well, there is a little more work in the process. This often comes in the form of a second in-person interview. It may be with the same team as the first interview, but it is often a different group of people.


The key here is to be consistent with how you answer questions and keep up the energy levels. Also, you can be a little more confident at this point and share more about how you can help the company. Just don’t be arrogant.


At this point, the company is looking for reasons why not. Why should they not hire you? Are there red flags? Other causes for concern?


A second interview usually means it is your job to lose. Don’t talk yourself out of the job!


The (Optional Yet Highly Recommended) Test


Over my 8 years of hiring responsibility, I evolved the hiring process to increase the chances of finding a winning candidate.


It turns out that resumes, phone screens and in person interviews are severely lacking in one particular area: they don’t give you a sample of the work you can expect from a candidate.


So we implemented a test of knowledge and critical thinking skills to see how a candidate approached problems, and how they would solve them.


The test was in essay form, and they could consult any materials available to them (as long as they personally wrote the answers), because that is the environment available to marketers. If a candidate didn’t know the answer, this test gave them the ability to show how quickly they can learn.


This test, which is also available in full at PPC Course, gave us a 100% success rate with hiring PPC candidates. When two candidates seemed equal, this was the determining factor. The test answers never lied.


Getting Hired Doesn’t Have To Be Hard


This post outlines the exact criteria and process I went through to find the best candidates. Out of 100 resumes, a small percentage of candidates made it to each step.


You can significantly increase your chances by simply understanding things from the eyes of the employer.


What do you need to do at each step of the way to stay in the running? What should you avoid?


I provided a blueprint to follow. It is not always about being the most decorated candidate, it’s about being the best fit. But being the best fit is not concrete. You can become the best fit over the course of the interview process if you follow these steps.