Recruiting paid search professionals can be a painful experience. Whether you’re an agency specialising in search or a company looking to bring it in-house, the demand for paid search professionals has never been greater.

In these market conditions it’s easy to panic and jump on the first candidate who’s heard of Adwords, but there is another way.

As the MD of eConversions, a company specialising in paid search, I’m only too aware of the recruitment problems within the industry.

In fact, some time ago I took the decision to stop employing experience and start employing intelligence.

I can’t claim this was a purely philanthropic exercise to introduce the graduate world into the wonders of paid search. 

Indeed, it was more aimed at ensuring my long term health after a number of heart scares, the result of candidates with three months experience outlining their salary expectations.

We’ve found this approach very effective but it requires a core base of experienced search talent to develop the training programme, not to mention an extreme amount of patience while explaining the idiosyncrasies of the Google Quality Score algorithm to someone who’s just finished their gap year in Australia.

The recruitment process is undoubtedly even harder for regular companies committed to taking search in-house.

I’ve heard countless horror stories ranging from the MD resorting to running the campaign themselves, right down to the office junior who had a MySpace account, and thus knew a bit about the internet, being charged with managing the company’s six figure monthly search budget.

Assuming that you’re starting from scratch, and need to recruit someone with experience, here are a few simple tips that can go a long way in selecting the right paid search candidates:

1) Learn the basics
– In an industry full of acronyms it’s easy to get lost. Check out introductory training workshops by organisations such as E-consultancy and get up to speed before you start the process.

2) Google Adwords professionals – It’s the entry level not the expert level. Any candidate you consider should have this but keep in mind that it’s quite easy to obtain a 80% + score in two weeks’ training having never touched paid search before.

3) Look for analysts not marketers – Yes, paid search is technically marketing but effectively running a good campaign requires far more analytical and statistical expertise than it does marketing. I’ve met plenty of great analysts who can write ad copy with a great CTR but not so many great copy writers who can maximise ROI on 100,000 keywords.

4) Experience that counts – Dig deep into the type of campaigns they have operated in the past. Don’t be impressed by hollow statements such as “I increased ROI by 300%”. This could simply mean they stopped running all the generic keywords because they were too hard work and focused on brand. The best type of experience is where the candidate can demonstrate they have taken either a tough campaign or one that was already a success and improved it.

5) Understand affiliates – They don’t need to be experts in affiliate marketing but they need to understand how it can collide with paid search and what to do harmonise the two.

6) Technology savvy – Find out what bid management and analytics tools they’ve used and ask their opinion on what they would recommend. If they don’t have an opinion they don’t have experience.

7) Plan Ahead – Once you get them, ensure one of their first jobs is training a junior, otherwise expect spiralling wage demands and a period of pure fear when they start booking their holidays

Duncan Jennings is the managing director of eConversions, a specialist paid on performance search marketing company.