Interview questions for intranet content manager position
November 7, 2007 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to do a short job interview with some candidates for an intranet content manager position. I've never been on that side of the interview table before and need some help coming up with good questions to ask.

I'm a web developer for the site and they've asked me to do a 5-15 minute interview with each candidate to gauge their tech savvy and compatibility with me, since the person will end up working with me quite a bit. The position is mostly about writing news articles for the site and supervising other publishers' work on the site to make sure their pages fit within the guidelines for the site. They also have a hand in guiding the development of the site as far as new initiatives, selecting which feature requests get developed, etc. We have a publishing system where they use Word to create content for the site, so they won't need to know HTML or anything, but they can't be completely clueless about technology either. What would be some good questions to ask to gauge their general technology knowledge?

The only question I've been able to come up with is asking them to give an example of how they currently use the Internet that might be a bit out of the ordinary ("I store all my address and phone number information in Yahoo Address book so I can access it from anywhere while only maintaining it in one place" vs. "I use it to check my e-mail.").
posted by hootch to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Conflict resolution – How would they resolve a situation where they received 2 contrasting directions from equally important contributors on the same page/topic?

Their answer could be something along the lines of first trying to understand the goal of each requestor and based on the applicants knowledge of the subject find a way to get to the goal – possibly by finding a third option.

Moral of the story: a content manager needs to be able to understand the big picture in order to be most effective and make the correct decision. So taking a step back and meeting to find the goal of the task is a critical component rather than picking a side and just going with it.

oh yeah - you can also ask if they have CMS experience and to what degree as HTML would not be required but a plus.
posted by doorsfan at 7:56 AM on November 7, 2007

Example questions are best, you're on the right track. They key to using these questions effectively is to have some thoughts ahead of time that you are looking for in the response. It looks like you've already done that with your internet question: address book answer=good, "e-mail"=not as good.

Think of situations, both routine and challenges, that they will deal with in the job, and ask them for examples of how they've dealt with (or would deal with) them in this role.

With 5-15 minutes, you don't have time for a lot of questions, but a couple of this style will do what you want: assess tech savvy and give you a good feel for how this person will be to work with.
posted by altcountryman at 7:56 AM on November 7, 2007

based on what you've written, I'm not sure I'd worry about what address book they've used, or even their HTML/CSS competence, since it sounds like you guys have idiot-proofed the content flow somewhat.

Still, if they're supposed to be guiding new features, their general technical competency should be quite high, particularly if they're going to 'outrank' or equal you in some manner when it comes to new development. Developing features for someone who is clueless or can't write a spec is a fucking nightmare, as I'm sure you know.

If this is the case, offhand, I'd probably try and touch on the following:

1) they need to KNOW what's out there so they know what features your competitors have -- they should be reading some sort of blog or news aggregator related to your industry and CMSes daily. ask them what blogs they read. Hell, I'd say "what feeds do you have in your reader?" -- if you're in the content business and you don't use RSS, you're more than a little behind.

2) they should know know how to appropriately solicit and analyze user feedback and turn that into a spec -- you can't just take every email that comes in and say "Oh, I got an email from joe blow wanting avatars and sigs, so this is a high level feature that needs to be implemented sitewide immediately". You need features that are easy wins to add and whose benefits are explainable: example, adding RSS feeds, which helps users and can often get you crawled better. I'm ok with specs being loosey-goosey because (as a programmer) i love crapping my own features onto the pile; you may have a different preference, so try and see what their attitude is: are they very specific? are they going to make a mockup for you? Or are they going to say "We need comments on articles" and leave it at that. Ask them what features they would add to your site and why.

3) Ask them what went wrong on their last software project and what they would do about it this time. "What have you learned from your past software projects" Anyone who has worked on a software project in any capacity should probably have a nightmare story -- if they don't, they either don't know what the hell they're talking about, are ok with mediocre results, or don' t have any project experience at all (which might be ok if they're going to be working with someone else). I can't think of any software project I've worked on that at the end I didn't look back and say "huh, well, maybe this part was OK, but fuck, if I had more time I could do X, Y and Z much better".

i'm sure there's TONS of other stuff you could ask, but this is already tldr;. Hopefully this is useful -- I'm assuming everyone who interviews with you should be able to fufill the word requirements, so I'm thinking that it's more important to evaluate the software management competency, even if they're just involved tangentially (it sucks to have to constantly explain to someone in a meeting why you're doing something or what it is, or have them raise objections borne out of ignorance).
posted by fishfucker at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I always like to find out two things about potential hires: if they're bluffing, and if they have vision. That leads to one pretty technical question about something that the position must know; often I'll use 'describe the sequence of events' questions to gauge their understanding of behind the scenes.

In your case, you might ask 'Describe the sequence of events that happens between a contributor being assigned to write a piece showing up on our website'. That will quickly let you see if they understand what happens both technically and politically, as well as helping you to see what their telling preconceptions about your process are... plus if they did homework, they can show that off too.

Then, I'd ask 'What are some features you'd expect to see in a CMS 10 years from now?' This would show if they have vision about where software could improve, knowledge about things that CMS's don't do as well as they should, as well as a good grasp of how software grows and changes over time.

Good luck, and watch out for poseurs!
posted by ulotrichous at 8:57 AM on November 7, 2007

whoops, should be 'write a piece and it showing up'. You're looking to see if they understand what a production cycle is and what it involves.
posted by ulotrichous at 9:00 AM on November 7, 2007

how about
do they use firefox browser
do they like windows vista
do they blog and did they set it up themselves or just some generic online one.
whats their opinion on CMS on mobile phones.
have they tried online dating
do they play computer games. ppl who play computer games tend to be more interested in computers, depending on the game. maybe not for sims 2 ;-)

will they be having other interviews to gauge other things? its good to see their CVs beforehand.
To find out interpersonal compatibility I think you need to have more of a discussion than just asking questions. you can gauge a person better when they're talking more freely.
posted by browolf at 1:17 PM on November 7, 2007

I am a web content manager, and I think that, in addition to any technical skills, you should ask what the applicant knows about user-centered design and conducting usability studies (informal ones are fine, but the applicant should have some experience). I'm assuming that someone else will be reviewing the applicant's writing samples and asking questions like, "How does writing for the web differ from other types of business writing."

But I'm curious why any web content manager with experience would want a job where they have to use Word to create content for the site, and don't need to know HTML. It sounds like you're either going to find someone with experience who is overqualified for that position, or someone so entry-level that they won't be able to deal with the politics of deciding what gets implemented on a web site.
posted by Joleta at 8:09 PM on November 7, 2007

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