“How’d you end up in community management?”
After blindly applying for a community manager position back in 2009, when community management was relatively obscure, I was lucky enough to successfully make it through the hiring process and learn by doing in the role. Almost a decade later, I now hire and manage a team of community managers — not only has community management as a career become a real thing, but the process for landing your dream community manager gig has changed as well.
Whether it’s skimming the job boards, creating the perfect resume, or preparing for the final interview, here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to searching for your first (or next) community manager gig.
DO read the job info carefully, because not all postings are created equal. Take a peek on the CMX job boards on any given day and you’ll see that there’s a spectrum of responsibilities for open positions in community management: everything from managing social media and chat forums to event planning and data analytics.
Just because you see the title “Community Manager” doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. Read the description carefully a few times and ask yourself, realistically:
- Does this sound interesting?
- Do you possess 75% or or more of the skill set listed?
- Is this a lateral move or a challenging new role for your level of experience?
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DON’T wait too long to apply. Most hiring managers have a timeline for when they’d like to extend an offer, which can be anywhere between four to twelve weeks from the time the position becomes available. Do the math — it means interested applicants have only a few weeks from the date the job is posted to submit their details and get in front of the decision makers at the company. Moreover, data show that applicants are best off submitting their resumés at the beginning of the week rather than waiting until the weekend.
A pitfall many job seekers fall into is “analysis paralysis,” where they overthink the opportunity or assume the job is theirs before they’ve even sent in their information. If you’re wondering about the company’s benefits package or a succession plan for your current position, you’re probably in that headspace.
Once you see a position that tickles your fancy (see above questions for indicators), take a day or two to customize your resumé so the human eyes or applicant tracking system can easily connect the dots between your experience and that desired for the position. Check out this CMX-curated list of skills to incorporate into your work/volunteer experience.
Bonus tip: Follow instructions when applying! If they ask for a resumé and cover letter, LinkedIn profile, or writing samples, supply them.
DON’T overstep boundaries. Working your connections is totally fine — hey, that’s what community management is all about! That being said, there’s a fine line between an enthusiastic and an overzealous candidate.
What’s okay? Researching the hiring manager and current team on LinkedIn and seeing if you have any connections in common. If you do, request an introduction. This is a perfect example of utilizing your existing network appropriately. Introductions are a default feature on LinkedIn, designed specifically for situations such as this.
What’s NOT okay? Doing a LinkedIn search for any and every employee at the company, or requesting a connection with the custom message, “I’m interested in a Community Management job at your company. Hope you can help refer me.” Don’t waste your time or you risk coming off creepy! Patience, pet; if you’ve submitted a killer resumé and truly are a good fit, someone will reach out.
DO your research. What are the core company values? Who are the key players on the team with whom the new CM will be working?Prepare to answer questions and have your own questions to ask that go beyond the job description.
Sample questions to ask:
- Is this a new position or has someone been in this role before?
- What are the benchmarks for success as a community manager?
- Tell me about your experience at this company…
- What’s the typical day/week/month like in this position?
If you do know someone who works in community management, ask them for guidance on preparing for your interviews. And don’t forget to read stories from other successful community managers!
DO use the platform/product. You don’t have to be a super user, but you do need to be part of the community before leading it. Be one with the natives and observe as much as possible. What are the acceptable behaviors and the “no no’s”? Moreover, make notes about functionality and product improvement suggestions. If you were to be hired as a community manager, you would likely have to use this platform every day and, in time, become its biggest supporter.
DO follow up in writing. Thank you’s after a meeting or interview are incredibly important. Not only are you showing your appreciation for someone else’s time, but you’re letting the people making the hiring decision know that you were listening and are interested in the position.
Handwritten notes on personalized stationery is probably too much. Instead, collect the email addresses for the people with whom you met and compose a personalized message that’s 400 words or less. Once you’ve proofread for spelling and grammar, send it within 24-36 hours of your meeting. Since you’re not dating and don’t need to worry about being over-eager, it’s better to reach back out sooner than later.
Beyond being polite and demonstrating just the right amount of interest, my colleagues and I treat the interview process — especially post-interview follow up — as a prime example of how the community manager candidate treats others. Community Managers at Yelp interact regularly with Yelp and business owners on- and offline. That’s in addition to the everyday communication with other departments within the company. Therefore, it’s important for CM candidates to demonstrate good social graces if they want to be in such a forward-facing role.
Should you follow all of these do’s and don’ts religiously while in your search? If you really want the job, why not? Will it guarantee you the job? Unfortunately there’s no way this blog post can guarantee it. However, taking a step back and thoughtfully going through the process gets you one step closer to the end goal. As the poster in my dentist’s office reads, “You don’t have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.”