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How to Interview for a Digital Marketing Role

interview-imageAs head of a specialist marketing, analytics and digital recruitment agency, I’ve seen more than my fair share of candidates looking for Digital opportunities. Whether it’s SEO jobs, PPC jobs or careers working within social media; I’ve seen the good and the bad – candidates that really know what they’re doing and people that submit applications that show a complete lack of knowledge. So how do you spot a candidate who knows their Ad Rank from their PageRank, and how do you weed out an applicant who thinks Google is something you wear when you’re swimming or that Stumble is something you do when you’ve had a few too many drinks.

As a leading Digital recruiter, it’s my job to sort the good from the bad, ensuring that clients only interview candidates that are suitable and have relevant skills. So here are some tips if you don’t know much about digital marketing but need to interview digital candidates to join your company?

SEO Positions

You know how important SEO is, but do you know what it’s all about. Even if you do, how can you quickly work out whether or not your candidate knows what they’re talking about? You don’t want to spend hours in an interview grilling a candidate on the granular detail of SEO, but there are a few ways that you can quickly analyse the person that you’re interviewing and encourage them to give you the relevant detail that you need to know:

Ask Them about Their Experience

Anyone can set themselves up as an SEO professional. If you don’t know what you’re looking for then it is easy even be fooled by someone that is saying all of the wrong things in the right way. It can be like listening to someone talking in a foreign language to a digital novice and if they are saying it with enough confidence even the worst SEO advice can sound plausible. That’s the trouble with SEO. There is no definitive right answer to best practise, because Google offers such little clarity on their search algorithms.

To help separate the beginners from the experienced professionals you should ask about their experience. Who have they worked for? What results have they achieved? Can they show you examples of their work? Can they log into Google Analytics and talk you through the data?

Ask Them about Their Strategy

SEO strategies should vary from website to website and from company to company. One strategy does not fit all! A good answer from a candidate about SEO strategy should relate to your company’s market and strategy… If your candidate sounds like they’re reeling off a generic answer then alarm bells should be ringing. When they respond to this question, a good candidate will be mentioning specifics and talking about your company.

Look Out For Warnings

You don’t have to understand the intricacies of search engine optimisation to know when someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about. You should be concerned if:

    – They’re talking about developing a strong presence by submitting your site to directories.
    – They’re talking about spending a lot of time commenting on existing blog posts.
    – They’re talking about keyword density.

If they sound like they’re putting quantity over quality and emphasising how many links they plan to get, then you can almost certainly cross them off your list.

Oh, and you should be even more concerned if they start telling you how you should include deliberate spelling mistakes to capture users that type the wrong thing into Google. This handy little feature ensures that you definitely don’t need to worry about that (which is why the very first result is so very concerning):

Ask Them to Analyse Your Website

It’s great that your candidate wants to get your business noticed, improve your rankings and make sure that people are finding your website, but hopefully they’re not just focused on what’s happening off-site.

Someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing might start by talking about building links and opening social media accounts, but before time is spent on off-site optimisation your website needs to be working properly. You need to ensure that your website is optimised, that it’s converting visitors into sales or enquiries and that there are no glaring UX errors. No SEO professional should launch straight into off-site optimisation without a thought about where they’re sending people. Bonus points should be given to any candidate that starts to analyse your website before they’re asked to!

A good candidate shouldn’t be worried about offending you by critiquing your website – they’ll need to do it once they’ve got the job – but if you’re worried about them tearing your site to shreds, then why not ask them to critique your main competitor’s website?

PPC Positions

Ask Them about Their Experience

Can your candidate give you examples of previous PPC campaigns? They should certainly be able to, unless they’re a complete beginner. Ask them to talk you through some of their previous campaigns and to discuss with you how successful those campaigns were, and why. Conversely, you should also ask them about a campaign that didn’t go well and what they learnt from that experience?

Ideally they’ll show you campaigns that they’ve run, and will be able to talk you through the details. Do they have graphs to show you? Can they log in and let you enjoy a supervised look through their Adwords account?

Ask Them about Running a Successful Campaign

To run a successful campaign you don’t just need to pick out a few keywords, link to your website and hope for the best. Good campaigns are responsive and relevant, and are carefully managed. Look out for candidates that talk about:

    – Creating relevant landing pages.
    – Responding to world events and special occasions.
    – Optimising your website by making sure that the people that click through can find relevant and informative information, to encourage conversions.

Your candidate should know that PPC marketing doesn’t stop once the advert is live, or once a certain click-through rate has been achieved.

Tell Them about Your Goals

Tell your candidate what you hope to achieve by running PPC campaigns. Who do you want to target? What do you want them to do? What is your budget? Use the interview as an opportunity to help your candidate to understand your requirements, and make sure that they tell you how they’ll help you to reach your goals.

Ask Them about Google’s Quality Score

Someone that understands Google Adwords should be able to explain Google’s Quality Score, and its effect on Ad Rank. In simple terms a high Quality Score is given when a keyword links to a relevant advertising message and has a high click-through rate, and when visitors that click the advert are taken to a relevant landing page.

A good quality score will boost the Ad Rank, which influences the position that an advert appears in. In an ideal world, your candidate would be able to log in to Google Analytics and show you examples of Quality Scores that they’ve achieved.

Discuss Your Competitors

A good candidate should at least have looked at what your competitors are doing before they attend your interview. Can they explain why your competitor is running their campaign the way they are, and what your competitor is achieving?
Ideally your candidate will also be able to pick fault with your competitor’s campaign, and explain how you could do better.

Social Media Positions

If you don’t have Twitter talent, you’re not a Facebook fanatic and you admit that Pinterest leaves you feeling perplexed then how do you find the right person to manage your social network presence? You don’t just want someone that enjoys sending pictures of their cat to their Aunt once a week; you need someone that isn’t fazed by long lists of notifications and won’t panic when they’re asked to manage this:
Your social presence is your company’s voice. Someone filling a social media position needs to be your customer service representative, answering customer queries and dealing with complaints, and they’ll need to write in your company tone of voice, with an approachable personality. They need to be able to have a little fun, but they’ve also got to paint your company in a good light. After all, it’s entirely possible for the wrong person to destroy your brand’s image in just one 140-character Tweet:
So, how do you find the perfect person? How do you ensure that you can find someone that can keep up to date with current affairs, manage multiple accounts, keep customers happy and spend their time building your brand rather than knocking it to the ground? Here are a few tips:

Ease Them In

A good interview starts with a relaxed conversation, to help your candidate settle in and feel comfortable. A few days before your interview, pick out a top trending hashtag on Twitter and see what it’s about. As you chat to your candidate, bring it up as a topic of conversation. Hopefully, if they follow social media trends, they’ll know what you’re talking about!

Ask Which Brands Inspire Them

Anyone with an interest in social media should be able to give an example of at least one company that is doing it right. It’s also worth asking if they have examples of companies that are managing their social accounts in the completely wrong way. Hopefully, they’ll be able to think outside the box. Few social media success stories are bigger than Innocent Drinks’, so you might hear about them a lot, but perhaps the best candidate knows of another company that seems to know what it’s doing?

Ask Them to Clarify Their Role

A candidate at the interview stage will have read in your job advertisement what it is that you expect of them, but you should use their interview as an opportunity to ask what they think they should be doing. Look out for positive buzzwords like ‘responsive’ or ‘reactive’, showing that they don’t just plan to schedule posts a month in advance and that they plan to be keep on top of the latest industry news.

Check that they understand the importance of being a community manager – they’re there to encourage interaction, to get people talking and to promote your brand, not just to shout at your customers. Nothing is worse than a social media account that is filled with promotion and sales talk.

Ask Them How They’ll Deal with Complaints

Your chosen candidate should feel confident enough to turn a complaint around in the public eye rather than hiding it from view. If your customers realise that you’re deleting negative comments then social networks give them a chance to group together and send forth a wave of negative publicity that could damage your brand. Instead, addressing an issue publicly and coming up with a resolution that your customer is happy with can portray your company in a very positive light.

Check That They Know Their Twitter from Their Facebook

It’s vital that your chosen candidate knows their Twitter from their Facebook and their Facebook from their Google+, and their Google+ from their Pinterest and their Pinterest from their Linkedin…you get the idea. There are dozens of social networks available for your company to utilise, but a good candidate will know that not all of them are the same. They should vary their strategy from network to network, and might even suggest which ones are vital for your business and which ones aren’t. After all, it’s better to have a strong and positive presence on the networks most relevant to your company than to have a weaker presence spread across them all.

You don’t need to be a digital marketing expert to hire someone to fill one of these roles, but whatever your level of experience you can use a few simple questions to sort the experts from the rookies.

Do you have any tips of your own to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


This blog was written by Stephen Thompson, Managing Director of Forward Role; a leading Digital, Marketing, Creative and Analytical recruitment business based in Manchester, England.