When you’re interviewing a candidate to run your PPC campaigns, there is no shortage of tactical questions you can ask to make sure they know their stuff.

For example, how the candidate approaches:

  • Match Types.
  • Campaign Structure.
  • Branded terms.
  • Bidding strategy.
  • B2B.
  • Ecommerce.
  • Brick & mortar consumers.
  • Responsive Search Ads.
  • Ad copy.
  • And more….

These are all important areas and if the candidate interviewing to run your PPC stumbles here, you know it’s probably not the right fit.

They may be new to PPC and aren’t yet ready to go it alone.

You can gracefully end the interview and keep searching.

However, if you get past these basic questions, you need to dive deeper to be sure you’ve got the candidate you want.

In this column, you’ll find several key questions to help ensure you hire the right fit for your organization.

You can use these whether the position is for an in-house organization or agency.

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1. Take Me Through How You Would Review the Campaign Performance With a Client/Stakeholder.

In a prior campaign, what metrics determined success, and what action or commitments did you gain following the review?

Why this is important: The PPC manager will need the support of stakeholders in product management, finance, management, etc., in order to succeed.

Otherwise, it’ll be seen as, “this paid search thing running over there in the corner and spending money.”

That person may know the ins and outs of optimizing a PPC campaign, but unless they can effectively review its performance with and earn the backing of those key stakeholders, it won’t matter.

There is no shortage of metrics in any paid search campaign. That’s no secret.

What I care about is how the candidate determines:

  • Which metrics matter.
  • What gets presented to the client/stakeholder.
  • Who sees specific metrics.
  • The “why” behind what gets presented and to whom.

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2. Describe a Scenario Where a Client or Stakeholder Challenged Your Campaign Management (Bid Strategy, Copy, Etc.).

How did you respond and what kind of backup did you use?

Why this is important: Simple – this will happen.

Getting second-guessed is just the nature of the business and you need to know how your candidate will respond.

Warning signs to look out for:

  • Is the candidate likely to get defensive or easily dismissive of stakeholder concerns?
  • Is a response likely to be backed by emotion or opinion instead of data?
  • Is this candidate someone who has difficulty thinking on their feet?

Again, whether your hiring for an in-house or agency position doesn’t matter.

At some point, everyone who runs PPC campaigns gets challenged.

The person challenging the campaign’s results may have read a few blog posts and is overconfident in their knowledge.

Or, they may acknowledge their own ignorance while still calling the campaign’s management into question.

Maybe there’s a completely legit issue with the campaign that deserves addressing.

You need to know how the candidate will handle these situations when they happen—because they will.

3. How Do You Decide Where to Start Optimizing a PPC Program?

Why this is important: I wouldn’t trust (or hire) anyone who just dove straight into “optimizing” a PPC campaign without first doing an audit and had a method for prioritizing what gets done first.

If they say anything other than the need to conduct a thorough examination of the program, you don’t have the right candidate.

4. Take Me Through One or Two Scenarios Where the Client/Stakeholder Asked: “What Should We Spend and What Can I Get for It?”

Can you tell me what kind of process you have?

What happened?

Did the campaign move forward and what were the results?

Why this is important: Because it’s going to happen.

The more visibility your program gets with decision-makers who control budgets, the more you’re going to hear the question. Once again, this is applicable for in-house and agency based positions.

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“But it’s not that simple…”

I get it – really, I do.

However, the question will still get asked and you need to know how the candidate will respond to it.

Did they try to provide some sort of immediate answer on the spot or ask for time to research before providing numbers?

What kind of data and analysis did the candidate perform to get to the numbers?

5. What Do You Do When You Start to See Signs a Campaign Is Underperforming?

For example, how much time do you let it go?

Do you alert the client/stakeholder and give them a heads up that a course correction may be in order?

If so, how do you communicate that?

Why this is important: You’re trying to understand who you’re hiring and how they’ll react when things don’t go as planned.

Success is often determined by how well you adapt when things go wrong, as opposed to how good the plan is.

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6. Can You Give Me an Example of How You’ve Had to Educate a Client/Stakeholder About PPC?

I don’t mean to teach them how to run campaigns – I mean, to provide someone who approves the budget enough knowledge so that they’re confident that they are making an educated decision.

Why this is important: Most executives who approve budgets try not to do so out of ignorance. Having a stakeholder who’s properly educated will make for a better long term partner.

You’re likely to get further faster with a client or stakeholder that is better educated about how campaigns actually function, what success metrics matter, and what PPC can truly do for them.

Also, one of my personal litmus tests for knowing if someone has truly mastered their craft or not is based on their ability to take the complexity of what they do and explain it in simple terms to those who are not in the field.

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7. How Do You Set Expectations for a PPC Campaign?

(On this one, don’t elaborate – keep the question simple and you’ll learn what they really think.)

Why this is important: This goes alongside the previous point about educating the client/stakeholder, but is worthy of a separate callout.

It’s not about the “underpromise-overdeliver” mindset.

Instead, it’s about properly guiding the strategy for your client.

For example:

  • Does the client/stakeholder know they shouldn’t expect upper funnel display network campaigns to deliver similar performance metrics to paid search?
  • If you’re spending $5k per month on a successful campaign, does the client understand that doubling that budget to $10k doesn’t necessarily mean the conversions also double at the same cost per (conversion)?
  • Does the stakeholder have the same performance expectations for a remarketing campaign that they would for a branded search campaign?
  • Is there an expectation of an immediate optimal performance simply because, “Well, we’re just buying the keywords, right?”

Summary

If you gain only one insight out of this post, hopefully, it’s an understanding of the need to probe a candidate’s qualifications for the job far beyond a checklist of tactical skills.

Those who run great PPC programs can relate to the interview questions posed in this post because they’ve all lived it (again, doesn’t matter if it’s in-house or agency side).

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