So You Want To Work For Microsoft…

Several people have emailed me recently asking for tips on getting through their upcoming interviews at Microsoft. My advice:

Be Yourself. I believe this is the most important tip I can give you. I find that how someone fits (or does not fit) with my team is much more important than what they profess to be able to do. If you pretend to be someone other than you in fact are, I believe you are doing both yourself and your potential teammates a disservice. If the true you is not a good fit for a team, why ever would you want to join it?

How You Approach A Problem Is Way More Important Than Whether You Solve It. You will be asked all types of questions, from "Tell me about your background" to "Tell me about a time when ..." to "Write a function that ...". Each of these is intended to provide insight into your fit with your prospective team as well as with Microsoft in general. An important component of how well you do or do not fit is the approach(es) you take as you solve a problem. Take, for example, the coding you will almost certainly be asked to do. I have never had anyone complete my coding question. This does not bother me. I do not care whether the person I am interviewing knows C# inside and out if they haven't a clue how to solve problems they have never seen before. Nor I do care (much) how awful their code is so long as I feel their approach(es) to solving the problem is effective.

These are my tips. I could give you many more. They might help you. They are not necessary. Remember to be yourself, and to focus on how you approach the problems you are given rather than whether you solve said problems, and you will be fine.

If these tips help you get a job at Microsoft (or anywhere else, for that matter), let me know!

P.S. If you are interviewing at Microsoft, why aren't you interviewing with my team? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great testing and coding skills required.

Comments (2)

  1. Branislav Grujic says:

    Hey Michael, I am going for my first interview the week of 23rd/24th with Microsoft. I have done some research on the interview process and personally believe that this page gives the best two tips: Be yourself and How you approach a problem is Way More Important Than whether You solve It. I’m generally preparing by trying to improve my problem solving skills in general.

    After having several interviews last year with companies such as Amazon, I learned that not over stressing and being your self will help you do better, and If you don’t get it? Learn from your mistake and try again.

    This is definitely a good read for anyone wanting to work at Microsoft, good post.

  2. I am the technical interviewer for my team and I have some advice as well. First, I would echo Micahel’s advice. It is solid.

    I want to expand on the "be yourself theme" make sure your resume is accurate about your technical skills and work experience. If someone resume lists them as a C# expert and they have a hard time doing a loop I am very likely to recomend no hire. However, the same person who resume says C# beginner who can solve my technical problems despite not knowing the language well is likely to get a hire recomendation.

    Interviewers are likely to use your resume as a guide for who you will interview with. C# "experts" will go to the programmes. SQL "gurus" will get someone who will want to talk a lot about SQL particulars.

    If you inflate your resume you are likely to get in over your head. If you lie on your resume you are likely to be busted at some later date and then fired.

    The next thing we look for are people who are excited about some aspects of the job. You might be fascinated by the product, or programming might just be your favorite thing ever. Testing could be the thing that makes your eyes light up. If there isn’t anything about the job that excite you but the paycheck, then you are probably wasting time interviewing.

    Lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. If you have an inteview go badly (especially your first ever MS interview) don’t sweat it. Tell your recruiter you really feel like you didn’t do your best and ask them to send you to another group. If you know someone at the company see if you can get some practice interviews. I have been at the company nearly 8 years and I still sweat when I do interviews to change groups. It’s OK to be nervous and show it as long as you don’t shut down.

    Good luck. We are always looking for talented engineers. I look forward to working with you some day.

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