The tech industry, like many others, is facing a challenging job market due to ongoing global economic challenges. However, even in times of scarcity, there are still open opportunities for community professionals, from the intriguing Community Architect to the more specific Community Operations Manager. The roles are becoming more common, more robust, and more complex.
The downside is that there's a lot of competition for these jobs. Not knowing what to expect in the interview process can be nerve-racking, but being prepped and ready, not just to answer questions but also with a list of questions you can ask your interviewer to get a better sense of their expectations, will help you stand out in a crowded field.
Spend some time before the interview researching the company, studying the job description, and thinking about your previous experiences. Being prepared with this information will help you answer questions confidently and know what the right questions to ask your interviewer are as well.
At the very least, you need to show the interviewer that you’re familiar with what the company does. Do your research and understand the company’s products and services so you can reference them during the interview if it organically comes up.
Community metrics help you understand how your community is performing so that you can refine and adapt your strategy to best help your members. If you haven’t tracked metrics before, think of what 3-5 metrics you might start with (with your knowledge of the role).
Community professionals use a lot of different tools and technology. It’s OK if you don’t use the exact tech stack the company uses. Demonstrate that you’re comfortable using different types of tools to show that you’ll be able to learn the ones you’ll be using (if you’re not already familiar with them).
This is especially important for a remote or hybrid role. Think about your peak communication style so you can eloquently relay this.
Think of an example or two to show how you handle conflict or high-pressure situations. Try to remember how you approached these challenges and what you learned from them once they had passed.
Working cross-functionally across the company is a large part of a community pro’s role. Think about a time you collaborated with other teams (whether or not you worked in Community at the time). What was the project you worked on, what was your role in it, and what was the outcome?
This goes back to doing your research on the company. Think about why you’re interested in the company, and what about its community (and this role) is interesting to you.
This speaks to your perception of where your career sits in your life — is it a career move, is it a job with an end goal, are you acting out of desperation? It’s crucial to know how this job will bring you satisfaction, because without a doubt, the interviewer will be able to discern your honesty and will make a decision accordingly.
The practice of interviewing is for both parties: you’re interviewing the company too! I’ve certainly had the experience where I was interviewing out of sheer desperation; not only does it show, it also opens you up to settling on a place that isn’t suited for you. Gradually, you lessen your capacity to advocate for yourself.
The simple act of asking questions at the end of an interview shows the interviewer that you’ve done some due diligence as well as providing you with a glimpse into what to expect from this company. List out your questions, then readjust them into an order of most importance for you.
I asked some veteran community pros to share their favorite interview questions with me.
This question allows you to get a handle on:
Let’s face it, the influx of communities being built doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all backed with research, understanding, or even gumption. Some are just being made to fill gaps. The response to this question will give you insight into their why and their bottom line.
It’ll allow you to recognize how much emotional and mental effort you will have to put in to persuade stakeholders, or eventually revisit the purpose of the community with the CEO in the not so distant future. Some CMs like to start a community from scratch and also present it to the company knowing the idea itself is on the line, whereas others [like myself] aren’t so fond of that particular side of the work. Which are you?
Beyond diversity, equity, and inclusion, there must always be the foundation of safety and within the community. It is more paramount than nearly any other department [I think HR tops that list]. If the interviewer struggles to answer this question, particularly after a hellish two years of a pandemic, then it’s a bit of a red flag.
Our societies have been dealt some shocking hands and it’s vital to know how available, honest, and hard working the company that you’re choosing is showing up. Will you and your community be supported and taken seriously or will you be the first to go when the economy hits the fan [for example].
This one is understandable because we all want to know what’s expected of us up front, even if those things are bound to shift along the way. If the company doesn’t have this info yet and you’re a little further in the interview process, go ahead and create a starter 90-day plan based upon the information you have from the interview! You will stand out for your initiative and willingness to go the extra mile.
These days, companies left and right are coming out of the woodwork providing fillers for the many gaps we’ve had for years in the community industry. Never before has it been so easy to compile vital data, track engagement, integrate, and automate. Sure everyone costs something and some companies have to prioritize what’s most important, but this answer will allow you to see if the community has a budget and is viewed as crucial to the bottom line, and how much onus the community has over itself [or that you’d have over it].
Working the community is fulfilling in myriad ways, yet it’s a dual-edged sword. The amount of emotional effort and energy that is poured into community day after day can often seem insurmountable to those of us enveloped in it. It’s not unusual for a CM to forgo taking a break or vacation because they’re uncertain if the community will run without them or if a teammate can handle all the manual machinations.
CMs tend to deal with unhappy members that spout their thoughts and opinions publicly. It is not easy work, and every CM that I know has battled or just continuously battles with tumultuous feelings of burnout. In 2022, companies can no longer use the excuse of we didn’t know. So with that in mind, armed with their experience and what they do know, what is the culture around burnout and emotional capacity in a realm that gives badges of honor for overworking, endless availability, and consistently joyous original thinking?
AKA, will you be fully alone? Is the Community team in a silo on an island over there somewhere or is it seen as part of the bustling hive that is a company? Nowhere is perfect, and personally, I’d give points to any interviewer that could honestly note that although the community is currently in a silo, they hope that with a new hire and adequate changes, it’s a goal that the current status quo gets improved. That I could cosign.
Another way of viewing this is, what are the opportunities that community can provide? This harkens to an earlier point about the increase in communities being built just because they’re trending in the business world today. It’s imperative to know whether or not that is the case for this place you’re interviewing as well.
This is another set of questions that helps you drill down into what the interviewer interprets as the most important pieces for this community puzzle currently. It even touches a bit on the questions surrounding burnout and the 90-day plan, in case you’d prefer to connect the dots by asking one question as opposed to three.
This means, where does the community fit when it comes to the bottom line of the business. Is the anticipation that the community will be a sales funnel, that it will simply be a place for people to come instead of a competitor, that it will offer fun prizes and giveaways? The list can go on. Once you’re aware of the expectation of the community itself for this business, you can better discern how much or little would be expected of you.
One last piece of advice from Laura Coscarelli: “Please don’t ask an interviewer ‘tell me about your typical day!’ This is asked 90% of the time from the people we don’t hire. Boring!”
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