Our thinking on recruiting a community manager has evolved a lot.
Early on, we made a few mistakes. Now we're much better.
Our criteria usually works by judging the passion, contacts, attitude, knowledge, and experience of the participant.
Passion is the ultimate determining factor of success or failure. We want to know
- Do they already participate in the community?
- Do they blog, tweet, or otherwise write about the topic?
- What topic events/activities have they attended?
- What books about the topic have they read?
If they can't answer the above, they're probably not passionate about the topic. Don't hire this group.
Contacts shows they have the personality to build relationships with members of the target audience. We want to know the following:
- How many people could they roughly call upon to join the community?
- Do they know any well-known people in the sector? If so, who?
- Can they mention people in the sector who would give them positive references?
The last question, asking to name people in the sector they know, often trips a lot of people up.
Attitude & Reliability
This is harder to measure. We want to see resourcefulness and the initiate to get things done. This might mean setting a simple writing task in which one of the core pieces to complete the task is missing.
At this point, some complain and give up. It's hard. Others browse the internet, find a solution, and solve the problem (or simply ask for more information).
We also judge when they get the task done. If they hand it in 5 minutes before the deadline, we don't hire this group.
There are two parts to this. One is knowledge of the sector (which should be apparent through the passion questions above). The other is knowledge of managing communities and how communities work. Questions here include:
- What trends in the sector are you most excited about?
- Whose work in the sector do you most admire? Why?
- What do you hope to achieve in the community within the first 3 months? 1 year?
- What books about building communities have you read?
Ideally, we want to see a good knowledge of the sector (vital) and building communities (important, but teachable).
We prioritise experience quite low. It's not irrelevant, but the majority of it is not transferable from one role to the next. If you've managed a community for Oprah (with an audience of 2m+, you might struggle to build a community for a new startup). You don't have the existing base, for example.
This is why our former approach to hiring community professionals failed ("find a great community and hire the manager!")
Experience helps in knowing that getting the community started is difficult. Dealing with conflicts. Keeping calm when things get tough.
Becoming more hirable
If you want to be more hirable, simply have answers to the questions.
Attend relevant events, read books on your sector topic, build a large number of relationships within that sector, be reliable in your work, learn as much as you can about building communities, be clear about what you can achieve within the first 3 to 6 months for any community.