I have a confession to make.
I’m horrible at delegating, simply because I feel like I’m always the best one to get the job done, the right way. Or at least, the way I want it done.
But since I can’t be cloned (yet), and there’s only 24 hours in a day, I had to figure out how to trust others so that all our combined efforts would make us better.
This means that recruiting and hiring is a crucial part of making sure you have the right people to help contribute to the highest client gain and retention rates possible.
Because as you may already know, just a 5% increase in retention can lead to a 75% increase in your agency’s profitability.
(Once you get’ em, it’s all about keeping ‘em. Image Source)
So if you’re anything like me, you know that growing a great company requires amazing people.
Here’s the inside scoop on the tactics I use to find the right employees, convince them to join, and continue improving and growing them as well.
#1: Stalk The Crap Out Of LinkedIn
When it comes to finding All-Stars, your best bet is not to put out a job posting and hope that Michael Jordan applies.
People who are A-players are already loved by the company they’re currently at, so you have to be smart about how you approach them.
One thing I love doing is to look at competitor companies’ LinkedIn pages to see which employees have the longest tenures.
Time at a job is usually a good indicator that the person doesn’t get bored easily or jump ship because the “grass is greener.” It also shows that they may have been promoted within the company over time.
The great thing is that LinkedIn can tell you all of that.
And once you’ve connected with a few prospects, LinkedIn makes it easy to message them directly when you’re ready with your pitch.
But not so fast.
You’re not done with the background research yet…
#2: Uncover The Hidden Talent of Writing
Once you’ve found some names on LinkedIn that you think could be good candidates, it’s time to do a little more digging.
One thing I like to look for is if they’ve ever done any blog writing.
Well, there are two reasons.
The first reason is that I like to read what a prospective employee has written because it shows me part of their personality without even talking to or meeting them in person.
Does the person rush through their writing without giving examples or proof of the claims they make? Are they cold? Do they have a hard time getting the point across?
If so, then that can easily translate into a sloppy job when it comes to client communication or not being thorough with actual PPC work.
The prospective employees that take their time, have a sense of humor, and have a goal with their writing are the people that I’m interested in.
Not only do they show that they’ve done the research on the topic they’re writing about, but that they’re open and curious to always learn and progress themselves as well.
It’s very rare that you can write an entire (high quality) blog post by just regurgitating what you know. Especially in the data driven industry of PPC and conversion rate optimization. You have to actually investigate the topic you’re writing about which demonstrates research skills and how thorough someone likely is.
The second and more important reason for why blog writing is so important is because it forces the prospective employee to educate themselves on topics they want to write about, a skill I’m ;always on the lookout for.
And not only so, but it’s been shown that teaching things to others (like writing a blog post) is the highest level of knowledge retention you can achieve.
Have you ever heard of the Cone of Experience by Edgar Dale?
Although everyone has a unique learning style, I think we can all agree that having to teach someone else requires intense preparation, careful research, and genuine expertise, as explained by this cone of experience.
Which is why writing blog posts is something I like to use as ongoing education for my employees since it forces them to research a topic thoroughly enough that they know the material well enough to teach it to someone else.
So now that you know why I love writing, it’s time to go on to the next step…
#3: Plant the seed
Once you’ve judged enough LinkedIn profiles, it’s time to craft a little, what-I-like-to-call, “seed planting” message.
Nothing too serious, but something that will make your prospective employee think.
Notice how I don’t come full throttle and say:
My name is XYZ from company ABC, and I’m looking to hire someone who does what you do. We can offer benefits, great salary, and the occasional lunch.
You’ll get your own little cubicle and a plastic plant.
We have open interviews this Friday at noon with catered ham sandwiches. Please swing by if you’re interested!
The goal here is to initiate a conversation, not get a “Yes” or “No” answer right away.
Now you may be asking: “What if the person I’m interested in hasn’t written anything?”
That’s okay, just skip to the next point below.
#4: Don’t Have Them Come Meet You…Not Yet
After spending a good amount of time on in-person interviews, I wondered if there was a faster way to qualify employee candidates.
I decided that having 10 minute phone screenings was a better idea.
This gives you a chance to learn more about their personality, without wasting your time in-person if you know they’re not gonna be a good fit.
Are they enjoyable to talk with over the phone? Do they have a sense of humor? Do they come across as confident? Are they likable?
If you get on the phone with a prospective employee and they’re as dry and boring as a marathon long watching of C-SPAN, then politely hang up the phone.
You’re looking for energy.
Do they have enough spark to excite your clients and to gain the confidence of anyone they speak with?
Most of the communication they’ll have with your clients will come through voice and email, so it’s imperative that they can instill confidence in you over the phone, even if it’s “on-the-spot.” They’ll have to do that again and again with new clients.
By the way, I don’t even look for in-depth PPC skill on the first call. I don’t even care about that.
My first concern is that they’re fun, happy, and enjoyable to listen to.
I’d much rather hire someone brand new to PPC and train them to be an expert, than hire a number cruncher with a Master’s Degree in TI-89 calculators who can’t carry a conversation.
But if you can have both (deep PPC knowledge and personality), buy them a first class Uber ticket to come meet you. ASAP.
Once you’re convinced that the person you’re talking to is someone you can see as someone you’d want to hang out with, it’s time to invite them in.
#5: When They Come In, Show Them Fun
Your office space is what you make it. If you’re small, that’s okay.
It’s how you work it.
There are a few things I make sure are in place before we have potential hires come visit us:
- Music is loud and upbeat. (Preferably house music. Not even kidding.)
- People are working in weird places, like couches, their desks, and on bean bags
- Snacks and drinks are on the table we’ll have the interview by
You may be more old-school. If that’s the case, I recommend you play some Kool & The Gang or Earth, Wind & Fire.
Again, not kidding.
It’s all about first impressions and friendly vibes when a new potential hire walks through your door.
If you’re not able to match your first fun email/InMail to them with your actual working reality, then they’ll experience what’s called cognitive dissonance and they won’t be sure if there are other hidden aspects to working for you that are unpleasant.
Now, I’m not saying to be someone you aren’t.
If you’re not a transparent company with people who are enjoyable to work with, then you probably shouldn’t continue to read what I’m about to tell you.
It only gets weirder…
#6: Why Potential Is So Important
Like I mentioned earlier in regards to hiring someone who is enjoyable over someone who only has a strong PPC ability (but no people skills), potential is more important than track record.
Some of the best account managers come from an immediate background with no PPC experience.
It was their energy, curiosity, and hunger to master something that was the most important.
That, paired with a clear career path of growth through individual goal setting, is the ultimate carrot stick they’ll need to do amazing work.
Now don’t get me wrong. People with former PPC experience are a must, but I’m just telling you to keep your eyes open on the others as well.
It should come as no surprise that big publications like Forbes, Inc, and Fast Company all explain why potential can trump experience. Since past performance doesn’t guarantee future success, it’s clear to see that giving people a chance to prove themselves can increase their loyalty to you as well.
And since your company probably has a certain way of doing PPC, your new hire with potential won’t have old and bad habits ingrained in their mind which means they’re essentially a blank canvas.
Get to work Picasso!
#7: Fun Cop & Serious Cop
Head scratchers and upset clients can be the norm for the average PPC account manager.
It’s not all sparkles and unicorns when the lifeblood of a client’s business is on the line and PPC is their only source of new business, that your company is managing for them.
So how do you know if your potential employee can handle all that, and then some?
A big part of PPC is creative problem solving. Giving your potential hires some tough questions to answer during your interview is a good way to see how they perform under awkward pressure.
Not only that, you can also see how they arrive at conclusions and their method of getting to an answer right in front of you. Most of the time, that’s what they’ll have to do when a client asks that tough question.
If you have other high level people within your organization I highly recommend you show the potential employee a good time by playing “the good cop” role, and have yourself or someone else play the bad/serious cop.
(There’s a balance to everything. Image Source.)
This is where you want to ask the questions (if they have PPC experience) pertaining to how they would solve certain PPC problems and what they can tell us about “AdWords attribution,” for example.
You want to purposely ask questions that are near impossible to answer to see if they would be honest about it or if they would “BS” their way through the interview.
That will quickly help you determine if they can carry their own and exude confidence even while not knowing an answer.
This helped set clear understandings of ability and the respect levels will also grow from the new potential employee towards you.
#8: The Reference Workaround
As you’re aware, getting a new hire isn’t as easy as getting a soda at the vending machine.
You have to do some homework to learn who the person really is. Up until this point, you’ve only heard their side of the story. And who better to talk highly about oneself than oneself, right?
So to make sure you don’t create any costly mistakes hiring your next PPC manager, designer, etc., you need to make sure you talk in-depth with their references.
I’m not necessarily talking about the references the prospective employee hands you (although those can work), but instead, look back on LinkedIn to find their connections, especially their previous bosses.
If you’re recruiting them, then obviously don’t reach out to their current boss. That wouldn’t be the wisest. Instead, reach out to the bosses at their older jobs.
Once you’ve gotten in touch with them, it’s time to ask some open-ended questions that are all aimed to uncover potential flaws you didn’t see from the first round of meeting your potential employee.
Questions like the ones below are things that I ask:
- How organized and detail oriented was he/she at your company?
- Why are they no longer with your company?
- Would you say that he/she is a 9-5 person or do they work until the job is done?
- What has he/she done to over deliver and impress clients or yourself?
This quickly gives me unbiased opinions for the real question I was dying to know: “I like the prospective employee, but do they have what it takes?”
Because I snoop around a lot and since I’m successful enough at poaching, I once received this LinkedIn InMail from a C-level executive at a competing company:
You know you’re doing something right when you get this kind of message.
#9: Team Hugs
What better way to empower your current team of employees than by giving them the power to vote up or down for a new hire? That’s exactly what you should do, and it works wonders for team morale.
Since I’m a strong believer in the “open door policy” and then actually putting it into practice, if someone from our team isn’t feeling a candidate then there’s usually agreement across the board that it’s not going to be a good fit for us.
This is an especially powerful way to get to decisions quickly since your employees should know that the next hire will be able to improve the company for everyone’s benefit by freeing up time for everyone so everyone will be able to make more money.
The question to ask your current team before they go into the group interview is this: “Will the person in that room make us better, makes us more money, and give us more time?”
If the answer is no, then re-evaluate who you’re interviewing to get better about picking candidates in the future.
Most of the time the answer will be a resounding yes followed by group hugs and an offer letter.
#10: Create a Company Instagram
One of the things that used to be really tough to do (until now) was to show an inside view of who your company really is.
To solve this problem, create a company Instagram account solely for the purpose of talent attraction. If you pique the interest of people you’re trying to recruit, then you can be sure that they’ll find their way to your wall of pictures showcasing your fun, your craziness, and your shenanigans.
Since everyone plays it safe, have fun with Instagram and create quality posts that would attract someone to inquire about your positions.
So there you have it—A tried and true way for finding, attracting, and retaining the best talent that can help your company grow.
What’s your experience? Have you found some unique ways to find and hire All-Stars? I’m always looking for ways to improve tactics so be sure to leave a comment to let me know what’s worked for you.
Johnathan Dane is the founder of KlientBoost, a California-based PPC agency that’s on a mission to grow companies. He’s been interviewed by Google and has a German Shorthaired Pointer named Tanner. Connect with him on Twitter.