How to impartially choose a qualified Webmaster?
May 23, 2008 11:33 AM   Subscribe

An organization I'm in needs to fill the newly created position of Webmaster. How should we determine if a candidate is qualified to hold this position? And any advice on making an impartial selection if the only person among those making the decision with any web experience, is also a candidate?

An organization I'm a member of recently established the position of Webmaster. Previously, the Secretary of the organization was the default webmaster, but as the group has grown, and with the increasing importance of the internet, it's clear that this needs to be its own position, filled by someone with the appropriate skills.

The Board of this organization plans conduct meetings with candidates before making a selection. However, besides the current Secretary (who does happen to have web design experience and has been managing the web site for the past few years, and also plans to apply for the Webmaster position), none of the Board members have any experience or understanding about what this job really entails.

Two questions:
1) What should be the qualifications of the person to hold this position? How should they demonstrate that they have at least the minimum skills needed to do this job, which includes maintaining a small web site, an e-mail list, and any other web presence of the organization?
2) Any suggestions on how the Secretary can remain impartial while using their expertise to help the rest of the board come to a decision? (They already plan to abstain from the final vote.)

PS: I am the Secretary.
posted by LolaGeek to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Firstly, you really should reconsider the job title. 'Webmaster' is a title no self-respecting professional would be seen dead with. 'Web Developer' or 'Web Designer' (depending on whether the job is largely technical or largely design-led, respectively) are acceptable terms, and will attract applicants of a much better calibre. 'Webmaster' is the kind of title that is now only used by a retired person whose website is about cookie recipes and cats (sorry).

Qualifications are not overly significant in the web development field, particularly at this level; much more important is that the candidate is able to demonstrate, with a selection of examples, the kind of work they are capable of doing. But if it adds reassurance, why not contact a local college that offers courses in web development or web design? They should be able to advise you on what qualifications to ask for in your locality. But even with a qualification, your approach should be so look for examples of work.

With respect, it doesn't sound as if the position you're trying to fill is very junior (as measured in the Internet industry, anyway). Provided the candidate can talk about why web standards and accessibility are important, knows how to use style sheets, and has a working knowledge of something like Dreamweaver or Frontpage (and if you like the look of the sites they've built) they can probably do the job well enough.

To give you some idea (and I've been in the industry for 10 years), most web designers/developers with a single year's experience would be able to fill this position easily, and would probably look to move on to something more challenging quite quickly. Your main task is to weed out the ones who've been to a couple of evening classes and think they know all they'll ever need to know. Ask candidates about their aims and what things they'd like to learn in the future, as a way of gauging their interest and enthusiasm for this type of work.

As to the second question, I think you'd do best to define your role in the process; either you're a candidate and therefore shouldn't be involved in the selection procedure, or you're part of the selection prtocess but not a candidate. Anything else would be just plain unprofessional. I can't comment on the legality of the situation, but I'd imagine there could be issues with employment law.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, guess I should clarify, this is not a paid job or anything, it's for the community band I play in. We're now stuck with the title Webmaster, as we recently voted our new Bylaws into effect using this term. The official duties, according to the Bylaws, are to maintain our web site, manage any system used to communicate with band members online (currently a Yahoo group from which only group admins [our Board members] can send messages), and manage any other online presence of the band (e.g. a Facebook group).

The person who fills this position really doesn't need to be a "web designer," they only need to be able to update our schedule on the web site, etc. They don't need to be a professional in this field at all (although I am and at least one other probable candidate is).

Because I'm the only Board member with any type of knowledge about what this position entails, and because the Board is tasked with selecting the person for this position, I am going to be on both sides of the table.
posted by LolaGeek at 2:15 PM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: As far as I'm concerned, "Webmaster" is a perfectly fine title for someone whose duties encompass all parts of a small organization's web presence. (I held the title myself for 6-7 years, and while I'm now officially a "Web Developer," I'd have no problem going back to Webmaster.)

As far as I can tell, the best way for you to judge an applicant is to check out their portfolio. They should have at least a handful of examples of sites they have designed and/or maintained (that's how I got my first job in the industry). Identify some things that you like, or do not like, about their sites, and ask why they made those choices. Verify that they understand basic concepts like global CSS styles, user-friendly design, &c. It sounds like you're looking for some very basic stuff, such that any competent applicant should be able to demonstrate comparable skills with past work.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 5:23 PM on May 23, 2008

Best answer: In addition to the excellent suggestions for basic technical skills, you're going to want to find someone who isn't totally overloaded in other areas of their life, and who is interested in and committed to your group. People who like to volunteer often overload themselves, and people who have web skills and who want to volunteer can be in heavy demand. :) Also, you want to avoid the dreaded vanishing volunteer.

Also, think really carefully about how you want to approach applying to be the webmaster. If this is becoming important enough to need its own position, can you really do this job and be a good Secretary for the group as well? If you don't get it, can you be gracious about letting go what you've been doing (and presumably, enjoying)?

I just resigned as the President of my neighborhood association because my life had just gotten too full, and I realized that the thing that I wanted to be doing was working on the website, not being president.

(Also, my current job title is Webmaster. It makes me chuckle, but for a generalist position, it's not a bad title. For a paid position, the best alternative IMHO is Web Manager vs. Designer or Developer.)
posted by epersonae at 10:31 AM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: We needed to fill an editor position (pre internet) and were in the same position as you. We asked the editor of a like-minded magazine to sit in on our selection panel and give us his opinion. It worked very well and we all learned from the experience (including the guest panel member), and we employed a fantastic editor.

Ask a friendly experienced outsider to assist on the panel or at least look over the applications.
posted by Kerasia at 6:34 AM on May 28, 2008

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