19. Hiring a Community Manager for your Coworking Space

Welcome to Episode 19 of the Everything Coworking Podcast!  

Today we’re going to talk about how to hire a Community Manager for your shared space. I share my recent process and lessons learned.

What title should you give your community manager?  

Coworking manager isn’t really an accurate title. This role is not to manage a group of members, but to be a connector, to listen, to know who needs what, and to help members help each other to solve problems.  The role is to help the community to help itself to flourish.  So we don't necessarily embrace the name as a true embodiment of the role, but "Community Manager" is becoming a more well-known term and may be the best place to start for a title for a job description.  In an uncomfortable but analytically-based move, I didn't use it. I went with Marketing Coordinator. This might get me ousted from the coworking community, but let me explain below.

Job description  

The industry standard is that the role is listed under “Community Manager."  However, a few factors led me to a divergent approach. 1) The Chicago market is competitive (40+spaces) and the demand for coworking is still catching up to the supply and so, in addition to the community and operations management, I need someone who can help execute my marketing plans.  2) I thought it would be easier to hire someone with a marketing background that was also a great connector/community facilitator vs. finding the community-focused hire that happened to have marketing skills. 3) Also, while the title "Community Manager" is becoming more mainstream, one of the top searches done on job sites is for "marketing coordinator" so I knew this would give me a larger pool of candidates.

Where should you post the job?

The quality of applicants may depend on where you post.  I posted ads on Craigslist and Indeed and I posted to my network on LinkedIn.  On Indeed, I tried a pay-per-click package that gave my job posting priority and exposed it more often to users of the site.  I quickly spent $160 on candidates that didn't read the simple instructions on the first line of my application which were to include a cover letter and to address it to my name. When I stopped paying for clicks, the quality of the candidates went up.   My theory is that paying for clicks gets more eyeballs, but people who are actively searching for a job are looking through the listings in greater detail and will find you even if you are further down on the search results pages.  

What's a good framework for a hiring process?

If a candidate followed my instructions and seemed qualified, I sent them a message giving them 24 hours to complete a series of video questions through the Sparkhire app.  I had never done this step before - I typically go straight to a phone screen. Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words and a Sparkhire video response is worth a thousand phone screening calls.  The next round was a Skype interview with me and then I had my current community manager do in-person interviews (because I couldn't get to Chicago quickly enough to do them myself).  This process helped me hire a new manager quickly enough for my outgoing manager to train her. Clearly you don't want to sacrifice quality just to get the manager trained by the outgoing manager, but it's ideal and the steps of this process helped me to screen thoroughly but quickly.

What happened to my current manager?  

Everyone should be working in the role or company that should be the best fit for them at the time.  By the nature of the job, your community managers will have a lot of exposure to people who are or will be hiring.  People like to hire people they know, like and trust - your members will come to know, like and trust your community manager and may try to poach him or her.  To avoid this issue, you may want to put a clause in your membership agreement and your employment agreement that says something about not poaching any employees of your company. Or you may take the free market stance and keep your manager challenged and happy for as long as possible and then support her if she gets an advancement opportunity with a member company.


Setting expectations before making the offer  

Depending on the size of your space, your manager might be a team of one. This may be a new experience for your candidate. Make sure to paint a clear story, to sell the benefits of wearing many hats, learning at an accelerated speed and being a formidable candidate when they're ready to move on, but also make sure he/she understands the reality of what that looks like day-to-day and that the setup is a fit.

How do you manage staffing for events?  

When you have a full time community manager is it acceptable to make them handle events as well.  This is an industry struggle.  In the job offer I made, we capped the number of hours that she would spend staffing events each week.  I will hire a separate events manager when our events schedule goes over her allotted number of hours.

I've outlined my process and considerations but this is still a fairly new industry and a new role. I'd love to hear what is working for you. Comment below or email me at jamie@archiveeverythingcoworking.dream.press.

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:

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