Interviewing for Community/Social Media roles in 2009

In 2009, just as online communities have transitioned from simple discussion forums to full-featured, customizable social networks, interviewing questions are evolving to “How often do you blog? How many followers do you have on Twitter, how do you plan to market our products using social Media?

While the nature of organizations seeking online communities vary widely, the main interview question is “How do you plan to engage and involve our customers?”

I thought it would be a constructive project to share some of the recent questions I have been asked in my 2009 interviews –along with my responses, and get your feedback on how to improve them.  I greatly appreciate your perspective.

1.    Tell me about yourself? I grew up in Iran and since then have lived, worked and studied in 5 different countries. I am passionate about meeting and connecting people to each other, learning foreign languages and cultures. Naturally, being a Community Manager is more than a job for me, it is a true passion. I have a MA in International Relations with a focus on Global Marketing, and began my professional career in customer relations and online commerce.  Since then, I have held many roles and worn many hats, but mostly enjoyed creative positions in which I was involved with Market Research, Product Development, Event Marketing, Social Media and Public Relations.

2.    What do you think you can bring to our company/community that is unique or sets you apart from other candidates? As an avid community member and brand I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the expectations your customers have from your company as well as the Community. With my online community experience working with diverse demographics, I have what it takes to take your community to the next level and meet the needs of your customers.

3.    What information would you include in the ‘member profile’? Social networking has the ability to make important connections between the consumers and the company brand. Prior to crafting the profile portion, I would determine what I want to learn about those specific members. I would ensure a place for an avatar, and a place for personal interests.

4.    How do you monitor what people are saying about you? I often Google keywords related to the topic and the company name and visit the links that come up. I also frequent communities that I know are interested in the company or products .

5.    How do you go about pitching bloggers? I would start by reading some of Subject Matter Expert’s blogs, begin commenting and communicating with the ones whom I would like to pitch, and build relationships. I would then blog about the topic myself and ask those bloggers to share their opinion.

6.    How do you measure the success of a community? I set the industry standard parameters such as: the number of page views per day, the number of registered users, the amount time spent on site, etc.. to have a general understanding of my community’s activity and the growing trends, I think the real success of the community is based upon whether or not the members enjoyed their time spent on the site, and whether they obtained the information they wanted. Also, would customers recommend the community to their friends, and would they purchase more products/services based on the recommendations they received through the site.  I measure these parameters through regular surveys and polls.

7.    Why do you think certain online communities fail? According to Forester Research, office politics play a major role. In my experience, the communities that tend to have failed are due to lack of proper goal setting, and not having defined objectives in place.  Most marketing fails when the company strives for company needs in lieu of the customers – particularly true for social marketing. When a community only pushes sales and not the value-add to the customer, it is bound to fail.

Once again, I truly appreciate your feedback on the quality of my answers, and how to better answer these questions. You may want to refer to Dave Fleet’s post on what not to answer.  Feel free to also add in your own questions to this list.

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  1. Hi Layla – This is a great read, and helpful for anyone who would like to know what being a Community Manager is all about from the day-to-day tactics to the overall strategic vision of what a Community Manager should do. In terms of how to answer these questions in an interview scenario, as a recruiter and frequent interviewer, answer #2 (I think) would be better answered by explaining personal passions/expertise/knowledge beyond CM that tie to the company’s products/services/communities. For a gaming company, soemone who is always playing the latest games would be a relevant personal tidbit that ties to the job; for a consumer device company, a proclaimed ‘tech-geek’ would be a useful personality quirk in the position as it will help them to better understand/relate to the community and what really makes them tick… my two cents. Great read!

  2. Leah Symekher says:

    Hello Layla – You definately educated me on what a Community Manager in social networking does. You have great skills, experience and education I am sure you will land a grand job very soon.

    As a member of the job hunting crowd I must say that my experience in the last few months has revealed a whole new dimension of interviews and the necessary preparation. In a recent workshop I took away this valid tip – PSR. PSR = PROBLEM, SOLUTION, RESULTS. This means you share a problem in your past job experience, share the solution you proposed and the share the results of your efforts. Always keeping this in mind during an interview helps showcase yourself better. It is working for me so far. All the best!!.

  3. Social media is getting big in Asia. I personally think the major challenge is that there are so many bloggers using their own languages (that is not English) to write, and the market itself is so varied with a profile of different countries with different levels of income, consuming power… etc.

    I am invited to contribute a question that I come across at interview in Singapore. Recently I have a pretty good one: Do you prefer expatriate boss or local boss?

    And how would you address this?

  4. I am not sure what the Asian hiring managers are looking for when they ask you this question Amy, but this is how I feel, and how I would respond to the topic:

    It really doesn’t matter where my manager is from, as long as they are a professional with good ethical integrity. I tend to prefer a manager who delegates appropriately, and assigns me challenging responsibilities, but also sets clear expectations, and provides me with direction when I need it.

  5. Hi Layla, this was a great topic, Thanks! I’ve been intrigued by these semi new trends which are Social Media and Community Management and I definitely learned a lot reading your blog. Way to go and best of luck to you with your interviews :)

  6. Layla,

    I think your answer to #5 is brilliant! People give back what you give to them. If you blog about something yourself or create something that they naturally react to, then you are creating an opportunity for a blogger to get right in there. :)

  7. This is an interesting article. It makes me wonder about the type of companies that are using online communities to increase sales. For instance, in the high tech world of silicon valley, would companies such as Intel also have something like this… How would they go about setting up their communities?

  8. Layla,

    You made a few good points describing the responsibilities of community managers. As a former community manager of Yahoo! Local and Upcoming, I think the importance of community management is to distinguish itself from corporate customer service. Try not to use canned responses if possible. Your users will appreciate for a personalized service and therefore enhance user loyalty.


  9. Layla,

    I learned a lot about the responsibilities of a community manager by reading your blog. Your responses are well-thought out, and presumably, you tailor them further to the specific company asking the questions having thoroughly researched their business and customer base.

    Best wishes with your search!!


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