Community
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9-min read
July 7, 2022

How to Hire your First Community Manager

Hiring your first Community Manager is a significant milestone for any organization looking to build, grow, or maintain its community. If you’re finally at this stage, you’re on the path to success!

A thriving community has a lot to offer organizations that get it right — which is why finding the perfect person to lead your community efforts is crucial.

To help you along, I’m going to explore how you can define your ideal hire, compile a clear job description, interview candidates, and craft a compelling job offer your potential CM won’t be able to refuse.

1. Define your ideal hire

So you're finally at the stage in your community growth where you can hire somebody to manage your community — that's fantastic! The question now is: where do you start?

The best place to begin is by clearly defining who your ideal hire is. To do this, you need to develop a persona of who that person is and what they can do for your community.

Identify the gaps you’re hiring for

If you’re hiring for a community that already exists, you must identify the gaps in skills needed to help your community succeed.

Think about your strategy, your vision for the future of your community, and its current strengths and weaknesses — these should show you what your ideal hire can immediately focus on when they join your team.

Focus on a particular area

While you want to fill all the gaps you may have in your community work, you won’t want to cast too broad of a net. You don’t want to think of all the jobs they can do — think of what they can do efficiently and effectively.

If you want a generalist, that's great; it’s a good role for someone who can do many little things together. When hiring a Community Generalist, however, you want to make sure you're not creating a position that is actually four jobs in one. Instead, make sure the person you're hiring will be able to succeed in their role by clearly defining their responsibilities.

We've all seen the job descriptions where the job itself looks like it could be for five different people. Instead of doing that, think about areas of focus you can really drill down on to ensure that you and the CM know what success looks like in that role.

Create room for success upfront

Before you even think of drawing up your job description, you need to define and be upfront about what success in the role should look like for your ideal hire.

So if you’re hiring a generalist, you’ll need to ensure their OKRs are manageable. Make sure what they're doing is something that can be done, and you're not telling them they need to run everything from nuts to bolts and everything in between. Make sure your new hire understands what they own and what you're expecting from them so they can succeed.

At this stage, you don’t need a specific number of metrics; you need to know what your ideal key result for the roles could be. It's beneficial for your new hire to come into the role and be able to say, ‘I know how I'll be measured, and this is how I can respond to that’.

2. Write the job description

Now that you’ve decided on all the qualities you want from your ideal hire, you can move on to putting them on paper.

Here, you must consider the core areas you will need this role to cover. For example, you may need to consider the seniority of the position, which department it will report into (if you don’t have a Community team), what tools or community platforms the candidate will need to know, etc.

Experience

Even though this is your first Community Manager, the role doesn’t have to be entry-level. However, your job description must clearly state the specialization and the required years of experience.

These are just some of the CM levels you could consider based on your needs:

  • Entry-level: Early experience, new to community management, switching careers
  • Specialist: Engagement, data/analytics, technology
  • Manager: Mid-level expertise, strategic thinking
  • Director: High experience, business-minded, strategic thinking

What they’ll be working on

Again, ensure you're clear on how exactly they will be working — globally, remotely, or in-office — and who they'll be working with. Have a breakdown of some of the tasks they’ll be managing. The important thing here is really prioritizing what you're sharing. What are the can't drop and can't miss crucial tasks they will be doing, and will they take full ownership of? Answer if they’ll be building or maintaining a community and let them know a little about where they stand in the whole timeline of the community work you're doing.

When you're thinking of a job description for a CM, it’s essential to be clear about what they’ll be working on specifically. Here are some examples.

  • Strategy: Road maps, business plans, business outcomes
  • Engagement: Active members, contributions, events
  • Operations: Automation, documentation, process development
  • Technical: Tool maintenance, UX/UI, integrations

Tools

Tools are a big thing in a CMs role. You'd be surprised how many people don't mention the exact tool they're using or thinking about using in the job description. If you're not using a specific tool yet, that's okay, but will someone need to be really technically proficient coming in? Will they need to use particular collaboration tools internally? Make sure that you have an idea of what kind of technology they'll be using, and if they're a fit, you don't want them coming in saying I've never used all these things for a really technically oriented role.

Team fit

The job description also needs to include who the candidate will work with and how they will work.

On the internal side, you need to be clear about who they will be collaborating with and what expertise they need. For example, if your community is based around a product, your CM should be able to have a basic understanding of the product.

A few resources I’ve found for great job descriptions are The Community Club Job Board and Tiffany Oda’s Community OPs Job Description.

3. Start your interview process

Congratulations, you‘ve gotten to the place where you’re finally interviewing candidates for your community position!

You can find some really great complex questions to ask applicants because there's such a variety of backgrounds in the community space. You really have some freedom to dig into core areas that people might be proficient in or areas that you're looking for them to be experienced.

Review your interview process

First, make sure your interview process is transparent to everyone involved — the people who are interviewing and the people being interviewed. Sometimes you have little control over this section and job offers (more on this in the next section). In some companies, Human Resources or recruiters would champion this.

What you have control over, however, is how you communicate and partner with those people internally to make sure all the pieces are clear. When reviewing that process (if you have control over your hiring process), be really strategic about how you put it together. Think about how many rounds the candidate will go through, who they're going to talk to, what they're going to talk about, and if they will be asked to complete any assignments or give additional information.

Do your homework

This is simple but really powerful, helpful, and valuable for you as the interviewer to get good answers from your candidates. It also ensures that you know the information they're giving you.

Make sure you review the candidate's job descriptions, applications, LinkedIn, or any other social media they've shared with you. Make sure you know where they're coming from and some of their past experience so you really know who you're talking to.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Many of us know how it feels to be left hanging. We know what it's like to be ghosted at some point in time during an interview process, a job hunt, or a hiring process. Don't do that to your candidates. Instead, let people know the whole process, the timeline, and what to expect when. Be crystal clear throughout the entire interview process and respond in a timely fashion.

If you have recruiters who primarily communicate between the candidate and everybody else, make sure they know what's going on and what to expect. It's better to over-communicate than under-communicate.

Questions

The type of questions you ask can make or break the interview process, so you have to make sure you’re asking questions that can answer what you want to hear from your candidate.

Here are some questions you can ask to find out if your candidate possesses the skills and qualities you’re looking for:

Collaborator: “Tell me about a time when you had to work with others in your organization?”

Empathic: “A member has an issue with another member; how do you resolve this?”

Flexible: “Tell me about a time when you had to adjust a project midway through.”

Problem solver: “What was a big challenge you faced recently, and how did you approach it?”

Business skills: “Pitch me on community.”

Communication skills: “How do you prefer to communicate?”

Strategic skills: “Tell me about a strategic initiative you played a part in and its impact.”

Soft Power skills: “Tell me about a fulfilling moment in your community work.”

4. Create a compelling job offer

You’ve found someone who fits your ideal candidate description and nailed your interview process — you love them and really want them to join your team. The last step you need to take is to create a compelling job offer for them.

Again, most people might have very little control over this, and that's OK. It really depends on your organization and how you're working, but there are elements that you can always touch on throughout the process.

Salary

Salary is something that many people can advocate for in terms of a new hire, and the critical part here is really making it competitive. Do your research on existing community salaries, educate yourself, and take the knowledge you can to make an informed decision on the salary you’ll offer.

Understandably, you may have little control over some of this as HR may dictate some aspects, but you must be able to advocate for the number you're suggesting.

There are many resources, such as The Community Club Salary Repository, that can help you determine a competitive salary for your community hire. Look at job titles, experience, and company size alongside those salaries, which might be a good indication of how much you can offer.

What's important here is that you make sure that your title reflects the role, that it really does what it needs to do within the organization, and that the candidate is paid equitably.

Title

Unfortunately, there really is a lack of standardization of roles across the community space, and a Community Manager may look different from one organization to the next. The good news is that you have some freedom to play with the title you're putting together.

You can pull together a title that reflects the community specialization and not necessarily what you've seen other people use. You have room to customize, but make sure you're paying attention to what that title means and what it reflects.

Benefits

In terms of benefits, again, there's probably very little you can do in this realm. If you can offer benefits, you must communicate this with your candidate.

If your candidate is based in the United States, healthcare can be crucial for them, so be clear from the beginning about whether you can or cannot offer that. Don't make someone go through multiple rounds of conversations to get to the place where they can't accept because they don't have a certain kind of benefit.

Other benefits may include remote work, travel, vacation days, or a personal development budget. Make sure you're having that conversation from the beginning so that candidates don’t have to decline your offer on these grounds at the very end.

Watch Kelly’s talk on How to Hire your First Community Manager at the Community-Led Summit here.

Kelly Schott
July 7, 2022

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