How to Hire Community Managers

Microphone in focus with colorful abstract image out of focus in background
Photo by Michal Czyz on Unsplash

Tech industry community managers are hot on the market right now, with an exploding number of new job postings – particularly with companies that have never invested in community building in the past. There’s a need for empathetic people-people who can help build strong relationships with a business’ customers in a pandemic world where in-person interactions are severely limited. Tech companies are starting to realize that community managers neatly fill this need.

That said, I’ve heard from many hiring managers that they do not know how to hire a community manager. They lack the understanding of the role to effectively write a job description or conduct an interview process that will ensure that they end up with a candidate who can succeed at achieving the company’s needs. With many years of experience working in communities from enterprise customers and business users to individual developers, here are my insights into how to effectively recruit community managers in today’s market:

  1. Understand WHY you are hiring them. Community managers do a lot of emotional labor when it comes to educating and building buy-in into their day jobs. In a single day, they may go from executive presentation to playground monitor and back again. It’s exponentially more challenging to stay energized and productive if they are also having to justify their job role to an executive team that is unclear on their expectations for the job. This is setting your community manager up for failure.
  2. Be clear about the job level and how it will meet your company’s needs. Once you’ve identified the needs you’re trying to meet, be sure to hire someone at the right seniority level to meet those needs. If you’re building an entirely new community from scratch, hiring a junior level community manager, or someone for whom this is their first community role, will also set them and the community up for struggles.
  3. Understand the demands of the role and pay them accordingly. Give your new community manager the appropriate title and pay that matches their role and level. It will help if you are up front about this in your job description and allow prospective candidates to self-select out of the recruitment process if the role is too junior or senior for their experience. Understand that community managers are not just social media managers by another name. They are not digital marketing managers. They are not content strategists. Community manager is a broadly defined role that encompasses many skill sets. Especially on a small or one-person team, this person may be expected to know: customer relations, corporate communications, user experience design, product management, project management, program management, event planning, email marketing, social media marketing, crisis communications, release communications, data analytics and business intelligence, and more.
  4. Remove friction in your interview process. Don’t make community managers perform arbitrary tasks or jump through the proverbial hoops to navigate your recruitment process. Be up front about your recruitment process. Don’t change mid-stream. Communicate regularly. Talk about requirements for salary, priorities for their next role, and how they see this role evolving over the next 5+ years. Don’t ghost them. The DevRel/Community Manager community is small and interconnected. People will talk.
  5. Don’t ask them to work for free. Don’t ask community managers to do homework – especially if this takes the form of writing up an entire program proposal and launch plan. Community strategy should be built around the needs of each individual community. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can or should be blanket applied to every community. Your new community manager should spend their first 30-60 days getting to know your community, your company, and their stakeholders, integrating their needs and expectations into their community program plan, and researching the resource needs and availability to execute on that plan. They should be prioritizing tasks to build a roadmap for the future, based on the limitations and priorities of their stakeholders and their organization. Only then can they give you what you’re asking them to do with extremely limited information.
  6. Look for growth potential. If you are hiring a junior or mid-level candidate that will work with a more senior community manager, recognize the potential for growth. Many characteristics that make community managers unique are specific to their characters. Presentation skills, data analysis, technical knowledge, and other tactical skills are teachable. Empathy and intuition are not. Hire the right person, then train them.
  7. Move quickly. As mentioned, community managers are a hot commodity right now. If you delay and drag your feet through the decision process, you’ll lose your shot at the best candidates.
  8. You have limited chances to get community right. Your community is a highly visible investment in your public image, your relationships with your users, and the long-term success of your business. The more times you trip up in this process, the less faith and loyalty your community will have for you. The risk is high. The rewards are higher and longer lasting.
  9. Give your community manager time to succeed. Community is a long game. If you want to succeed, you need to understand that success for community is not measured in leads, conversions, or sales. We measure success in the long-term relationships we build with our users, who then go on to bring us with them throughout their careers. They become our advocates, our partners, our cheerleaders, and our best critics. This isn’t something that will happen within one month or one year even. Remember: trust is hard earned and easily lost.

In short, be decisive, know what you’re looking for and why, and know what you can offer, so that when the right candidate falls into your lap, you don’t miss out on the chance to build something impactful and amazing for your organization.