Hiring Top-Notch Paid Search Analysts

RKG analysts act as both client liaison and data analyst, requiring exceptional communication and analytical skills.  These qualities are often difficult to find in one person, but define the RKG standard. For this reason, our interview process is unconventional, prolonged, and challenging. But it works! Here’s how. Step 1: Gathering Applications At this stage, more is better. We accept applications year round to ensure we don’t miss out on exceptional candidates based on timing.  From the beginning, we get to set the bar high. Not only are we located in the same town as one of the nation’s best universities, but there are also very few companies in the town competing for the same type of talent. Step 2: Screening Resumes We don’t necessarily seek candidates with experience in paid search specifically. In fact, we prefer those who have no background in paid search; most people with experience have been doing search badly, and debunking all the myths takes too much time.  Instead, we look for indicators of a keen attention to detail. For recent grads, we consider a combination of GPA and major to judge the candidate’s work ethic. We also look for the ability to multitask or juggle multiple responsibilities while maintaining an impressive GPA.  For candidates with more extensive work history, job stability, initiative, and increasing responsibility are important criteria. Our analysts are expected to make copy changes on one set of keywords and update landing pages on another, all while running extensive bid analysis and responding to requests from clients.  We expect our analysts to be both proactive and reactive, and the qualities defined above suggest how well the candidate will respond to everyday responsibilities. The cover letter that accompanies the resume is also tremendously important.  RKG’s analysts are in constant contact with clients (often VPs and Directors at the companies), so clear, concise language and strong writing skills are a necessity.  In fact, if the cover letter has obvious grammatical or syntactical errors, we won’t waste our time reading the resume. Step 3: Phone Screenings About 50% of applicants are granted a phone interview. The first goal of the phone screen is to see if the candidate can carry on a conversation. Can they speak fluidly? Can they flesh out their experiences clearly and concisely? Do they have a sense of humor? Most importantly – will this candidate be effective in communicating with our clients? Will our clients feel comfortable talking to and working with this potential analyst? Secondly, we throw a couple of relatively easy puzzles at them. For example: Four students walk to the door of the classroom to line up for recess. How many possible ways can the students arrange themselves? Here we are looking to evaluate basic comfort with numbers, but more importantly, to see how the candidate reacts to the unexpected.  Do they run for a calculator? Do they simply hang up the phone? (Yes, it has happened!) Step 4: First Round (In-Person) Interviews Roughly 60% of phone interviewees are invited into the office for the next round.  During this first round in-person interview, the recruiting coordinator takes 10-15 minutes to explain the basics of paid search and the industry. The prospective analyst is then put through a quiz using Excel so the RC can evaluate familiarity with Excel and the analytical thought process.  How quickly does the candidate understand the basics?  Do they ask intelligent, relevant questions? Can they take the information they have learned and apply it to more unfamiliar situations? If the candidate struggles with the first step of the quiz, it is not necessarily a deal-breaker.  Here we’re looking for people who have depth of thought and are teachable. There is a lot to learn and keep up with in the ever-changing e-commerce world.  RKG’s analysts must be able and willing to catch on quickly and to make connections between known facts and new ideas. The Excel quiz measures these qualities. If the applicant survives this first feat of strength, they then meet with 2 Team Leaders (in addition to the RC) for standard interview questions and more puzzles. The puzzles here are slightly more complicated and may require some pencil and paper computation (still no calculator). Example: Approximately how many basketballs could fit in a 20’x30’x10' room?  Again, we’re looking at the reaction of the candidate.  Ultimately this translates to the most important question: Will they be able to stay cool and calm when clients throw them unexpected or difficult questions? Our analysts must be equipped to respond intelligently & professionally. Hearing the candidate’s thought process also allows us to evaluate comfort with calculations and numbers in general. Do they understand how to appropriately use estimates? Can they intelligently reason whether their answer is in the ballpark? Noticing anomalies in performance is often a springboard for deeper analysis; analysts must be able to recognize when metrics differ significantly from average and understand which other metrics either affect or are affected by the anomaly. Step 5: Second Round Interviews Only about 40% of first round interviewees make it to this final round of torture.  More people (upper management included), more questions (tougher, more thought-provoking), and more puzzles (no calculus, but pretty close) – all aimed at extra assurance that the potential hire fits the bill to be successful. Step 6: Reference Checks All applicants are required to provide 3 references, and we use this to gain as much insight as possible. Do the job responsibilities that the candidate described line up with reality? Would you hire them again? If we locked you in a room and wouldn’t let you out until you named a weakness, what would it be? From start to end, the process spans 3-5 weeks, but the investment here is well worth the return.  Each component of our method carries equal significance and tests for the specific qualities crucial for success as an analyst. The process has been effective for evaluating both new grads and analysts who transition to RKG from varying industries. We typically find that our new hires actually enjoyed (in a rather sick way) the rigid, demanding process, and we always find that our analysts are among the sharpest in the business.
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