Should you interview potential moderators?

by Martin Reed on 30 June 2007 in Articles

Back in March I wrote an article entitled ‘How to recruit forum moderators‘. Since writing the article, I have come across many forum posts from forum administrators asking whether they should interview potential new moderators and/or seek references.

In this article, I will share my opinions and thoughts concerning this area of moderator recruitment.

The benefits of conducting interviews and obtaining references

Interviews allow you to ‘feel out’ the character and personality of a person. You can ask specific questions and ask for details of relevant experience the candidate has for the role.

Similarly, the applicant has the opportunity to ask questions and determine whether the role is really something they want.

References also help determine the character of a potential applicant – after an interview you will have formed your own opinions about the applicant. A reference gives you the opportunity to see how accurate these opinions are, from the viewpoint of others that know the applicant well.

Problems with the interview and reference process

All these advantages sound great, right? Well they are – but they are also time consuming and not always the best way to judge an applicant.

Some people are great at interviews, others are not. Effectiveness in an interview is not always a reflection of a candidate’s suitability for the position. Similarly, references may not be an accurate indicator as they are often full of praise and tend to gloss over any areas of weakness.

Conducting interviews for your moderator positions is hugely time consuming and offers no real advantages over my preferred method of moderator selection – namely the person’s previous track record as a member.

Considering the track record

I believe this is the most accurate way of determining an applicant’s true character and suitability for a moderator role. Potential new moderators should be long-standing members of your community – this allows you to really understand the character and personality of the applicant.

Read previous posts from the potential new moderator – how do they react to controversy? How do they react to chiding and occasional abuse? How much value do they add to your community?

A member’s post history is a far more accurate way of determining their suitability as a moderator compared to interviews. You can see them for their true colours, and save the time and stress involved in interview and reference procedures.

Do you interview potential moderators? What traits do you look for when recruiting new mods?

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Tim June 30, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I agree with you on about every point. In our forum we’re currently holding a referendum which could just have very weird results. (the moderator election amongst the current mods already had a rather strange result).
Note: Whatever you do… don’t use democracy, it fails…

Martin Reed June 30, 2007 at 6:08 pm

Hey Tim – Ah yes, our good old friend democracy, eh?!?

A moderator election sounds interesting and is similar to the process we use at Just Chat to choose new Chat Guides for our chat forums.

Interesting can mean fun, too!

Layouts July 1, 2007 at 12:09 am

great post, it gives me lots to think about…thanks!

Smiley July 1, 2007 at 8:00 am

I needed a moderator for my message boards as spammers are hitting it in large numbers this past few days as I’ve had a surge in Yahoo ranks.

I simply went for the poster I’ve known the longest and who I felt was the most loyal.

He hasn’t been posting as much lately and he is my strongest poster, he posts more than all the others put together, so I had a hidden agenda – hopefully making him mod will make him more dedicated and give him another kick start.

His dozens of new threads a day is what keeps the community alive at the moment whilst we’re trying to get found by users.

Martin Reed July 1, 2007 at 6:35 pm

Layouts – I am glad you found the article useful :)

Smiley – It may be a worry that your potential new moderator has stopped posting of late; perhaps he has lost interest in your community.

On the other hand, promoting the user to moderator status may encourage them to get involved again.

In any case, yes – you should choose users who you are confident will continue to add content and value to your community but remember that quantity does not always mean quality!

Smiley July 2, 2007 at 1:56 pm

I don’t think he has lost interest, as his posts are still of high quality. But he has followed me from 2 different communities, and when he posts, HE POSTS, 300+ posts every time he logs in. It’s hard to think of new threads after a while!

Plus, he is the type who likes the titles. So, if you have a nice attractive title for someone who posts a lot, he’ll go for it. Like I said in another post of yours, the number of posts have dramatically dropped since I got rid of standardized titles.

I agree with your view that spam control should come first. This is exactly what I’ve told him. Any abusive or ‘bad’ posts that he feels requires deletion, I’ve instructed him simply to MOVE to a hidden section of the forums, where I can review myself later on and decide whether to move it back or edit. I’ve explained that his main priority is simply to delete spam posts.

If a new user logs onto your forums to find 2-3 spam posts, they are obviously going to think the forums are neglected and not bother!

Since I made him mod I’ve noticed him logging in more often and making a bigger effort thinking of new topics, though!

Martin Reed July 2, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Smiley – that’s great that things are working out so well with your new moderator.

Having him move questionable posts to a specific area for you to review is a great idea and allows you to better teach your new moderator just what is and what is not, acceptable in your community.

Chris October 30, 2007 at 5:10 am

This is very useful advice, and will hopefully give me more insight in choosing a new moderator. You see, my site is new, too new to attract a steady flow of new users. However, looking into these sort of things will allow the board to look more prepared and professional.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 1, 2007 at 1:09 am

Chris – I am glad you found the article useful. I have written a few other articles about choosing and developing moderators that you may find helpful:

How to recruit forum moderators
Keep your moderators personal but identifiable
Always avoid repressing your members
Ensure your moderators work as a team
Should you pay your forum moderators?
How to effectively moderate forums
Getting more from your moderators

I hope these links help – if you would like to see an article on something in particular, let me know!