Random Tips on Interviewing for Microsoft

A co-worker recently asked me to share some tips on interviewing people at Microsoft.  I wrote a few up and figured I'd share them here as well. I love interviewing people and I get a lot of my style and tips from Gretchen since she’s done more interviews than I ever will.  Anyway, here is my perspective on interviewing for Microsoft. 

  • In the back of my head I’m always thinking “Could I work for this person” when I make my recommendations.  This approach makes me tune some questions such that I’m honestly hoping to probe into areas where I feel the candidate could teach me something. If I feel like I learned something during the interview it’s always a good sign.  It also helps when to think about this when looking for diversity of thought… what perspective or talents does this person bring to the team that we’re missing?  
  • For Microsoft PMs I generally look for “well roundedness”.  The vending machine series of questions I ask are designed to go after aptitude for interaction design, technical architecture, and testing.  Since PMs are best when they can be a jack of all traits I don’t expect ideal candidates to excel at every competency, but I look for strengths in all three (dev/test/pm) since you’ll eventually be working with every discipline, writing code one day, and helping people test the next. 
  • At least 50% of my questions have to be ones that I ask consistently. The rest of the space I reserve for customization based on the resume or role.  It helps set a good bar. 
  • I always like to start interviews (after chit-chat) with the standard “canned” questions for which most people expect such as something that’s really obvious from the resume.  I think it puts people at ease for harder questions. 

Anyway, feel free to share your tips. These were just the ones off the top of my head. 

Comments (2)
  1. J.P. says:

    I always start by having someone explain a project related to what is listed on their resume. I do this to 1. make sure they accurately listed skills on their resume and 2. make sure they are knowledgable and passionate about what they have either spent their schooling (or  career if not campus hire) doing.

    I will then usually turn this situation around and have them analyze themselves in the scenario the explained to me (usually this is done with a pointed question related to one of the core values). For example, what mistakes did you make, what would you have done differently, etc.

    During this first section I look for communication skills as well (not like presentation skills, but just that they can communicate the thoughts in their head).

    After that I usually transition to a technical question. This changes per person, per job description, and per what others have asked that day.

    I will also usually ask a puzzle question still as well. I usually don’t care if they get it right or not, but found that if someone can stay calm, talk it through, explain their logic, and draw it out, I am pretty impressed no matter what the result.

    Overall, as long as someone is well educated, intelligent, passionate, honest, can stay calm, and communicate their responses well I normally will recommend them for hire.

  2. Erik Porter says:

    I haven’t interviewed many people at Microsoft yet, but I like to ask them questions around their future.  Where do they see themselves in 5 years?  Also, what they like to do outside of work.

    These bring out a lot of their personality, which is an important aspect (for me at least).  It shows if they’re an under-achiever, an over-achiever, if they’re realistic with their goals, self confidence levels, attitude, work habits, etc.  It’s also usually pretty easy to tell if they’re telling me what I want to hear or if they’re being honest.

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