Getting Hired In Search – An Inside Look At Search Marketing Recruitment

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How Do Managers Choose Their Search Teams? Today’s Guest Post is by Adaptive Digital, a recruitment agency specialized in the digital marketing sector.

The field of search engine marketing is constantly changing, with new technologies, trends and algorithms forcing professional marketers to continually update their skills sets to stay relevant.

But although online publishers and resources offer a lot of technical information on search, marketers are often left wondering – what do employers want when they hire search talent?

Adaptive Digital spoke with an expert group of five experienced SEM hiring managers who shared their views on building search teams.

From the in-house side, we got the perspective of Delivery Hero, a publicly-traded global leader in the field of online food ordering which has experienced explosive growth, speaking with International Marketing Director Julien Hubert, VP of Performance Marketing Filippo Gallignani and Paid Channels expert Paul Proisy.

For a specialist agency angle, CEO of Frank Fischer, Head of Online Marketing at Brandung Max Callsen, and Head of SEA at Neomediaworld Thilo Babel shared their insight.

What’s the number one reason candidates are rejected at interview?

Surprisingly, it’s not hard skills that prove the deal-breaker for many hiring managers, as companies concentrate on building collaborative teams with the right mindset to succeed.

“Attitude and cultural fit is always the most important factor during an interview. Not the only factor, but the number one without a doubt,” explains Julien.

Delivery Hero colleague Filippo echoes the point, adding “mismatch between our culture mainly such as lack of drive or passion for the topic is the main reason candidates don’t make it through our hiring process. We love vibrant personalities that can add to our party, we love people keen on challenging the status quo – people who are innovative and solutions-driven.”

In the agency community, attitude and willingness to embrace a wider understanding of the role search plays in the marketing mix are also key.

For it’s all about team dynamics, as Frank explains: “we reject candidates when we gain the impression that they won’t fit perfectly in our current team.”

Neo mediaworld faces a similar challenge, with Thilo citing collaboration  and social skills as a key stumbling block for even technically-accomplished candidates, while Max notes that Brandung weeds out applicants who lack motivation to learn how search engages with other marketing channels.



What are the most important technical competencies you look for?

Despite so many new tools and technologies flooding the marketplace, many hiring managers in search retain a focus on mastery of the basics.

At Brandung, Max looks first and foremost for analytics skills, saying specific technical knowledge comes second to how effectively candidates can apply logic and problem-solving abilities.

At Neomediaworld, the emphasis depends on the seniority level of the position. “In-depth experience with bid management tools is high on the list, and deep knowledge of web analytics tools is becoming a must,” explains Thilo. “Programming languages like Java Script for AdWords Script are of course always welcome.”

Filippo and the team at Delivery Hero also have an eye open for programming competency, favouring candidates with skills in Phython, JS, VBA or SQL.

Julien adds “one aspect that is often overlooked is a detailed understanding of tracking. Understanding campaign tracking at a foundational level makes a big difference to the daily work you deliver and how that impacts the data goals you are working towards.”

Search is constantly evolving – which new skills should marketers focus on building to stay relevant?

As many ‘traditional’ search marketing practices are eroded by changes in the online landscape, professionals looking to future-proof their careers need to build a broader understanding the role of search.

“Candidates need to look beyond just search, as it is almost always part of a marketing mix,” highlights Thilo. “It’s important to understand how different channels interact with each other, especially paid and organic search. Another key focus is Google’s move towards a more audience-based approach and the changes this brings.”

For fellow agency marketer Max, it’s a similar story: “candidates can stay ahead by investing in continuing education and keeping an open mind around how new features from Google create new possibilities. It’s extremely important that search marketers learn to adopt a holistic view of the marketing mix to spot these opportunities.”

On the in-house side, Julien points out the importance of getting on board with how technology can drive efficiency in search practices: “scripting and automation are at the forefront of newer skills search professionals should aspire to master in my point of view. It is not new per se, but very important and moving from being a nice-to-have attribute to a mandatory requirement.”

Delivery Hero team-mate Paul also puts automation at the top of the list: “every day machine learning increases in importaance. This means that it is a big plus for SEA professionals to learn how to do two things: firstly, to write script, and secondly to be able to lead large-scale business intelligence or automation projects by understanding the infrastructure of data layers, APIs and how data scientists work.”

What is the potential career path for search candidates joining your company?

The career potential within Delivery Hero’s marketing team is substantial, as the Berlin-based food delivery company grew revenues by 60% in 2017 to surpass €500m. DH runs 3 country-wide leading brands in Germany (Lieferheld, and Foodora) as well as over 20 market leading brands globally.

As Paul explains, “In Delivery Hero we are lucky to have a huge performance marketing team with passion and talents of all kinds. This means that we can propose different ways to evolve in an online marketing career.”

“Depending on the individuals themselves and their aspirations, there is a clear path vertically in the hierarchy (from new starters to managers to senior and ‘head of’ as well as director positions. There is also always the option to move horizontally to other channels or disciplines, or for marketers to move to where their skills would be most suitable and their growth goals achievable,” confirms Julien.

The structure of an international business creates varied opportunity, as Filippo outlines: “depending on seniority people could lead a country, a region, a functional project or a whole team. We tend also to promote a lot internally, and often people will evolve from Performance Marketing into International Markets, Product or Tech. There are plenty of career opportunities at DH and we are always hungry for new talent”.

The agency community also offers plenty of upward mobility. At, there’s a clear route for new entrants from trainee to Junior SEA Account Manager on to Senior Account Manager, offering employees a straight path to progression.

Inside Brandung, Thilo explains “SEA managers can over time become client leads, which means they lead all our activities for one client including other channels. It is also possible to become a team lead, building management and leadership skills. Depending on interest, a technical role is also possible, and many candidates make this transition if they discover it’s a strength area for them. For us, everything depends on the interests of the individual – we try to develop individual career paths and give everybody an opportunity to develop to their fullest potential.”

Key Takeaways

In today’s hiring climate, search marketers must have an eye towards the future and work to build both a skill set and a mentality that will enable them to remain competitive in a shifting job market impacted by automated processes and progress in machine learning.

The need to approach search with a broader understanding of other marketing channels is critical in building a career, as is displaying a collaborative and open-minded approach to contributing to wider team goals.

In the long term, search can serve as a foundation for successful careers not only in performance marketing, but in wide-ranging strategic digital roles – if search professionals are willing to stay flexible and focus on their role in delivering overall success for a client or employer, talented candidates are spoilt for choice.