I recently wrote an article highlighting my favorite paid search interview questions. The article focused on the PPC interview from the interviewer’s perspective. Today, I want to flip the tables a bit and discuss my favorite tips from the interviewee’s perspective. While these tips are applicable to any PPC job interview, they’re especially relevant to those of you interviewing for a PPC role at a larger company. 2010 is here. Is finding a new online marketing job one for your 2010 goals? If so, I hope the following tips help you find all the success in the world.
PPC Interview Tip 1: Focus Exclusively on PPC
If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you most likely know that my interests within online marketing are quite varied. While my heart is in large corporate PPC, I’m also an SEO and domaining entrepreneur in my spare time. Given that context and the general perception that a varied skill set is better, the following tip may seem a bit counter intuitive: Focus exclusively on PPC in your interview and avoid expressing an interest in dedicating significant time to SEO, email, and display advertising.
At large companies, there are separate departments for PPC, SEO, email, and display, typically reporting into the CMO or VP of marketing. The pay per click budgets are large enough that 100% PPC focused employees are mission critical. Without exclusive attention, the campaigns will fail. I’ve been in a plethora of interviews where the interviewee talks at length about their plans to learn the other marketing channels, almost to the extent that shows they’re bored with PPC and looking to move on. My advice to you: Avoid giving this impression at all costs!
I’m certainly not advising you to lie (ethics is everything in this world). If you truly have interests in diversifying your skill set and moving on from PPC, I highly suggest interviewing for a general marketing position at a startup. However, if you’re interested in becoming a Director of Search Marketing at a large company, it’s all about focus.
Of course, it’s important to show that you’re an expert on multiple fronts. As you get to the Director or VP level, a varied skill set is critical. However, it’s important to portray yourself as someone who knows all of the different channels (learn them during your spare time), but is interested in a heavy PPC focus (95% or more of your time). As a real life case study, my personal exclusive focus on PPC over the last 5.5 years has propelled my career from Marketing Associate at a startup to Director of Search Marketing at a large publicly traded company.
Pay Per Click Interview Tip 2: Dress Professionally
A while back, I wrote a post all about the benefits of dressing up for your search marketing job. I truly believe in the power of PPC perception driving reality. No matter how good of a job you’re doing, you can’t ignore perception and the game in general. Since perception and first impressions are everything, please dress up for your interview. Even if you’re interviewing at lunch and have another job try to change before you arrive and then change back before going to your old job. The power of professionalism is often overlooked in my opinion.
Search Engine Marketing Interview Tip 3: Passion Is Everything
The first post on PPC Ian was all about my passion for PPC. This was my first post for a reason: Passion is everything in this world. Whether you’re interested in becoming a pay per click corporate leader, a successful entrepreneur, or a world class athlete, you won’t get too far without passion. For this reason alone, passion is one of the first things I measure when conducting a pay per click interview. Sometimes we’re all low on energy. I can totally relate as someone who’s routinely up late at night. However, take control of your mind and get hyped up for your interview. Get rest the night before, eat a good meal, drink an energy drink, do whatever it takes! Passion will get you very far in the corporate world.
SEM Interview Tip 4: Polish Up On Your Mental Math Skills
As an interviewer, I place a very big emphasis on math. From experiences at other leading companies in the space, I know I’m not alone. I like to ask mental math questions starting on the phone interview, building all the way up to large half hour case questions during the in-person interviews. If you’re a bit out of practice, make sure to polish up on your math skills. The investment will not only help your interview, but will pay dividends in your PPC career in general. The ability to perform quick mental math can make the difference between looking unconfident and like an absolute PPC superstar.
Pay Per Click Interview Strategy 5: Proactively Demonstrate Your PPC Skills
At the end of the day, pay per click is a highly technical trade. There are many moving parts and skills are critical. While I always do my best to get a comprehensive understanding of the candidate’s Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter skills, sometimes time will run out and I’m not fully convinced of the candidate’s ability. I’ve been able to get around this by sending follow-up questions via email. However, what always impresses me are candidates that take the time to clearly spell out their skills proactively. I’m always excited to interview candidates who talk at length about their experiences with the various platforms and the PPC levers: Keyword generation, keyword deployment, negative words, ad copy testing, landing page testing, reporting, analysis, technology and automation, and niche tricks. One of your greatest assets is your trade specific knowledge, make sure to spend the time showcasing it!
Online Marketing Interview Strategy 6: Highlight Your Investment Hobby
This is a simple, yet powerful tip. The vast majority of great corporate PPC employees I have known over the years enjoy investing during their spare time. When they’re not investment hobbyists, they at least know the companies in the space extremely well. As a general way to retire young and accumulate wealth while also looking like a strong businessperson in your PPC interview, I recommend building up an expertise in investing and showcasing it a bit during your interview. From the interviewer’s perspective, we’re hiring SEM managers to basically run an operationally intensive business. Investment experience is a great way of showing judgment and maturity.
Search Marketing Interview Strategy 7: Research The Company and Interviewers
The competitive benchmarking aspect of PPC is very high leverage. If you’re really good at research, you’ll uncover nuances that others miss and make the company a ton of money. For this reason alone, I really like candidates who do a thorough job researching the company and the actual interviewers. Some candidates recently have even mentioned that they read PPC Ian and like it a lot. While some would say that has nothing to do with the job, I’d argue that it does. Candidates who have researched me on the Internet are making sure their future manager is right for their career (see next section) and also are demonstrating their ability to benchmark. Take the extra time and do your research!
Online Marketing Interview Strategy 8: It’s All About You
At the end of the day, the main person looking out for you is you. Make sure to ask the questions that are important to your happiness and career. One of my personal favorites is finding out as much as possible about my future boss. As I blogged about a while back, your manager can make or break your PPC career. My advice: I’d rather have a great boss at a not so great company versus a poor manager at a great company.
It’s still a hot job market for PPC right now since PPC is a recession proof career. Take advantage of this situation to find the absolute perfect match for you. I know from my perspective as an interviewer, I always want the match to be perfect from both sides. I want to hire employees that will be at the company at least a few years. For that reason alone, I always want to ensure the fit is ideal for both parties.
As a closing tip, I’d also recommend keeping your interviews extremely confidential. Again, it’s all about you and your job security. Don’t let your current employer think you’re interviewing. Don’t start slacking off and doing poor work at your current gig. Many times, interviews take longer than expected or don’t work out at all. Your first responsibility is to you and your current employer. Your second responsibility is to your exploratory discussions with other potential employers. Of course, should you decide to leave, please leave gracefully. This will be the topic of a whole other PPC Ian post in the future.
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