Why Employers Ask What They Do, and What They Want to Hear From Students

A student leaves his résumé with Microsoft employer and UVA alumna Christine O’Mara.

This week, students across the University of Virginia suited up, printed out their résumés and headed to the Spring Job and Internship Fair, where more than 180 employers were ready to meet and hire students for internships and jobs across a wide variety of industries.

While this is a great opportunity for students to meet with employers, network and ultimately obtain jobs and internships, the process can often be nerve-wracking if students don’t know what to say, what sorts of questions to ask, or how to respond to questions that employers pose to them.

UVA Today caught up with employers ranging from Microsoft to Abercrombie & Fitch to find out some of the questions that employers love to hear from students, as well as the types of questions their companies like to ask.

Carly Hazard, Abercrombie & Fitch

What we like to ask: What has interested you in our industry in the retail space?”

I like to ask this question because, despite the fact that most students don’t have a background in retail, understanding why they’re drawn to the industry is helpful to us in understanding what role would actually be the best fit for them.

What are your long-term career goals?”

I love hearing about long-term career growth and what that path looks like. We are thinking about what students’ long-term career path might look like with us, so it’s nice to hear when they have that type of interest as well.

Michael Golden, Altria

What we like to ask: “What are you interested in?”

I like this question because I think you can tell a lot by how students answer this, such as whether we think our job function or company is a good fit for them. We want to know not necessarily what students are studying, but more of how they are looking to apply that.

What we want to hear: Something specific to the job we are recruiting for.

We love when students show that they’ve done their homework. It saves a lot of time when students don’t just walk up to us and ask, “What do you do?,” which is kind of a vague question. It’s much better hearing something such as, “I read this about the company” or “I want to get your opinion on what the internship is like because I heard x, y and z.”  

Christine O’Mara (2016 UVA grad), Microsoft

What we like to ask: What has been your favorite project to work on?”

We love hearing about students’ favorite projects, whether that is at school, at work or a side project. It is really great when a student has a side project and they haven’t had much internship experience, because it shows that they’re a self-starter and they’re willing to take the initiative.

What we like to hear: How can I improve my résumé? What would you like to see from me next year?”

I really love that question because it shows that a student is willing to learn and grow. A lot of times we look at students early on and many times they won’t have much experience, but there’s a lot of ways to really grow and improve. And if a student acts on those things, they can become a really strong and competitive applicant.

Olivia Rusnak - Oracle

What we like to ask: What are two things that motivate you?”

This question displays students’ drive and where their head is at, as well as what they are motivated to do in life, so I think it is an important question to ask.

What we like to hear: What are the next steps in the process?”

This shows that they are truly interested in the opportunity and it closes an interview in the same way to closing a sales call – which is primarily what we interview for.

Matt Lyden, Medical Properties Trust

What we like to ask: What is your favorite thing to do?”

I like to ask this question because we want to know candidates’ interests, what they’re looking for and what excites them and motivates them in the workplace.

Lora Kim (a 2016 UVA alumna), Lewin Group

What we like to ask: Why do you want to work here?”

I look forward to their willingness to learn and being open to the position because they may not have health care policy knowledge, but if they’re willing to learn about it, that’s what matters.

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

Senior Writer and Assistant Editor of Illimitable Office of University Communications