I’ve made a lot of mistakes in hiring Google Ads managers.

People told me to hire for personality and train the skills, but I went overboard and hired unqualified people who were nice.

I’ve hired people that ended up stealing from the agency. I’ve hired people who would stop working anytime something unexpected happened (in an agency, that’s all the time). 

I didn’t know how to interview and I would often find that the person I interviewed was not the person I hired.

Then I learned about “test projects” and realized that if the agency I was working in proved their skills with an account audit, maybe I should ask the same of the people I was thinking about hiring.

This was a step in the right direction, but I found that some ad managers were great at telling me what needed to be done in an account, but struggled to actually manage the account day to day.

The Solution

When training new ad managers with little-to-no experience, I found that there was one factor that would determine how quickly they could understand how to manage the search terms report.

Automated bidding strategies and walkthroughs make a lot of things easier these days, but it’s really hard to train someone without experience how to tell the difference between a good search term and a bad search term.

It’s not as easy to understand how negative match types work, when to use each one, when to add the negative to a list vs the campaign or ad group level, and what part of the search term should be added as a negative keyword.

So I developed a new test.

This new test is the first thing any candidate needs to do before working with me (or my agency clients), and it is the ultimate test of whether the ad manager is able to help me, or if I’ll just be helping the ad manager.

The Test

The test is simple.

I downloaded a list of search terms from one of my accounts and removed most of them so there were only about 50 remaining.

I made sure that the search terms remaining had

– relevant searches
– irrelevant searches
– competitor searches
– searches for locations outside the target geo

I then I added instructions and account context on the top, a row with a checkbox that turns the associated search term red, an extra column into which the candidate could type the negative keyword as they would add it, and a column for them to explain why they added it.

This setup allows for several things:

  • I get to see whether they pay attention to details and follow instructions.The instructions I include are very simple, yet candidates will often skip checking the box before the search terms. This isn’t essential, but it makes review easier on me and shows wetheter the candidate read the instructions or just guessed at what to do and started doing it. I also include details in the context that specifically address services mentioned in some of the search terms. This is an easy win for those paying attention.


  • I get to see if they’ll exert effort if they don’t know something.
    I intentionally include a couple of search terms with geo-indicators in them in my list. I have one that is in my target range and another that is outside of it. I include in the context that my client is targeting a 50 mile radius around a specific city and they will almost always have to Google the distance between my target city and the location in the search terms if they want to do the task correctly.


  • I get to see how well they know match types.
    Most candidates will enter the full search term in square brackets, essentially using Google’s default mode of adding negative keywords. The problem with this is that even exact match keywords can be matched to over 1,000 unique search terms, whereas exact match negatives only prevent one unique search term from being matched. I want to hire someone that understands this and saves themselves time (by extension, saving me and my clients money) by adding the smallest irrelevant part of ther search term as either a phrase or broad match negative.


  • I get to see how they think.
    Including a column for them to explain why they’re adding each search term lets me see their reasoning behind adding a particular negative. The answers are usually generic, such as “Search term was irrelevant to client’s target keywords” or “Client does not sell supplies”, but sometimes you get a deeper explanation about the match type and why they chose to add the negative in a particular way. Candidates that think that way are usually a cut above the rest.


If you want to take it one step further, you can ask the candidate to record themselves taking the test on Loom. 

This will let you see when they struggled with a particular search term, how often they went to Google for help (necessary for the location searches and not always a bad thing), and if they second guessed themselves often.

A Link To The Test

For those of you who want to try this out, you can copy the spreadsheet linked below and edit it to include whatever you want.


Google Ads Search Terms Test (Make A Copy)

I should note that I’m generally using this to hire virtual assistants from overseas, but it would work just as well for hiring someone local.

Use this test to see how the candidate thinks about day-to-day ad management and follow up with an account audit for those who pass the first test.

If they pass both tests, the only other things to consider are communication and cultural fit, for which you can hold an interview.

If you’re curious about how I work with agencies or if you’re frustrated with your agency’s profitability or retention of clients or employees, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll see how I can help. I never charge for the first consultation and if I can solve it in 30-minutes, there’s no reason to pay for my services and you walk away happy.

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