In the November installment of the Virtual Vocations “Ask a Hiring Manager” series, we sit down with Leigh Hoodenpyle, Human Resources Manager of SMC National. Based in Roseville, California, but with multiple work from home marketing job opportunities, SMC National is a full-service marketing agency for the dental industry.
In a highly competitive industry—especially for remote applicants—Hoodenpyle shares her thoughts as a hiring manager on how genuine, well-prepared applicants can enhance their profile through every step of the hiring process. By doing so, applicants not only let their skills and expertise shine but also showcase parts of their personality that make them an excellent cultural fit for a company.
“I want employees that never stop having that thirst for knowledge and personal/professional growth. Even though we are a completely remote company and our interviews are done remotely, I still expect people to be on time and dressed nicely (at least from the top up) for their interview.”
What Are Some of the Best Answers or Worst Answers You’ve Heard in an Interview? What Were the Questions?
To me, the best answers are when someone answers whatever the question is in a genuine way. They don’t answer what the ‘right’ answer is or what they believe I want to hear. I want to hear someone’s honest answer so I can get to know them as a whole person, not just a combination of their skills or experience. I have interviewed people with a ton of experience, but they answer questions like a robot or with very canned or clichéd answers.
And usually, I don’t put those people through. Instead, put someone with less experience but were themselves in the interview. To me, those kinds of people make the best employees because they have a level of self-awareness and usually, have a thirst for knowledge and evolving as not just an employee but as a human being.
As for questions:
- How have you changed in recent years? Canned answer: I have gotten more proficient in my skills. I have become a better employee (This is true of everyone that gains experience, [and] there is no depth to the answer.)
- Name your weaknesses: Perfectionism. (Clichéd answer. [It] tells me nothing about yourself or that you have any self-awareness. No one is perfect, so tell me what really is your weakness.)
Is There Something in a Cover Letter That Makes a Candidate More Attractive for a Work From Home Marketing Job? Is It Something Outside of Their Professional Careers Such as Interests or Other Pursuits?
I have been in positions that require cover letters and other companies that don’t. For a cover letter, I want something that is tweaked to the position and company they are applying for and not something that feels like they sent to 100s of others. I like to see that an employee has done research on our company, and they remark about something unique on our website and/or job posting. I want to hear about why they think they would make a good fit. And hint here: that isn’t just stating you have all the qualifications listed in the posting.
I want to hear about your passions and other interests, so I can get a feel for you as a complete person. Our company prides itself on the culture we have created, so it is important for employees to be a good fit—even more important than being able to check off all the job requirements! Also, if there are any requests or easter eggs to go into the cover letter, make sure to do it. Proofread everything. Lack of attention to detail will get you cut in our hiring process fast.
How Do You Feel About the Use of Pre-Interview Assessments on Job Boards?
I don’t mind assessments because they can provide more information on an applicant. It doesn’t make or break a candidate in my eyes, but it’s just another piece of the puzzle in getting to understand them in a complete way. We usually require our candidates to take the 16Personalities Test to submit with their cover letter and resume. Once hired, we often have employees take the Kolbe Test. It is really more for the company’s benefit in my opinion because it helps us align people with their passions and skill sets better.
Experts Say That You Only Have a Matter of Seconds to Make an Impression With Your Cover Letter. What Are Three Things You See on Cover Letters That Will Cause You to Immediately Reject an Application?
- Not proofreading or using a format or font that is easy to read.
- The letter finally reads like a canned response or template with all the “right” things to say—disingenuous. [Or] not telling me your passion or what makes you unique—even if not directly related to the job—from all the other applicants.
- Not following directions, like easter eggs, including assessment results or not applying in the correct spot (i.e., applying directly to a job board and not using our bamboo link).
When It Comes Down to It, How Do You Decide Who Gets the Work From Home Marketing Job Offer?
At SMC, it is a group process. We do multiple interviews:
- One that is with HR/Culture Department
- One with the direct managers
- And a final one with our president
We compare notes, and then usually the president—with suggestions from the HR/Culture department—makes the final decision. Finally, we like to pick people who are a great culture fit over someone that may have more experience but less of a cultural fit. We like to see people that have a passion for being impactful and helping people. SMC National is congruent with our core values; we live as we believe so we expect the same from our employees.
What Do You Wish Applicants Would Pay More Attention to in the Application Process?
Interviewing skills! With cover letters and resumes, of course, pay attention to details like format, spelling, spacing, and ease of being able to skim quickly to get the highlights. But ultimately, it is the interview that makes or breaks you. You can have the most impressive resume but if you don’t make that passion come alive in an interview or you brush it off with nonchalance or arrogance, I am not going to pick you to move on.
What Answers from Interviewees Do You Never Want to Hear Again?
Perfectionism for sure. I also want people to know it is okay to say:
- I don’t know or can we come back to that question
- I need a moment to think about it
I would rather someone take a moment than throw out a canned response. It shows me that you care about the interview and are thoughtful about your answers. I also encourage people to use personal examples if that answers the question better. [This is] because I want to get to know you. [Also], any answers that are disingenuous or feel too practiced. Or an applicant that can’t think of any way they could improve, learn, or evolve. We are all works in progress even if super experienced in our field.
What Makes You Want to Learn More About a Candidate Enough to Ask Them for the Interview?
When their passion and/or excitement shines through their application. When there is a sense of the personality behind the resume. I also like resumes that are designed well—not too cluttered and easy to read. I look at a lot of resumes. Don’t make me search for your highlights, skills, or experience. That said, don’t overdesign it either.
I also enjoy it when people put in hobbies or other sneak peeks into their non-work lives. It helps when trying to determine if someone could be a good culture fit for SMC.
What Do You Consider Are Potential Red Flags in a Candidate During the Hiring Process?
- Never taking accountability
- Everything was always someone else’s fault…a boss, a co-worker, etc.
- Arrogance and presenting oneself as the be-all, end-all in your field
I want employees that never stop having that thirst for knowledge and personal/professional growth. Even though we are a completely remote company and our interviews are done remotely, I still expect people to be on time and dressed nicely (at least from the top up) for their interview.
The application process is more than just regurgitation of clichéd cover letters, resumes, and interview answers. It’s presenting yourself in a way that gels with a company on many layers. As Hoodenpyle illustrates, the weight placed on genuineness is often just as important as experience and skill. So if you’re searching for a work from home marketing job, remember: honesty and preparation are a formula for success.
Are you a hiring manager who’s interested in appearing in our “Ask a Hiring Manager” monthly segment? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to set something up with the team. We’d love to hear from you!
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