As part of the process for hiring a Content Manager, we asked interested individuals to submit any questions they might have so we could answer them for everyone at the same time. Here’s our first attempt at doing that.
As previously announced, we are also doing a live Q&A web broadcast Wednesday, July 17th, at 12 pm CDT. Make sure and sign up for that if you will be attending as we are limited to 500 slots (we will post a recording upon completion).
Here are answers to the questions we have received:
We indicated in the announcement for the position that we were accepting candidates from the United States only. That generated a number of questions.
Can you consider applications from Canada?
Out of many that will apply for the position are you trying to form a team of perhaps few qualified individuals to fill the position in the US only?; that will be sad!. The movement needs to be International in my humble opinion.
Would you make an exception for Canadian residency? I am a US citizen currently residing in Idaho, but may be joining my significant other in Calgary.
Would you consider a candidate who is a US citizen but currently spending a year outside the country?
Would I be able to continue living in Central America with periodic travel to different states?
I apologize to all our non-US applicants and potential applicants. We don’t have the bandwidth from an accounting standpoint to do all the necessary filings and the like to hire someone outside of the U.S. We also need our team to be reasonably close for travel, meetings, and other purposes. We’re grateful for the international support, but we’re just not in a position to expand our team internationally.
What type of equipment - technology wise - and specific programs would someone in this position need to have available?
What are the technology requirements for the position? Do we just need an internet connection, or a full suite of editing software? Would the cost to obtain these things be reimbursed or tax deductible?
Do candidates need to already have project management and publishing software?
We ask you to have a computer and a phone line. For that, we reimburse you up to $100 per month on an ongoing basis. We ask that you track your own receipts and expenses for IRS purposes. Strong Towns will provide all of the required software, which is almost exclusively web-based.
What software program(s) will be needed to complete the questionnaire tasks?
Just a web browser.
How will you determine the person best fit for the position? What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?
We work on this process as a team, and we’re all probably looking for something slightly different. The questions we will ask are designed to demonstrate how you will perform in the position (Round 1) and how you will fit into the work environment (Round 2). In reviewing the responses, each member of our team is certain to respond to different things. We have set up the internal review process to take into account everyone’s strong opinions—positive and negative—and work through differences. Ultimately, the ideal candidate will meet every team member’s strongest priorities, not be disqualified by any team member, and show enough potential in other areas to warrant an interview and job offer. Just be yourself and if we’re meant to work together, there is a decent chance we will.
If I will not be available for an interview during the first week in August, will that disqualify me from the selection process?
Sorry, but yes.
Will you please provide more details on what we could expect more specifically regarding the tasks that will be requested?
We’re going to ask you to perform some short tasks to simulate things you will be expected to do as Content Manager. We’re still working on the precise questions, but we try to make them so they will be relatively easy for a qualified candidate to perform the technical part, allowing us to focus on your style and approach in our review.
The one burning question I need to ask is, how much is this role's salary range?
Hopefully you’ve read the job description, which contains the salary information.
Would you consider a consultant for this work rather than a full time employee?
Sorry, but we don’t feel the need to do that for this position. We hire consultants for some positions, but this will be a full time team member.
What do you see this position growing or evolving into in five years?
It’s impossible to say. We don’t really work that way. Our track record is to be flexible, both with the unique skills a person brings to the organization as well as the tasks we need to do to accomplish our mission. There is nobody who has been with us more than a year that has not seen their role evolve—sometimes quite extensively—to meet both the changing needs of the organization and the core passions of the team member.
What qualities (outside of those listed in the job description) would make for a strong Content Manager?
What is the purpose of this role, and what criteria do you use to determine success?
What does success look like for a Content Manager? How do you measure success in this role?
It’s hard to say. The detailed job description covers the technical qualities we’re looking for, and the process we used is designed to de-emphasize some of the quirky (and unfair) things that come out during awkward interviews. Outside of all of that, the most important thing is to be a fun, interesting, flexible, and driven person who believes in our mission and our approach.
Success is measured organization wide; we collectively own our successes and our failures, so it’s a little hard to answer the question. Success to us looks like a rapidly growing audience of people who are exposed to our content, who identify as Strong Towns advocates, and who are inspired by Strong Towns to take action in their own communities. As a media organization, our content will be at the very heart of our ability to achieve those things.
Is there room for advancement within this role and/or the company as a Content Manager? Also, what does the career path look like for this role?
We’re not an organization with career paths and advancement in a formal sense. We want to help you succeed as an individual. If that means this position is a jumping off point to something bigger, we’ll help make that happen. If that means you eventually want to take on more responsibility and expand the role beyond where you start, that’s also something we would make happen. We’re growing very quickly and have found that growth provides a lot of opportunity for motivated people.
What does the day-to-day look like for this role? Which employees, departments, and/or teams would the Content Manager interact with?
What would a week in the life of a Content Manager be?
We’re a small organization (5 full time, 4 part time, and a number of contractors) so we tend to all interact with each other pretty much constantly. The Content Manager will be part of our Content Team and work most closely with our Senior Editor (Daniel Herriges) but also be an important part of our Outreach Team and our Community Building Team. Teams are how we organize our tasks and focus our energy, so think of them as areas of emphasis.
We use Asana to organize recurring tasks around our events and annual calendar and we use a Scrum process to prioritize short-term and long-term projects. We use Slack for most of our internal communication and Zoom for regular internal meetings. We don’t have set hours; some of us are early risers and some of us are night owls, some of us have kids and some of us have dogs (some have both). We stay pretty flexible day-to-day while also being very task oriented.
So, in summary, get your work done, have great communication, be positive and proactive, and it should all be good. How that manifests in a typical workweek is going to be defined by the person we hire.
Is the salary negotiable?
We’ll never say “no” but we have nearly 1,000 applicants and so we are pretty confident we’re going to find someone who is a great fit at the salary our non-profit organization has budgeted for.
Is travel a part of this position?
Definitely. Since we all work remotely, we do end up getting together twice a year for a staff retreat. Those are grueling days generally spent standing in lines at theme parks (our favorite place to hold meetings) or sitting around a campfire at a remote cabin. We integrate work and play really well.
There is also an opportunity for travel at other points during the year. For example, everyone is taking one week of the upcoming nine week book-related tour schedule to travel along and help out. That’s atypical, however, and we don’t anticipate the Content Manager being a role that has more than a couple of required travel dates each year.
What is the size and structure of your current content team/department?
We don’t really have a traditional structure, but in terms of the Content Team, Daniel Herriges (our current Content Manager) will become the Senior Editor once this position is filled. Charles Marohn, the founder and president of the organization, is active in a publisher kind of role, although he is also one of the key content producers. Jacob Moses and Kea Wilson both produce a lot of content as well and generally participate in Content Team discussions. We’re in the process of rethinking this team, a process that will depend on the skills and attributes of the person we hire to fill this position.
Since the majority of the company and this position is remote, what does the on-boarding/training program look like?
It looks a bit like a chaotic trial by fire. That’s an exaggeration, but we don’t have a formal on-boarding process or training program. We expect the person we hire to have a good sense of how this position should be performed. Given that, we onboard by getting any new staff people signed up for our internal software workflow and communication tools. We’ll then give some basic instruction, check in a lot, and provide a lot of early feedback until everyone feels comfortable. Our organization is pretty flat and open, so training looks more like doing with a lot of people willing to help.
What are the hardest times of year for the team and why? How can the Content Manager help make those times easier in regards to your individual needs?
That varies a lot. Things like member drives (twice a year), our Strongest Town contest (March), and our Black Friday Parking event (November) are areas where we really need a Content Manager to be working far ahead so we can focus on the moment during those important times and not be scrambling to do basic tasks. We’re now also taking on some larger multi-dimensional projects (content/outreach/events/community-building all in one project) that the Content Manager is going to be a key part of stewarding.
Fall and Spring travel seasons tend to also create stress as Charles Marohn (and increasingly others) are out speaking at conferences and other events. With more people doing those speaking engagements, and with Marohn’s book coming out in October and the extended Strong America Tour we’ve been planning to go with that, the stress of travel season may become an ongoing normal.
One of the reasons we’re interested in hiring a Content Manager is to provide some stability and dedicated focus on our most important area of competency: producing content.
What is your relationship with the International City County Management Association?
We did an event with them in 2018. They were great to work with and the event went really well.
What are your organizational goals for the next 5 years?
We are in the process of forming an advisory board to update our five year Strategic Plan, so stay tuned. You can read the current plan here.
I see you as neutral and not necessarily siding with any one part of the political spectrum. Would you agree with that statement?
We are quite intentional about not being political and not siding with any one political affiliation. Part of the Content Manager position is the need to be sensitive to how issues are framed and discussed, including the language used and sources cited, for exactly this reason. We believe that Strong Towns can happen in left-of-center places or right-of-center places, so it’s critical that our core message not get bogged down in the political narratives of the day. We talk about this a LOT internally and are very intentional about it. We hold each other accountable and have high expectations for each other on this.
Also, note that our team, our board, and our membership individually all have very different political dispositions. Our commitment to the Strong Towns movement compels us to not only work together, but to work to authentically understand, in the most generous interpretation possible, the beliefs and motivations of others. We have discontinued relationships with people in the past who were unable to share this generosity of spirit. People with strong beliefs are welcome, but those who are reflexively partisan will struggle to succeed in this role.
Have you worked or would like to work with the Main Street Program?
We have done events with many local Main Street chapters. We have a good relationship with the National Main Street staff and their President and CEO, Patrice Frey, wrote an endorsement of Charles Marohn’s upcoming book. Our ideas on how to build cities align nicely and we would enjoy an opportunity to work more closely with them.
Does Strong Towns promote comparative international town development?
Would Strong Towns like to work with international leaders as well, in order to have a global perspective of what has worked and not worked in other parts of the world?
Our focus is primarily North America. We’re flattered and enthused that others around the world find our work compelling, and we have had a number of occasions to have positive interactions with those working abroad, but we don’t presently have the capacity to extend our core work beyond North America.
In which states do you have the strongest representation and presence?
It depends on how “strongest” is measured. We find our membership to be rather proportionally distributed among the fifty states and throughout Canada. We also have some Mexican members, although not as high a number proportionally. We see a lot of conversation coming from large population centers, but probably an equal amount from smaller places outside the top 50 metro markets. We are approaching 3,000 members and, when we map them, there are no significant holes in the map. When we put out a call for organizations that wanted to work with us on hosting a book tour event, we received 225+ requests that included pretty much every state (and we’re trying to hit them all over the next 18 months).
What are the core values of the company and for employees at Strong Towns?
As a team, how does working remotely compare to working in an office?
In the hiring process description, the culture of the company was mentioned. Can you please describe the company culture in more detail?
We’ll answer these questions during the Q&A web broadcast. Make sure and sign up for that if you will be attending as we are limited to 500 slots (we will post a recording upon completion).
(Cover image via Public Domain Pictures)