Alumni Advice: Top 3 Ways to Stand Out in the Interview Process and Beyond

By Emily Goodson (‘07), Director of Talent & Culture at Optoro

Emily Goodson head shot photo

Emily Goodson (’07)

I am excited to share my top three tips for standing out in the interview process and beyond! I studied English Education at Wake Forest and after a number of years in education and career counseling, decided to enter a career in talent management. I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2011 to work at Deloitte in campus recruiting and now have the privilege of managing the Talent & Culture team at Optoro, a high growth tech company, also located in D.C. In this role, I manage our company’s recruiting, human resources, office operations, and employee experience functions. My team hires and onboards all employees into the company, plans employee experience events throughout the year, and is entrusted with one of Optoro’s most important goals, championing and sustaining our high performing culture.

1. Share your excitement for the company and share what you can do for them.

One of my mentors and favorite people is Mike Crespi, who I worked with in Wake’s career development center. Mike gave me excellent advice as I embarked on my career in D.C.: people want to know you are excited to work with them and also where you can help them. Talk about both of these things in your cover letter and again in each interview.

I love my company and want to see that same passion in anyone who interviews with us. Make sure you know why that company excites you and proactively share it when you interview. Also, be sure to highlight how you can help that company achieve more. One of our candidates this year included a blog post in her thank you note, which provided best practices for an initiative we were starting. That small touch showed us she was listening and wanted to push things forward. Those are the kind of people we hope to hire.

2. Write thank you notes.

A good friend and a fellow Wake alum, Jennifer Richwine, has a fabulous book on gratitude. Please read it and when in doubt, send a thank you note or e-mail to anyone and everyone you meet in the interview process. One of the most thoughtful people we have hired at Optoro is a person who wrote our recruiting coordinator a handwritten thank you note after being given an office tour. We knew immediately after seeing the letter that this person would represent our company and our core values well. Make sure you are doing the same in your job search process. A final tip is that you can use your thank you note to convey any follow-up you may have forgotten to mention in the interview itself.

3. Be intentional about growing and maintaining your network.

All of my jobs, except my very first position directly out of Wake Forest, have started through a networking connection. Be intentional about growing your network throughout your career. This process doesn’t have to be a scary thing, but it should be one you pursue once you have graduated. You can network through your natural strengths and interest areas. For example, join a volunteer group through your church, join a local book club, or join your local Wake alumni community. You will meet people through all of these avenues. Take the time to ask people questions and learn about their interests. Stay connected with these people by inviting them to events, sending them holiday cards, and connecting them with information that might be helpful to them. Again, this process does not have to be forced – it could be once a year or once a quarter, but make sure you maintain connection.