This is a guest post by Marie Connelly, Community Manager at GHDonline and member of TheCR Network.
Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about hiring junior community managers for our team, particularly in entry-level roles. At the Global Health Delivery Project at Harvard University, we’ve partnered with organizations like the Global Health Corps and Northeastern University’s co-op program to provide opportunities for young people looking to gain work experience in community management, marketing, and of course, global health.
While we’re hiring students and recent graduates, these aren’t your average part-time internships—they’re paid, full-time fellowships, and the folks we bring on become an integral part of our team. They develop their own projects, talk with members, work with our leadership team and community moderators, and make significant contributions to our efforts to improve health care delivery through global collaboration. Obviously, it’s important to find the right candidates, but how do you know what to look for when applicants haven’t had significant experience with community management before?
Here are three qualities I always look for:
This has always been my #1 characteristic for what makes someone a successful community professional. Curiosity is what drives us to learn more about our members, listen to their needs, unpack that complicated support query, find the interesting story, and keep up with all the new developments in community management, and the tools we use. When interviewing junior candidates, I look for people who ask great questions, and can show how they’ve explored their interests and passions in the past.
2. Writing skills
While communication skills of all stripes are important for community work, strong writing skills are paramount, particularly for junior team members. I try to look at a range of written communication styles during the interview process: emails, social media postings, shorter written pieces, and longer ones. Those who write with clarity, have the ability to make a compelling argument, and are comfortable switching between writing styles will likely be ready for the wide range of writing tasks that come with this job.
3. Something I don’t have
This is an important thing to look for with anyone you’re hiring, but I suspect it gets overlooked when candidates aren’t expected to have very much experience. While you’re going to be teaching and training a new team member quite a bit, don’t forget to consider the things they’ll be able to teach you. One of my junior community colleagues has great video and visual design skills, another has been doing PR work in college, and our most recent hire has experience doing advocacy and education work in Nepal. They’re all bringing something to the table that I don’t have, which makes our ability to approach new challenges and opportunities as a team much, much stronger.
While these are, no doubt, characteristics to look for in any new teammate, I’ve found them to be especially helpful in identifying the right candidates for entry-level community positions. We can always train new team members on the tools we use and the particular elements of our approach, but these three characteristics give me the confidence that someone is going to have the foundation to hit the ground running when they join our team.
I’d love to hear from others what characteristics they look for when hiring folks who are totally new to the field—what would you add to this list?
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