Phone Interviews

Over on Zoe's and Gretchen's blog, they are discussing the “Dos and don'ts” of phone interviews (OK, grammar and punctuation police, come and write me a citation for that sentence...I'm waiting for ya!). No need to restate what they have so eloquently stated. So let me just tell you the difference between phone interviews for tech and phone interviews for marketing. I'll follow up in subsequent posts with some “do“s (dang it...where are those punctuation police when you need them?).

So with marketing phone interviews, we also focus on competency interviewing. In addition to that, we assess industry/domain knowledge (I'll explain) as well as experience and knowledge of marketing fundamentals. There are certain traits or qualities that make someone a great employee for Microsoft in general;  in short,  people who are smart and can get stuff done (BillG came up with that about 25 years years ago and it still works for us). And trust me, I am thinking about this while I am on the phone with someone.

As far as marketing fundamentals, it really depends on the type of role I see the person fitting into (grammar police? anyone? anyone?). What I am trying to figure out is whether your approach to marketing really drove a product forward, helped you break a new market, helped you land a great partner opportunity, etc. And I want to know what it is about you that made you successful in doing that. Part of that is smarts, part is training that you have received in marketing and part of it is your understanding of the competitive environment. (See Gretchen, you aren't the only one that  is using your degree...that business degree of mine sure does come in handy sometimes!)

So the industry/domain knowledge piece is what I use to evaluate which client group/opportunity is potentially the right for for you. The other stuff helps me determine whether you could really have along term career at Microsoft. Typically, folks at Microsoft move different groups and different roles...because they are smart and adapt to their new industry space and working environment. It's difficult for a new employee to ramp up on Microsoft (I'll talk about the fire hose effect later) and the industry space. So I am usually looking for this industry knowledge in our conversation.

With marketing roles, the recruiter is really trying to make a decision about whether to bring you in for interviews. Sometimes there is a second phone interview involved and don't read anything into it if you are asked for this second interview. It's just that we aspire to learn enough about our clients needs to do a good assessment in our interview with you. And it's not like we are asking you to code or anything.

On the marketing side of the house, we are lucky enough to not have our questions published on the web (Chris Sells..don't you get any ideas!). But if you want to be mentally prepared for the phone interview with the recruiter and/or hiring manager, think business case study. Some recruiters use this more than others (and if I phone interview you, can count on it!), but I think the best recruiters are pros at this. They understand their business environment and what good marketing looks (sounds) like. And like Zoe said, you can't fool us. We are trying to make sure that you will do well in a face-to-face interview situation at Microsoft. As much as our roles are focused on filling positions, we are in the business of finding people jobs..the right jobs. And making sure that if that right job for you could be at Microsoft, the right people here know about you.

A couple final notes:

**Gretchen spoke about people not expecting much from the “HR interviews”  because  of the experience that they have had with recruiters in general. Don't make the mistake of thinking this will be true with your Microsoft phone interviews. Recruiters here are really passionate about the space they work in. Bottom line: I get marketing. The phone interview needs to go well for us to move to the next step in the process.

**Unlike some technical questions, there are no “right” answers to marketing questions. We are looking to make sure that you considered the right things, took a clear approach to solving the problem and were creative in proposing solutions. If we push back on your analysis, convince us.

**Be nice to the recruiter. The people we hire today are our hiring managers of tomorrow. We have a vested interest in making sure we hire people that collaborate well (with folks of all levels and backgrounds...not just recruiters). I too have had phone interviews with people that felt like it wasn't worth their time to speak with a recruiter. You can guess whether they got to the next step in the process.



Comments (4)

  1. Alan says:

    Hi Heather, thanks for all of the really great information here. This article is one of many that I am reading through while preparing for an upcoming in-person interview in Redmond. I was glad to see your write, "The other stuff helps me determine whether you could really have a long term career at Microsoft. Typically, folks at Microsoft move around…to different groups and different roles…because they are smart and adapt to their new industry space and working environment."

    I liked that because I’m looking at this opportunity as one step in a hopefully long career at Microsoft, and not just one solitary job. There are so many things that I’d love to do at Microsoft, and because of that I have applied for a lot of jobs there. However, now I am concerned that all those applications may make me look UNfocused instead of MULTIfocused (yes, I made up that word 🙂

    How do other Microsoft interviewers tend to view this kind of situation? Should I spend extra time in my preparations to properly position the breadth of my interests, or would I be better served focusing elsewhere?


  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hi Alan,

    Good question. I would definitely try to focus in on one or a few areas; specifically where you feel you would have the most strenfgths that lend well to the role. And then do your preparation around those roles and groups.

    All of our hiring managers will be thinking "could this person be a fit at Microsoft long-term?" but they will want your immediate focus to be on the job at hand (given their time investment in getting someone on board". I thikn the key is expressing your desire to be at MS down the road, but not as the intial job being a stepping stone. Hope that makes sense (I am on cold medication right now, so if it doens’t, that’s why ; ))

  3. Zeeshan says:

    I have applied for a job at MS for SDE and expecting a phone interview soon. Since this is my first exprience to be interviewd on phone aby any company, I do feel nervous. I don’t know whether I will be able to express my self completely over phone. Any tips for that?

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    You could try to think about the questions you’ll likely be asked and how you would like to respond. That’s an exercise that I go through every time I interview…"what will they ask me/how will I reposnd?". You can also jot down a few notes for yourself…things you want to highlight in the conversation. You obviously wouldn’t want to be reading directly off your notes for the phone interview, but it make help to just have a few words down on paper. Also, work through any technical problems out loud, let them know how you are getting to your answer.  hope that helps!

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