Nearly every company can benefit from digital marketing.
And many companies struggle with hiring a digital marketing partner. Digital marketing attracts a lot of people who just blow smoke, so it’s essential to refine how you select a digital marketing professional or agency. And that begins with the interview process. The questions you ask will set the stage for hiring success or failure.
Ask the wrong interview questions, and you may end up stuck with a less than stellar hire. Remember, it’s much easier to hire than it is to fire. So you want to make sure you ask questions that are impactful and revealing about the candidate’s digital marketing prowess.
Digital Marketing: To Agency, Or To Inhouse?
When it comes to digital marketing decisions, the choice between hiring an outside agency or hiring an employee to work inhouse is one of the most perplexing. Each has its advantages.
Here’s a big surprise you probably won’t see coming…
You can do both.
Many successful companies leverage both a digital marketing agency and a few key digital marketing employees simultaneously. Depending on your company size, though, this hybrid approach may not be feasible.
If you must choose, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each approach. That said, it’s easier to cut an agency loose than a full-time employee. That’s something to consider.
However, today’s guide serves to help you avoid having to cut anyone loose. It focuses on how you can increase the odds of long-term employment success between your company and a prospective digital marketing employee.
Why Digital Marketing Interview Questions Matter
In some ways, digital marketing remains the wild, wild west. There are plenty of charlatans and pretenders looking to fleece you of funds. This isn’t just true for employees; it’s also true for agencies. Buyer and hirer beware: Digital marketing BS is surprisingly easy to sling. If jokers contaminate your hiring pool, you’ll wish you’d have asked better digital marketing interview questions much earlier in the hiring process.
Your first line of defense against getting fleeced is the interview process is to filter out the fakers. And that begins before the interview itself.
Here are some pre-interview tips that can help you stave off pretenders.
Don’t feel creepy for looking up employment prospects on social media.
You should be digging deeper than just a resume and cover letter. Anyone can present themselves in an ideal light in the materials they bring to you. You need to turn the tables a bit and investigate how they present themselves in venues where you aren’t the exclusive audience. Start with LinkedIn.
Now sure, anyone can fake it on social media too, but it’s a decent start to at least look over the candidate’s LinkedIn profile. Look for substantial accomplishments, not just blather. Do they use statistics to show how their efforts improved the company? Is their LinkedIn optimized for the hiring process? Does their profile mesh with that of other successful candidates you’ve hired in the past?
Start with a Phone Call
Stephanie Mahnken, one of DOM’s Senior Digital Marketing Strategist who also helps DOM hire digital marketing talent, conducts phone interviews for DOM before bringing in any candidate for an interview.
You should have a protocol that serves as an initial filter. The phone interview should set the stage for what’s expected if an in-person interview is granted. For example, you might say, “Will you be able to provide contact information for your references?” Or, “Will you be prepared to discuss your accomplishments in-depth should we call you in for an interview?”
Asking these initial probing questions lets the candidate know you mean business; any pretenders you talk to will likely falter and avoid coming in for an interview altogether.
Here are Stephanie’s recommended digital marketing phone interview questions:
Tell me about yourself – This provokes a range of responses, from long stories to 2-sentence answers.
What’s the most important thing to you about working at any job? – Again, the answers are various, from “to be paid” to “to contribute to an awesome team” to “climbing the ladder.” Each is quite telling.
Of your daily tasks now, what do you like the most? What do you like least?
Why do you want to work for DOM? – (Read: Did they do their research?)
Did you check out our website? – (Read: Did they really do their research?)
What three words would your colleagues use to describe you?
Consider Using a Personality Test
Stephanie uses software called The Predictive Index (PI) to assess how someone might fit into a particular role.
According to Stephanie, this personality assessment helps DOM decide whether someone’s natural behavioral traits fit the company’s current needs. While the process might feel rather artificial and robotic, Stephanie feels it helps identify the best fits.
“By using PI, we are able to get a better understanding of how a candidate is naturally wired. This helps management better understand how a potential candidate might interact with coworkers, and arms them with the knowledge to foster an environment that allows individuals to excel. We frequently test the results with current employees, and overall, the software is surprisingly accurate. It’s certainly been of great benefit to DOM’s digital marketing interview process.” Stephanie, a certified PI Index practitioner, says.
Evaluating whether a candidate is a good professional and cultural fit for your company should precede an in-person interview. The fact is, entry-level digital marketers will work for roughly 12 companies in the course of their career. Excessive employee turnover harms a company’s productivity and bottom line.
Once you’ve established that a prospect should be brought in for an interview, it’s time to carefully and strategically craft some digital marketing interview questions.
Impactful Digital Marketing Interview Questions
Ask These SEO Interview Questions
1. Describe the relationship between keywords, SEO, and ROI.
Of course, we begin with more a statement than a question. However, it achieves the same effect. You want to put the candidate on the spot by asking them to respond to a subject that corresponds with making money. If your company or agency fails to produce ROI, you go out of business.
This question doesn’t just ask “what’s a keyword”; it asks that the candidate describe the tangential relationship between keywords and profit. And this question aims to head off a faker’s attempt to blow smoke with trendy buzzwords.
You want to understand how the candidate looks at keywords from an ROI perspective, rather than a volume perspective.
2. What’s one way to effectively build backlinks?
Ah, do you see what we did there? This digital marketing interview question is targeted and exacting. That’s intentional.
When you ask, “How do you build backlinks?”, you give the candidate space to roam from buzzword to buzzword without hatching a viable plan. With our question, we keep the candidate focused on one strategy and follow that up with a discussion of its pros and cons.
If you don’t keep the conversation specific, you can’t discover how a candidate thinks about the intricacies of strategy deployment. In this way, you learn what the candidate would specifically do to try to increase revenue.
3. Build an SEO WordPress blog SEO structure.
Oh, boy, you can almost feel the stress build. Once again, technically, not a question. Instead, a task. If the candidate wins the position, they’ll need to perform tasks, right?
Why not start now.
For this question, a whiteboard is super handy. To help the process along, sketch a WordPress blog interface that displays a title and body section. Above that, come up with keyword you are targeting.
Have the candidate fill in the title, suggest a URL, and sketch sub-headers.
In the end, see whether the candidate takes the initiative to suggest meta-titles and meta-description information. If this candidate is being interviewed for a leadership role, you’ll want to test their initiative.
4. Do you prefer keywords that have high volume or high CPC?
This is a trick question.
High-volume keywords that lack high estimated CPC values have their place. As do low-volume keywords that feature high CPCs. For websites that drive high traffic and make money on lead generation or advertising, high-volume keywords win the day regardless of their CPC estimated values. But for businesses looking to move merchandise directly on their site, volume isn’t as critical as the estimated CPC of relevant keywords.
Ask These Social Media Interview Questions
5. Can you make a case for why our brand should invest more budget on Facebook?
Here’s the thing, not every brand needs to leverage Facebook for sales or traffic – because not every brand is a great fit.
But the key here is the use of the word “budget.”
An executive-level digital marketing strategist will immediately note the use of this critical word. Because “budget” suggests decisions between Facebook and other advertising methods. A strong candidate might recognize that LinkedIn is a better value play and suggest such.
6. Name one metric that you believe corresponds with social media advertising success?
Again, the candidate is asked to discuss only one metric. This allows us to understand the candidate’s thought process with more depth. You are looking for answers that involve sales and lead generation. If the candidate singularly focuses on traffic volume, they probably aren’t a great fit for a social media advertising position.
Ask These PPC Interview Questions
7. Explain how you will use Google’s Quality Score metric to enhance advertising campaigns?
With this question, you want to see how a candidate might make adjustments to an ad campaign based on a lower quality score. If a candidate is unfamiliar with what a quality score is or how to use it, you should be able to sniff that out immediately with this interview question.
8. Which ads are more likely to have a higher CPC: Ads below the page fold or ads above the page fold?
This is a somewhat obvious question, but once again, you end up talking about cost and ROI. These are the areas you would want your candidate to focus on should you hire them. It’s a good idea to discover where their head is on managing ad campaigns before you order them a new laptop.
9. Describe your ad campaign keyword research process.
Notice I left out “keyword discovery tools” in this digital marketing interview question? Why? Because I don’t want to lead this dance; I want the candidate to naturally answer the question. Once you include “tools,” you prompt the candidate to consider tools they’ve heard work for keyword discovery. You want to know that the candidate is capable of building an advertising campaign from scratch. This question gives you insight into that process.
Digital marketing interview questions need some bite. Probing beyond the basics is critical. You want to insulate your company from charlatans claiming “big things” when, in fact, they’ll end up fleecing your company. Remember, it’s not hard for a candidate to come prepared with a headful of buzzwords and advertising jargon. As the interviewer, you need to go above and beyond if you want to gain a better understanding of the value that that candidate may bring to your company.
It’s not about how many interview questions you ask, but the quality of the ones you do.