Tim’s Tips #2: How do you know if you are adequately prepared for your interview?

Today, Tim answers the question that many have asked: "how do I prepare for an interview?". Tim recruits for our Services business, so consider the context of some of his answers (and how you would apply them to your function).

With Tim's sense of humor, you might doubt that he is a real person, but he is. I swear. I've met him. See? That's him in the picture....the tall guy.

OK, here's Tim's take on interview preparation...

How do you know if you are adequately prepared for your interview?


Back in the day, Tom (one of my colleagues here) and I worked at the same recruiting agency.  I had a client that needed a position filled and Tom had a candidate.  We prepped the guy on what to expect from the client, what to wear, some good questions to ask, etc.  The guy flew out to meet the interviewers.  At the end of the day I got a call from the hiring manager.  Apparently the candidate thought it was OK to ask the hiring manager during his interview if he could take off his shoes because his feet were killing him.  Sooooooo…….using “Don’t ask to take off your shoes during the interview” as a basis, I have a few things you might want to consider when you are trying to prepare for your interview.

Ask the RECRUITER what they know:

·         Unless they are new, or stingy with info, they will know a bunch about the hiring team and the folks that have been hired before

·         Ask about the personalities – are they calm; serious; funny; hates UCLA football, came from the BizTalk product team?...try to find a connection.

·         Ask about what the people that got hired for similar roles did to help their pursuit

o   Did they prepare a biz plan outlining what they would do 30, 60, 90+ days on the job

o   Did they forward whitepapers or successful project artifacts (as long as they didn’t violate any NDAs)

·         Ask people you know that work in the group to tell you about the role/expectations

·         If you don’t know anyone you need to do some research


I like video presentations or audio discussions and use them to get talking points and value propositions (and some deep topics too).

·         Shawn Murray, a MSFT Solution Specialist here in Atlanta has some cool “prodcasts” at his site www.theiwcenter.com/prodcasts . These are interviews with product group leaders discussing what their stuff does – awesome Microsoft product material.

·         MSDN is also a great source for MSFT specific tech/product info.  If you search for MOSS and *.wmv you will pull videos of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server presentations (use *.vsd for Visio diagrams, etc). Pick different products, believe me there is a ton of info!

·         I also like Wikipedia for overview discussions of topics

·         And of course, check out the specific Group or Team sites from the company’s public site


Most Microsoft interviews start out identifying how broad you are with your skillset.

Then they start to figure out where the holes are…don’t freak out! No-one is expected to know everything about everything! (except for a couple of groups here)

At that point they take what you do know and see how deep you can go – this is key, you really need to apply to positions where you have your greatest strengths.  Your dream job may be posted, but apply to the job you KNOW you can get.

Depth in a skillset is important to us, but so is Scale: What is the largest project you have managed; largest Active Directory rollout?; how many Fortune 50 companies have you consulted with/sold into? Things like that prove that you really can use/understand the application of technology in circumstances most never see.


The interview process is theoretically a two-way street.  You are supposed to be asking questions about the company/team/person to see if you really want the gig.  The fine line is when you start asking what the interviewer would consider to be negative questions like: “It doesn’t seem that Microsoft really knows what they are doing with respect to competitor X. What do you plan to do about that?”  The better question would be “I understand that competitor X is doing Z. Are you guys doing A,B or C to address that?”

Your questions need to show that you understand the business and have an ability to probe and get sufficient info to start to craft solutions to problems


Manic is not the same as Passionate.  For me, I free associate a lot and speak really fast.  This is not something you should emulate in an interview.  Once you get the gig, you get to be eccentric (or “relentless” according to my manager…Heather probably has her own view).  One thing I have done…and it was really weird for me,….was to have myself videotaped doing a presentation.  You gain a really unique insight into how you look, speak, act when you are discussing something.  I have used that experience to really tone down my speed (clearly not with my co-workers) when I speak to folks in an interview.

You need to convey that you really want the job; the duties, to work with the folks you’ve met, and for Microsoft.  Then, TELL the people overtly that you want the job and hope to get the chance to work with them.  People want to hire candidates that have the skills AND the passion for the job.


·         Get a good night’s sleep

·         Fly in the night before if you can (and if you need to )

·         Look at it as an experience and try not to get too worked up/stressed.  Most people here are really cool/fun and aren’t trying to break you, just see what you know and if you’ll fit in with the team as a contributor.

·         Dress up – it shows you care

·         Bring a few extra resumes

·         Consider a notepad and pencil

·         Consider creating a biz plan for how you would approach the new gig in your first few months

·         Smile!

·         ASK FOR THE JOB!!!

·         Don’t ask to take off your shoes!...especially if you have stinky feet.


This has been pretty overview-ish, so I will try to provide examples of biz plans and some of the topics discussed in a later post.




 For the record, I'm going to concur with "relentless". Thanks Tim!

Comments (18)

  1. wine-oh says:

    So did the shoeless guy get the job at the end of the day, despite his odd request?

  2. AmyT says:


    Thanks for the great tips. Here are my most important take-aways from the above.

    I’m always surprised when people say that they have no questions in an interview. Please at least have ONE question prepared. How can you not have questions about a future role or the company or the team structure? And, if at all possible, take an interest and find out a little about who you’re actually talking to in a specific interview – by asking the recruiter/HR rep/agency or doing some digging on the I-net.

    Also as mentioned please come prepared with paper/pen and any other materials sent to you before the interview. I send out detailed schedules, info, etc. to candidates, that in turn arrive on the day of without them and asking for copies… Sometimes it’s the little things.

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. Lauren Smith says:

    How do you "ask for the job" in an interview?

    Is it supposed to be one of the followup questions to the hiring manager?

    It seems pretty pushy to put the interviewer on the spot like that, especially considering that hiring is not a one-person deal. There is a group of at least 4 or 5 people who will have input. Doesn’t asking for the job show that you haven’t researched the company and its hiring process?

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Lauren- that is actually a great question. Tim might want to weigh in here but I’ll give my opinion (when have you known me not to give my opinion?). I think you ask for the job without pushing for an answer. You basically tell them you want it. I have seen interview feedback come back before where the interviewer felt the prospect was disinterested or feeling really unsure that the position is something that the prospect wants to do. I thikn it’s a good wrap up to when your final interviewer asks if you have questions. You give them any questions that you have and then tell them at the end that you are really interseted in the position and why (you really connected with the team, you feel you could be challenged/make an impact, it’s a role you could get excited about, it’s the type of work you see yourself doing, it’s a space you feel you would be successful in, etc.).

    I don’t want to speak for Tim here, but I think you really need to cap off your interview experience telling them you want it. Think about it this way: the company has 2 equally qualified prospects; one who told the hiring manager how excited they would be about the role and the other one didn’t. The hiring group is going to select the one that did. Granted, no 2 candidates are ever the same, but it just illustrates the point. The hiring team wants to bring someone on board that is going to get really excited about being there. That person is likely to be happier in their role and more productive.

    I agree with you that being pushy and asking for the position with an expectation of an answer will make people feel uncomfortable.  I’ve actually had prospects ask me if I was going to give them a hire recommendation. I think you can use a sales process like that with a car, not with a person. It’s kind of a "what do I have to do to get you into this car?" thing…."what do I have to tell you to get you to give me the job?"….feels cheesy to me.

  5. Rob says:

    I was once asked during a job interview to draw something on a huge sketchpad. So I started doodling and filled the thing up with some pretty nifty artwork. The guy who got the job wrote "hire me". It was a pretty clownish situation-the whole time their yellow-eyed pet dingo (they were Aussies) sat under the table and stared at me in the eye. I’ll never forget those beastly eyes.

  6. wine-oh says:

    I was once asked in an interview what Microsoft office product best represented who I was, and it was not a Microsoft interview.  

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Maybe the Dingo ate their baby. Scary.

    wine-oh, they obviously looked up interview questions on the internet and found ours. 🙂

  8. wine-oh says:

    Haha. I thought that question was so web 1.0 🙂

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yes, totally. It’s all start-up bubbly and amazon.com loving, what’s open sourcy. OK, that doesn’t make sense but you know what I mean, right?

  10. I would be interested in a copy of the sample 30/60/90 business plan Tim references in his article. Very good information!

  11. DBarnes says:

    Interesting that here, it mentions dress up to show you care, but another spot on the site mentions that you should dress comfortable, I can’t think of too many situations where dressing up and comfortable fit the same outfit.  

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Really? I have several outfits that meet both criteria. Being comfortable (or dressing comfortably) doesn’t have to mean jeans and flip-flops. I can’t remember anywhere that I wrote that you shouldn’t dress up for an interview, so if you would please clarify what was said (or point to it), I’d be happy to explain.

  13. thana kamil says:

    Please help me find a work in Microsoft.  I hold a MBA in Technology Management from University of Phoenix in San Jose California in October 2000, my thesis was to use the PC laptop as  a tool for schools student instead of using papers.  So, the thesis was to go paperless starting early years in childhood.  Please contact me asap.  Thanks

    Thana Kamil

    my email address is thanakamil@yahoo.com

    my phone number is 408-335-3459

    Thanks very much

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Thana, I would recommend that you try applying for positions via our career site at http://www.microsoft.com/careers

    Good luck!

  15. Carol says:

    What advice do you have for professional mothers who off-tracked for special needs children and are moving back into full-time careers, particularly those who consulted on the side?

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’d try to get back into the field you pursued before, show on your resume that you have kept up with any developments in the field (through trainings, certifications), and address the gap on your resume.

    I’dalso reach out to the network of pepole tht you worked with before. They know the quality of your work and may be able to re-hire you or provide a recommendation.

  17. Lee says:

    I too was interested in Tim’s example biz plan and how one would be skewed to speak more clearly about activities and metrics in the Microsoft corporate language.  

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