Community Operations Hiring: Essential Skills & Experience for an Ops Role

Tiffany Oda
Director, Community Operations at Venafi

Community Operations is unique in that it requires a mesh of a bunch of different skill sets — perhaps more so than even a Community Manager role does. As such, the ideal ops candidate is a pretty rare find, even as more and more folks come to realize the importance of having a dedicated ops person in their community teams. Of course, finding your ops unicorn becomes a whole lot easier when you actually know what you’re looking for.

What makes an ideal ops candidate? What makes them qualified for such a specialized role? And how do you craft a job description that’ll help draw them out? I’ve had a handful of people reach out asking all of the above, so I thought I’d put together some things to consider when writing a job listing.

If you’re on the hunt for a Community Operations pro for your team, I’d recommend adding the below traits and experience into the “about you” or “you’ll be a great fit for this role if…” section of the job description. If you’re interested in pivoting to Community Ops yourself, you may find this helpful in identifying which skills and experiences to highlight on your resume, or which areas could use some professional development.

Community Operations non-negotiables

Community comprehension

Your candidate absolutely must understand what community is. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to have held a professional community role, although past community management or experience working with a community team is obviously a great benefit too. However, it’s not a dealbreaker — the candidate may have a great understanding of community if they've been a member of one professionally or personally.

Program management experience

This is broad and obviously has so many sub-heads that should be included, but primarily, does the candidate have experience juggling multiple initiatives, planning projects, deadlines, working cross-functionally, and executing launches? Are they good with time management, multi-tasking, and prioritization? There are often many initiatives and programs being run in parallel, and it will be important for the ops person to balance timelines, priorities, and scope of work.

Customer-first mentality

This is the front-of-house component (check out my previous blog for the metaphor), and I think it’s essential for the success of this role. Does the candidate have previous customer-facing experience — whether it’s as a support agent, customer success or relationship manager? They need previous experience building rapport, listening to, and working with customers. Additionally, as with anyone on your team, they need to be a customer champion, always thinking with a ‘community first’ mindset and willing to go the extra mile for a community member.

Communication skills

The candidate will be communicating both verbally and in writing to both community members as well employees, and it’s essential they can succinctly and effectively get the message across without losing a personable tone. It’s an art form, especially when writing about something dry like policy or program updates, and can be difficult if, for example, a change or update is being made that people won’t enjoy (like a platform migration or maybe the deprecation of a perk or benefit).

Platform fluency

When it comes to community-related platforms, whether it’s the community platform itself, or one for event management, operations, reporting, CRM, engagement, or marketing automation, let’s be real – it’s rare for someone to know all the options out there. New tools and platforms, especially for community, are coming out all the time. I hear about new platforms I’ve never heard of regularly. The candidate should have an innate ability to easily pick up and learn new platforms, not only as an end user, but also as an admin in the backend or setup of the tool.

Enablement and training

As new programs, tools, processes, and other updates roll out, it will fall on the ops person to document, write help articles, and set people (whether that’s internal or external) up for success. I’d actually consider putting enablement, and ultimately adoption of whatever the new thing is, as an eventual KPI for the ops person. Are community members properly following the process? Using the tools correctly? Are support tickets high because they’re confused? The candidate should have previous experience with knowledge transfer, training, and internal/external enablement.

Data ‘nerdiness’

Though being a data scientist or analyst is not required, the candidate should be data-centric and nerdy about metrics, reporting, dashboards, and everything that comes with it — data integrity, integrated reporting, and looking for trends, patterns, and outliers. In addition to creating and maintaining reports for the team, there are many operational reports that will need to be monitored to spot things like process inefficiencies, bottlenecks, potential risk areas, and areas for improvement. The ops person should be comfortable with reporting, looking at numbers, and zooming in and out of the data to see both the big picture and the little details.

Community Operations supplemental skills

The above seven traits and past experience are what I’d consider non-negotiables when looking for an ops person for your team. However, there are a handful of other traits that you can consider adding as well, supplemental to what’s already been mentioned.

Interpersonal skills

The ops person will be working cross-functionally with stakeholders across the organization on a regular basis. It adds immense value to have positive relationships and easily form partnerships with these colleagues so that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They should have the ability to effortlessly build rapport with the community and the company.

Independence and ‘scrappiness’

Being able to work autonomously and, essentially, find things to do, will likely lead to a successful ops person. They will most likely be the only person in their role, so they should be a self-starter, constantly looking for ways to make things better, and sometimes getting scrappy to get things done.

Ability to embrace the chaos

This is something that took me years to learn, but now that I have, my life (and work wellbeing) is better for it. As with all community teams, priorities, timelines, projects, and circumstances constantly change. As someone who supports the entire team from all sorts of angles, having flexibility, being able to pivot, and embracing the chaos, will serve the ops person well.

Communities and community teams are all different, so you know what is most important for this hire. Use what you want, leave won’t you don’t! There is no ‘perfect’ template here, but hopefully this has provided some food for thought on what you can include in your job description. In my next article, we’ll dive into roles and responsibilities day-to-day that you can also include in your job description.

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More about Community Operations

Community Operations is a key component to a community team, supporting every program, initiative, platform, team member, and even partnering teams within your company. I provided some insight in my last post, A Beginner’s Guide to Community Operations, on what kinds of roles and responsibilities an operations person could do and how they would add value to your team and organization.

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