7-min read
Nov 10, 2021

Community Manager Interview Questions: Whether You’re Hiring or Looking to Get Hired

Jocelyn Hsu

These are the 4 questions I always ask Community Manager candidates.

Whether you’re the Community Manager candidate or hiring manager, interviews are one of the most important steps in the recruitment process. For people looking to get hired, it’s a great time to understand the role and expectations and get a sense of company culture, management style, and more. For hiring managers, it’s an opportunity to see who has the skills and knowledge to succeed in the role and add to the team.

Interviews for community positions include a lot of the typical questions, such as “Tell me about yourself.” and “Why this company?” but you should also be prepared for community-specific prompts.

Here are some of my go-to interview questions for a Community Manager as a hiring manager:

1. How would you explain community and community management to a stakeholder?

This is one of my favorite questions. Community is increasingly becoming a buzzword, so whether I’m hiring someone entry-level or senior, I want to see how they communicate these ideas and if we’re on the same page

Why this matters for hiring managers

Asking a candidate to define ‘community’ and ‘community management’ will help you understand 1) how they explain concepts to others and 2) whether your definitions are aligned.

Take note of how the candidate communicates. Do they start broad and then go deep? Do they keep it concise or do they tend to ramble? Do they use a lot of jargon?

Consider what their definition actually is and whether it aligns with how you and your company view community management. Is this person coming in thinking they’ll be running social media accounts? Or do they really want to work on local politics and community activism?

My favorite response to this question was when a candidate asked me who the stakeholder was. I was impressed that she took the time to clarify who she was talking to and crafted her response based on which stakeholder I chose.

How to answer as a candidate

The “right” answer varies for each hiring manager and company. Understand what type of community the company is interested in to tailor your response to what they're after.

If you’re pivoting into community management, use this opportunity to show that you know what you’re talking about. If you’re more senior, ask who the stakeholder is and what their existing understanding of community management is so you can cater your response to this imaginary stakeholder.

2. Tell me about a time you had to manage or deal with a frustrating or 'bad' community member.

Some people love “tell me about a time” questions and others prefer situational ones. In this case, I prefer asking candidates about a time they’ve experienced this because it’s easy to answer in the hypothetical and much harder to execute in practice.

Why this matters for hiring managers

Telling a community member to stop a specific behavior or removing someone from the community for saying something is really hard. It might be one of the most difficult things a community manager will do.

In theory, it’s easy to say that you should ban the jerk but it’s a lot harder in practice. Asking candidates to tell you about a time they had to do just this will help you understand how they think through these situations, what they think is acceptable (or not), and how proactive they are. Take time to dig deep here and understand why and how they managed the issue.

A lot of the time, candidates earlier in their career will share a situation when they’ve had to give a warning to a community member who violated a fairly straightforward guideline (eg. no spam). These situations tend to be fairly simple to handle, so I like to follow up and ask what the candidate would do if this member comes back and does the same thing.

How to answer as a candidate

First of all, this isn’t a trick question! Having to deal with frustrating community members who walk the line of “Is this acceptable?” is a part of the job and doesn’t mean that you’re bad at community management.

What’s important is your rationale and thought process. Focus on explaining how you thought through the situation and why you made a certain decision or took a specific action, in relation to the community guidelines.

If you don’t have direct experience as a community manager, think about other situations when you’ve dealt with customers or group members. Have you had to talk down an upset client or remind a student to follow school rules?

3. What are some communities that you’re a part of? What do you think makes them successful?

There isn’t one correct way to build a community, and I learn a lot of new techniques and strategies by participating in different communities and seeing what tactics other community builders leverage.

Why this matters for hiring managers

The first half of the question is great to help you get to know the candidate and get the conversation flowing. Remember, interviews are conversations, not interrogations! It’s also a great question to segway from the typical “tell me about yourself” introduction and chatting more about community building.

The second half of the question can help you understand what the candidate values in communities and how they define “success”. Do they talk about having a safe space they can be vulnerable? Attending fun in-person events? Feeling like they’re part of something special and exclusive? Seeing a large number of members or posts?

You can also probe to better understand how they think that community achieved this.

Bonus: I love when people are a part of community communities, like The Community Club! (This isn’t required but it’s nice to know that they’re learning with other community builders.)

How to answer as a candidate

Think about which communities you really love being a part of. This can be something in person (eg. running club, church) or something online (eg. gaming forum, The Community Club).

Consider why you love being a community member and what you’ve learned from participating in those communities. There’s no wrong answer here. What’s important is being able to articulate what you think makes these communities successful and how you think they achieved this.

4. What has been the most powerful thing that you've learned from a community that you've been able to use to spark action or change?

Willa asked me this question during my Creator Guild AMA, and, with her blessing, I’ve started incorporating it into my interviews.

Why this matters for hiring managers

Listening to the community and understanding where they’re coming from is a key part of the job, but even more important is taking those learnings and doing something about it.

This question tells me a lot about a candidate. It shows if they’re really listening and learning from the community, and it also shows if they were proactive in leveraging that knowledge to better the community.

I want to hire someone that cares deeply about our community, listens to their needs, and advocates for our members.

How to answer as a candidate

When Willa Tellekson-Flash, Director of Community at Public.com, first asked me this question, it took me a few minutes to decide on an answer. If you need time during an interview to think about it and respond, you can and should ask for a moment to think.

When you’re sharing this story, talk about how you found out about this learning and what steps you took to dive deeper. For example, you may have seen a discussion about a pain point within a product and then you hopped on a few one-on-one calls to better understand the root cause and need.

Then, share how you took this learning, shared it with stakeholders, and affected change. Talk about who you shared it with and why and how you were able to push for action.

Overall, as a hiring manager, I want to understand how a candidate thinks through different scenarios, why they made certain decisions, and what they’ve learned. There’s rarely a right or wrong answer.

And if you’re interviewing for community roles, I strongly recommend treating it as a two-way conversation. You are interviewing the hiring manager and team, just as much as they’re interviewing you.

Here are some questions I’d recommend candidates ask hiring managers:

  • How would you describe this community? Who is your ideal community member?
  • What’s your favorite community moment?
  • What does success look like in this role? In 90 days, 6 months, 1 year?
  • How do you like to receive and provide feedback?

Interviewing isn't easy, but I hope these questions can help community managers find that perfect role. Best of luck with your search!

Shout out to Willa, Jamie Langskov, and Brian Oblinger for sharing their interview philosophies with me.


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