Recruiters and founders often ask me: how do I go about hiring a community professional for the first time? How do you know who is the “real deal”?
My first piece of advice is always: look inside your community. Who is taking on a leadership role already? Who is trying to get closer to you? Who is doing their best to pitch in?
This piece of advice goes beyond hiring community managers, however. It holds true for all hiring.
Your best hires will be your community members.
Your community members are bought into your mission, know your product, and even know some of your other users already. This is why HR should advocate for external-facing community in their organizations. Great community spaces create powerful recruiting engines.
I’ve talked to dozens of companies who have hired their community members. I’ve also heard from many, many of my community professional friends that they started out as community members and took on superuser status or leadership roles.
Here are a few prominent examples so you know I’m not just making this up:
When Pinterest first got off the ground in 2010, Enid Hwang was one of the very first users (she was exactly Pinner #367). She became quickly addicted to the site, spending hours pinning images and brainstorming new ideas. She was gutsy and bold and did her own outreach by sending the team feedback and even asking them to coffee to share her insights on what was working and what wasn’t.
Enid Hwang, now Community Manager at Pinterest, was Pinterest’s fifth employee and is still going strong as they’ve built out the entire community team. She is one of the key reasons that so many people know and love Pinterest today, making it a multibillion-dollar business (its current valuation is $5 billion).
Foursquare has hired Product Managers from inside their superuser community. According to Tracey Churray, Foursquare’s Director of Product and Support, one of their early superusers, Nick Patrick, became a Product Manager after being an “SU3” (Foursquare’s top tier of superusers) and creating a mobile app to edit venues on the go.
Former Foursquare Community Manager Chrysanthe Tenentes was also an early user, who jumped up and answered the call when CEO Dennis Crowley asked for help from the community. She helped the company scale community processes when the user base skyrocketed from 250K to 8 million and beyond).
MassRoots, the largest mobile cannabis community, hired a member of their early community to join their marketing team. Their internal employees take an active role in the community.
Swiftkey’s Community Manager, Ryan Paredez, was a member of their private VIP community and met many of their team members before officially joining the team. You can read Ryan’s full story here.
Building a strong community has all kinds of unintended positive side effects, one of which is providing a better way to recruit internal team members. This is why recruiters, talent leaders, and human resources departments should advocate for community in their organizations and form close bonds with community professionals on their teams, if they already exist.
Creating a community space and giving people leadership positions not only allows you to scale external-facing operations more easily (with ambassador programs, support forums, etc.), it also helps you scale internal teams more effectively.
It puts recruiters in the drivers’ seats, allowing them to handpick great candidates who are pre-vetted in their community rather than starting from scratch and scouring LinkedIn for that elusive unicorn hire.