10 Red Flags when Interviewing Social Media Pros

These days, companies are hiring people to run their social media presence.  If you’re hiring, how do you know whether you’re dealing with a real professional or not?  We look at the top red flags to watch out for during the interview.

Here is my take on Eve Mayer Osburn’s top ten things to watch out for during interviews:

#1:  They call themselves a “Social Media Expert”

I recommend you reject people for simply calling themselves a “social media expert”. Why? Because the term is so overused that it has become a joke among real social media pros. Social media is too big a subject to be an expert in all areas.  Social media is constantly changing as well.   Qualify what specific areas of expertise they have.  If they insist they are an expert in everything social media, pass on the spot.

#2:  They post inappropriate things about themselves

Evaluate a candidate’s own social media accounts.  Many employers do this now as part of all interviews, but it is most relevant when hiring a social media pro.  How they represent themselves indicates how they will represent your company.  If they don’t understand social media is a “glass house” and the many risks to your business in social media, this will often be reflected in their own posts.

#3:  They don’t use a smart phone

Lots of social media activity happens on smart phones.  If candidates don’t have one or don’t use one for social media, then they won’t understand the experience of your audience.  Be respectful of people who don’t want to be connected to work via their phone 100% of the time.  But it is a red flag if they don’t “get” how your social messaging, images and dialogue will work on both the PC and the smart phone.

#4:  They have no social media references

Figure out if they recently got into social media as a new career.  Go to their LinkedIn page.  Do their references speak to their abilities in social media?  Also, make sure they can provide references that speak to how the candidates solved similar social media challenges to those of your company.

#5:  They don’t communicate well in-person

Social Media Directors become the voice of your organization on social platforms.  If they can’t communicate well in person during the interview, what makes you think they will communicate well via Facebook and Twitter?  Yes, social media occurs asynchronously online via technology.  However, you should hire people who are also great at real life conversations.

#6:  They overuse buzzwords

Yes, there are a lot of technical terms that are specific to social media – jargon and tools you might not be familiar with as the interviewer.  But there is no excuse for someone to speak in a way you don’t understand.  Their job will be to build relationships online via conversations, so if they are not connecting with you they likely won’t accomplish your social communication goals in either.

#7:  They don’t know communications, marketing or customer service

Social Media Directors will help you get new customers (Marketing), keep clients happy (Customer Service) and achieve your messaging goals online (Communications).  Do not expect someone who has no background in these areas to magically be able to do these things in social media, if they have never done them in real life.

#8:  They don’t know Mashable.com

Ouch!  I had hoped Eve would say SocialTimes.com!  Regardless, be sure to ask what social media blogs they read, then follow up with questions like “What is your favorite post recently?”.  Social media is a huge, complex and changing subject.  Candidates who don’t read up on social media constantly show a lack of passion for the subject and are likely not qualified.

#9:  They can’t speak in the voice of your company

Its tough for people to get it the “voice” of your organization right in the first interview.  It will actually take months for them to really understand and articulate your brand in social media.  But they need to fit with your messaging style (edgy, artsy, geeky, etc.).  Ask them about your industry, and competitors, and what they think of your existing social presence.  If they can speak in general terms, they will be able to figure out how to speak specifically for you.

#10:  They think social media is not for selling

You need to accomplish business goals to get an ROI from social media.  Yes, 80% of their effort on social channels should be spent informing, entertaining and simply interacting with people.  But if they are not comfortable with driving your business forward via conversions – “asking for the order” so to speak – then they won’t be good at achieving your business goals.

I was impressed with Eve’s “What CEOs Need to Know Before Hiring a Social Media Director” webinar and would love reader feedback on what other red flags to watch out for when interviewing social media pros.  Check out Eve Mayer Osburn’s profile here.

Happy hiring!

(red flag image from Fotolia)


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