Follow up Q&A on preparing for the Microsoft Interview

I've seen some great questions regarding Microsoft interviews (in response to my post on the subject). Didn't want my answers to get buried in comments so I'll address some of the questions here:

1) How heavily weighted are case study questions versus other types of questions such as resume details and why Microsoft?

It's really hard for me to comment on weighting of questions (there's not process for this) and I hesitate to give away too much detail around the interview process here. But let me just say that we want people who are smart versus just well prepared. And you can't really prepare for case study questions other than getting a good night's sleep and taking it easy on the caffeine (OK, maybe that's just me). These questions aren't pass/fail. You do the best that you can and hope that the skills you demonstrate in your answer match those that are important in the position. So I guess my point is that we are looking for “A” students and we aren't grading on a curve (I am saying this tongue in cheek but you get the analogy).

2) When it is the candidate's turn to ask about Microsoft, how appropriate is it to ask REALLY tough questions about Microsoft? For example...why has the target release date for Longhorn slipped significantly during the last year? What has Microsoft learned from this?

Do not be afraid to ask these questions! I really think that people who question some aspect of our business can be instrumental in making changes here. I personally value critical thinking. Just keep in mind that how you ask the question is important...and it shouldn't be a test of the interviewer (since they already interviewed for their position), but really your desire to understand their view of the business or industry. Also, don't be surprised if the interviewer then asks you what you think...we like lively conversations (and smart people...did I already say that?) ; )

3) Is it appropriate to ask the recruiter questions about compensation during the recruiter interview? ...

Generally, recruiters won't share too much comp information up front, but feel free to share your compensation needs with the recruiter at this point in the process. This may be different at other companies, but recruiters want to understand your compensation needs. I'd say that once you know that there is interest in moving forward with an offer, you should get into specifics. Recruiters don't want to get to this point only to have a huge disconnect, so they are motivated to assess any gaps between your needs and possible pay and work to set expectations, if needed. However recruiters probably won't give any  numbers until you are closer to an offer.

4) Any ideas on hot to get people to see my skills applying to different areas? (person is looking at making a career change)

It can be tough trying to make a career change at the entry point into a company. My recommendation is to look at positions that leverage something in your background. For example, let's say you have been a financial analyst and you want to get into product management. Find a product management position where the product has some focus on the financial vertical. If you are looking to do this, think about verticals and horizontals, customer/audience segments and technology domains. I have always recommended that people explore career shifts after they have entered a company. It can take a while to wait for that “right position” that really leverages your background, if you are making a change. In a company as big as Microsoft (and that is open to internal movement), people have lots of opportunities once they establish themselves as a strong employee.

Hope this little Q&A session has helped ; )


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