Well, getting ready to interview for a PPC job should have the basic bones of preparing for any other interview. Always make sure that you research the company and position ahead of time so you sound well-informed (hopefully you did this before applying in the first place), leverage any connections you may have at the company, look up the interviewer(s) on LinkedIn, prepare intelligent questions to ask, get a good night’s sleep beforehand and arrive on-time in a presentable manner. But aside from those generic interview best practices, a paid search interview requires that you master some other elements as well.
Based on my experience in paid search both as a job applicant and also as a hiring manager, I think that these are absolute must-have tips for a PPC interview:
Find a Balance between Being a Data Monkey and Being Personable
A lot of companies aren’t that forthcoming about whether a paid search role will be more of a data analytics-type position or whether it will be more of an account manager-type position. (If you know PPC you know that there’s a huge difference and how you approach the interview will be vastly different as well!) Some companies don’t recognize that there really is a difference and others don’t necessarily know what they’re looking for ahead of time. So where does that leave you? Simply put: walking a tightrope between the two.
Don’t paint yourself as just “the numbers guy/gal” or “every client’s favorite rep.” Speak to your strengths in both regards because no one has ever turned a candidate down for a data monkey role because people like him/her and no one has ever turned a candidate down for a customer-facing role because they can also do the data analysis and hands-on management. You want to check both boxes to show your versatility and value to the company!
Don’t Lie About Your Experience and/or Industry Knowledge
As an interviewer, nothing leaves a worse impression than BS-ing about what you know or what you’ve done. Do you want to know why? Because we can tell you’re lying! It’s obvious and it’s kind of insulting. When I was interviewing candidates, if I noticed people exaggerating their experience or speaking to a topic that they clearly weren’t well informed about like they are an expert, there's no chance I'm bringing them back in for a second interview. I would always rather have someone be honest and just say that they don’t know much about a specific topic than try to pretend that they know a lot about it. There’s no shame in that! If you don’t know about bid modifiers or the move towards “(not provided)” search queries, just be honest. If you’ve never done PLAs or display or remarketing, that’s okay. Just indicate a willingness to learn more about these topics and put them into practice to benefit clients. And don’t be afraid to ask questions back. If an interviewer says “Tell me about a time when you used remarketing ads to aid in branding efforts and increase conversions,” respond with something like, “In my last role we actually didn’t have any clients using remarketing ads so I’m not that familiar with them, but I'd like to learn more. Do you find that they work best for your ecommerce clients or lead gen clients?” Keep the dialogue going so that it’s not awkward when you don’t know something.
A company can’t expect a candidate to know everything about every aspect of PPC because no matter what you’re previous experience was with PPC, you can’t have used every feature and managed every possible strategy. PPC is too technical and it changes to fast for one person to be an expert at everything about PPC. And if a company wants you to be the ultimate authority on absolutely every possible thing PPC, you don’t want to work there (trust me on this one) because their expectations are going to be unreasonable. A good company should be willing to train you on what you don’t know to equip you for future success.
Be Aware of Any Recent Changes to AdWords or Google’s Algorithm
Being able to speak to recent AdWords changes shows a company that you are actually doing the day-to-day hands-on management of PPC campaigns. Be comfortable discussing recent changes and whether or not they affected your clients’ efforts. If recent changes had a negative effect on the PPC accounts you’re managing, that’s okay. Everyone's been there! Just go into it with an explanation of how you altered strategy to accommodate these changes and what the outcome was.
Recent algorithm changes by Google often won’t have a direct impact on your PPC efforts, but being able to speak to organic changes will show that you don’t just have PPC tunnel vision. Since your PPC clients will often ask about SEO-related items, having a handle on organic algorithm changes shows that you are well-informed and committed to helping clients.
Come Armed with At Least 3 Reputable Paid Search Sources to Name
The PPC interviewer’s favorite question to ask is how you stay up-to-date on industry news and information. This is what they want to hear: that you read PPC resources regularly, that you rely on other industry contacts to have discussions with and bounce ideas off of and that you follow social media discussions to see what professionals are saying about strategy. Obviously, don’t say any of those things if they’re not true, but you probably have time to start making them true before the interview so you don’t have to lie… hint hint (just like flossing for a week before your dentist appointment so that when the dentist asks if you floss you can honestly say yes). But saying that you read up on PPC regularly doesn’t mean much if you can’t say where you’re going to find this information. Give at least three specific sources to show that you are legitimately putting in the time to stay informed.
Know What You Like and What You Want
Regardless of what your previous experience was, a good interviewer will probably ask you what you liked best about your previous role and where you want to take this position and ultimately go in your career. I know this sounds silly, but make sure to really figure out what you liked and what you didn’t. Do you like the agency environment or do you want to be on an in-house team? Do you like working with clients directly or would you rather do the work behind the scenes? Is there a certain industry you connect well with more so than others? Being able to speak to what you found fulfilling and enjoyed doing will help the interviewer determine if you’re a good fit for the role. If you haven’t thought about this before going in, that can be really dangerous because it’s easy to just pick up on what it seems like the interviewer wants you to say and then use that. While this can help you land the job, it doesn’t help ensure that you’ll be happy down the road in the position.
When a company chooses to hire someone, they're taking a gamble that the money they invested in finding someone and training that person will pay off by being able to keep him/her around for a long time. Knowing where you want your career to go will show your interviewer that you’re mature and stable, which helps reinforce the idea that you’re a solid choice for the role.
Remember, an interview isn’t one-sided. It’s not simply a time for a company to determine if they want you on the team; it’s also a time for you to determine if you want to be a part of a company. So get prepared and then go in and rock those PPC interview questions!
By Kate Pierce. Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!