Employers increasingly consider “WordPress” its own skill set in today’s job market. It’s no longer enough to simply say “I know WordPress.” How do you prepare for WordPress-heavy job interviews? Learn some key bases to cover for the four main types of WordPress positions.
Four Types of WordPress Jobs
What kind of WordPress job are you looking for? I’ll divide this article into the 4 types I see the most.
1. Writing / Editing / Managing a WordPress site
These jobs use WordPress tools to create and manage website content.
2. Theme Development
Primarily concerned with the front-end look and feel of WordPress sites, these jobs leverage your visual design skills.
3. Plugin Development
Adding and changing site functionality makes use of your PHP development skills, along with other related experience.
4. End-User Support
Site managers sometimes need help using WordPress, and can benefit from your multiple years as a WordPress user.
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So Many Skills, So Little Time
Your use of WordPress for an employer will fall within one or more of the above topics. Below, check out the important proficiencies you need to show for each of these areas. For most topics, I’ve provided what I think is the best link to move you in the right direction when you need a little help. By no means is this all you need to know about WordPress for the rest of your life, but completing these lists definitely puts you near the front of the pack.
Bonus Tip: I’ve hired WordPress staff for all of these categories. No candidate ever had all items checked off their list. If you take time to learn all of these skills and prove them with examples, you’ll rise to the top of most WordPress job interview lists.
In addition to your general writing and editing abilities, you need to show familiarity with using WordPress in the backend.
Make sure you understand how to do everything the WordPress.org “Writing Posts” page shows you. That’s a pretty big page, so start with my list below, in order. If you get stuck, check the “Writing Posts” page to figure out what’s wrong. Make sure you can do everything on the following list.
- Create a new post.
- Change the permalink, and understand what it does.
- Assign a category or two.
- Assign tags intelligently.
- Write a semantically-correct post.
- Include HTML / CSS / PHP etc. code in a post using PRE and CODE tags.
<h2>An example of code inclusion</h2> <p>Here we have included HTML tags that will not be rendered, but will be shown in raw form.</p>
- Paste styled content copied from Word / RTF / etc. into the post without messed-up styling.
- Attach and insert a link to a PDF document in your post.
- Upload and insert photos into your post — left, right, and non-aligned.
- Know how to clear an element from a floated previous element using the HTML editor.
For example: If you insert an image left-aligned, and want the next 2nd-level heading to start below the image, how can you do it?
- Insert custom characters with the “Insert custom character” tool.
For example: Copyright symbol, Yen sign, etc.
- Understand what the “More” tag does.
- Schedule a post to publish at a later date and time.
- Set a post to be viewable only to people who have a post-specific password.
- Add a custom field value.
In addition to Posts, you need to understand Pages. Check the WordPress.org “Pages” page, and make sure you know the differences between Posts and Pages. Then, make sure you know how to:
- Change the parent of a page.
- Change the template used for displaying a page.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You won’t find much about SEO on the official WordPress site, but it’s an important aspect to writing and managing any website.
- Understand what SEO is.
- Familiarize yourself with at least one SEO plugin.
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Shared Theme and Plugin Development Skills
Theme and Plugin development share a number of skills. If you’re trying to get a job involving either theme or plugin development, you’d better have experience with the following:
- Creating settings screens and storing options.
- Using theme features like:
- Use of blog information functions to determine things like certain URL’s and certain file paths, rather than relying on hard-coded paths.
- Showing you understand localization.
- Demonstrating code formatting best practices.
- Using jQuery in WordPress.
If you have what it takes to design great user interfaces, you should consider building some of your own WordPress themes. As you gain experience, make sure you’ve covered all the following to help you land a full-time theme-related WordPress job.
- Build something using a grid framework.
- Build a responsive theme.
- Build your own custom page templates, including full width, left sidebar, and right sidebar variants.
- Understand the template hierarchy.
- Know how to make specific templates for specific category archive pages.
- Add your own sidebars to a theme in various places.
- Add editor stylesheets to a theme.
- Make a child theme.
- Understand efficient ways to debug theme problems.
- Know when to split functionality into a plugin instead of including in a theme.
The problem solvers among us may thrive on building backend functionality for web applications. WordPress provides a great market for such coding skills. Before you knock on the door asking for a full-time plugin development job, make sure you can at least do the following.
- Demonstrate PHP proficiency and ability to optimize code.
- Understand object-oriented plugin development.
- Understand the need for namespacing, and how object-oriented development relates.
- Understand WordPress security and secure development practices.
- Debug WordPress code.
- Modify content using filters.
- Explain what Custom Post Types and Custom Taxonomies are, and when best to use them.
- Create your own widget.
- Add custom meta boxes to post / page edit screen for capturing extra data.
- Handle shortcodes in content to output certain results.
- Pull data from external data source for display on the WordPress site.
- Use jQuery for various effects and DOM control.
Those who love lending a helping hand might best provide support services to other WordPress users. Big players in the WordPress world increasingly hire full-time staff to provide top-notch customer support. Make sure you can do the following before trying to get a WordPress support position.
- Demonstrate ability to communicate well in writing.
- Know how to create meaningful screenshots.
- Demonstrate complete, in-depth knowledge of WordPress core functionality.
- Demonstrate knowledge of the specific product you’ll be supporting.
- Show your history on the WordPress.org support forums and other such places.
Show your work
If I were hiring for any job requiring WordPress skills, I’d expect to see examples of your work. Smooth talkers can sound like they know what they’re doing, but you’ll get more mileage out of an interview by showing real-world examples of your skills. Show me sites you’ve managed, themes and plugins you’ve made, tutorials you’ve written, or some highlights from your community WordPress support. If you don’t have any good examples, there’s no time like the present to go build them. I’ve given you a road map above–all you have to do is follow it.
Tell me your tales
When you hire WordPress talent, what else do you look for? When you’ve been hired yourself, were there other specific requirements not on these lists? Do tell.