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PPC Interview Questions: How to Assess Candidates and Validate Expertise

November 12, 2020
10 Min Read

Updated: 13 Feb 2023

There are a lot of givens when it comes to assessing a PPC candidate: 

  • A quick scan of a CV or profile should tell you all you need to know in terms of their experience, technical skills, and certifications;
  • A strong portfolio should lay out their achievements in black and white;
  • And by cross-checking references, reviews, and testimonials, you’ll soon see if the first two points are truthful and accurate. 

However, identifying the right candidate is a little more nuanced than that. Like a lot of knowledge-based roles, PPC requires a mix of know-how, personality, and temperament. This means asking a candidate to explain their CPCs from their CPMs will paint only a small sliver of a much bigger, more important picture.  

So, to learn more about asking the right questions, we spoke with 4 PPC experts, each with experience on both sides of the interview table. Here they share some underused, essential PPC interview questions, and offer tips for assessing both technical proficiency and cultural compatibility.

P.S. What is PPC?:  Pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of marketing where you pay every time an ad of yours is clicked on. Search engine marketing such as Google Ads are one of the most popular forms of PPC.

If you’re looking to hire a proven and pre-vetted freelance PPC expert, you can do this for free using Traktion. You can access the world’s very best marketing specialists through our easy-to-use platform.   

🔍 Meet The Experts

We spoke with four digital marketing experts, all of whom are vastly experienced in paid channels – and have hired full-time and freelance PPC experts, or have been through PPC interviews themselves. 

If you are a freelance PPC experts with insights to add, please contact us and we'll add your insight to this list of PPC interview questions. We welcome talent of all backgrounds to submit their insights.

🙋 Doing a PPC Interview: The Questions to Avoid

Truly validating PPC expertise means purging your interview of those basic, dull questions suggested by generic PPC interview templates. 

For instance, questions related to platform knowledge, industry terminology or audience research should be reserved for only entry-level positions. For any role above and beyond that, it should be taken as read that the candidate has a working knowledge of PPC. Your time is better spent going deeper, as we’ll discover in the next section.

And, as Barri Coen points out, corny, overused interview questions will shed little light on a candidate’s ability or personality.

“A good example would be asking ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’,” he says. “The reality is, five years is just too abstract for most people in today’s digital landscape. Any smart candidate will simply try to tailor their answer to what you want to hear, trying to balance ambition with humility.” 

In other words, you won’t learn anything meaningful.    

So, to gain a better understanding of a candidate’s expertise and cultural fit, our panel recommends asking the following questions:

5 Essential Questions to Ask PPC Interview Candidates

P.S. You can also use these questions to interview your Google Ads candidates.

1. “Can you explain your strategy for optimizing and scaling a campaign for our industry?”

Every business is different, with its own strengths and challenges. And so both Piyush Goel and Barri Coen suggest asking a variation of this question to gauge your candidate’s understanding of those factors. 

You’re not listening out for the standard “set up and run” answers, detailing a generic campaign. Instead, you want to hear specifics: to your business, your audience, and your industry. 

“I would go as far as to ask the candidate to build a simulation for our acquisition funnel; I want them to show me that they understand our model and user journey,” says Barri.

Piyush agrees: “I want to know more about the custom process and strategies during both the campaign planning and execution stage, specific to the business in question.”

2. “How can we ensure our business doesn't rely solely on our highest performing paid channels?”

“In other words, what steps should we take to diversify our channel mix?” says Barri. 

It’s here you want the candidate to prove they can “play nice” with your other marketing channels or contractors. A PPC campaign can’t exist in isolation, and so the ability to collaborate and communicate is important to establish early on.  

According to Barri, a good PPC manager understands this: 

“They need to be a superhero hybrid in terms of skill set and personality. While they're ideally going to be highly analytical and data-driven, you also need them to play nicely with your product/dev and wider marketing teams to do the best job, while being highly collaborative and proactive.” 

This can be difficult to assess in a traditional interview setting, so it’s important to ask tough questions related to certain collaborative scenarios – especially as more teams are working remotely nowadays. 

“You want to hear how they would deal with common collaboration problems in order to assess their logic, social skills, and wider knowledge and expectations of the business,” explains Barri.

3. “How do you stay up-to-date with PPC, marketing, and business?”

Pay-per-click is an ever-evolving discipline, and so Nick Boyce suggests asking this particular question to ensure your candidate has their finger on the pulse. 

“Ultimately, you want to see a passion for both their craft and continual learning,” says Nick. 

But it’s here that you also want to identify those candidates who appreciate the role of PPC in the wider context of the business, explains Tom Baker. 

“When I’m looking for a top class PPC expert, I want to see the balance between a data-obsessed geek and someone who understands the business mission and objectives.“ 

4. “What steps would you take if results aren't meeting expectations?”

“This is as much about managing expectations as it is about improving results,” explains Barri. 

Again, this line of questioning falls somewhere between assessing skill and people management, both of which are vitally important when hiring a PPC manager. 

A solid candidate needs to be able to manage a team or a campaign, realigning strategy if targets are missed — but they also need to be comfortably business or client-facing to reassure stakeholders when things aren’t going to plan.

5. “Can you give an example of a time when you had to deliver under pressure?”

Given the competitive nature and expense involved in running PPC campaigns, pay-per-click marketing regularly crops up as one of the more stressful digital marketing roles

By asking this question, Piyush suggests that you’ll catch a glimpse of their temperament and ability to deal with pressure – something that can be especially telling if their definition of pressure doesn’t align with your own.

Bonus: How to Assess Technical Skills & Culture Fit

PPC Manager Skills Assessment Test

Unsurprisingly, all four experts recommend setting some form of practical assessment, allowing you to observe how the candidate structures their accounts, the processes they follow, and the tools they use. It's worth noting that Traktion does this at the pre-interview stage, so you don't have to.

But Nick suggests going one step further, asking the candidate to perform an account audit and present their findings back to you. Crucially, he explains, you need to invite them to ask questions in order to get the context required to make good recommendations. This mirrors the real-world experience of a PPC manager, who must get to grips with the big picture in order to build a campaign that works.

“The questions they ask are just as important as the audit itself,” says Nick.

Assessing Cultural Fit

Likewise, when it comes to culture, everyone we spoke with shared similar insights: 

  • Get to know the candidate by spending time with them via different communication channels;
  • Observe how they interact with other interviewers; 
  • Or speak with past employers/clients to gauge their personality.

However, as Tom points out, it’s key that your team gels well together, pushing one another to perform to their full potential. They need to trust each other to execute tasks to the best of their abilities, and to strict deadlines. So introducing a new face into the mix can’t be taken lightly.

“In my experience,” Tom shares, “it’s important to involve the team early on in the interview process. Gaining a different perspective from the people who’ll actually be working with the candidate is vital.”

Spotting PPC Candidate Red Flags

A high-performing PPC professional boasts past results, proven experience with relevant clients (ideally 3-5 years, says Tom), and exceptional attention to detail. 

They’re creative when solving problems and devising campaigns, and they’re collaborative in nature with outstanding communication skills. 

You can consider those qualities as the green flags of PPC experts. But what about the red flags? Those warning signs that your interviewee is all hot air and bluster? It’s not so much what they say, as what they leave out.

“A lack of detail or clarity in their answers, particularly in relation to the executional elements of their role is a major warning sign of a poor-quality candidate,” says Barri. “They need to know that stuff inside and out.” 

This lack of detail is something that Nick also warns against, especially when it comes to reviewing past performance:

“If a candidate uses vanity metrics, for example, achieving a reduction in CPA while in reality volume declined, this is a huge red flag. It often comes in the form of using percentages (I improved this by X%) or absolute metrics (I grew revenue by X) to flatter the results.”

Final Thoughts: Ask the Right Questions to Find the Right Mix

The goal of a PPC interview is to establish a candidate’s technical abilities, temperament, and cultural fit. Each is as important as the next. 

It’s not enough to have them explain Quality Score or talk you through how to calculate CTR. Leave the PPC pop quiz for the pre-interview stage.

Instead, you need to ask the right questions to find the right mix of skill and personality. That’s how you find a truly outstanding PPC expert — and these underused, essential questions should help.

Thank you to Barri, Piyush, Nick, and Tom for taking the time to share their PPC interview expertise.

If you’d like to connect with an experienced PPC manager, Traktion can match you with top digital marketing talent inside 24 hours. Get started for free here.

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