How To Increase Your Chances Of Surviving A Microsoft Interview


I’ve talked with several people recently about how they can increase their chances of making it through their upcoming interviews at Microsoft. After noticing definite patterns in their questions, and in my answers, I decided to record them here where they may help a broader audience.

I’m so nervous! Yep! In my ten-plus years here at Microsoft I’ve been through forty-some informational interviews and close to ten full interview loops, and I still get nervous, and am sure I am doing horribly, and I am talking really fast, and . . .

Take a breath. Slow down. Be yourself. Yes, you may not have any idea how to solve the problem your interviewer just asked you. It doesn’t matter. Unless you have a bad interviewer, what they are most interested in is how you approach the problem, not whether you come up with the best solution. More than once I’ve gotten stuck on “I know there’s a better way to do this!”, and so I’m standing there doing nothing rather than working towards a solution – *not* helpful in getting hired!

They keep asking me to write these algorithms I’ve never heard of! Tell them! I never studied computer science and so run into this all the time. Tell your interviewer that you aren’t familiar with the algorithm, or concept, or whatever, and that you’ll work through it as best you can. Remember, your interviewer wants to see how you solve problems. They can teach the particular programming language they use or the problem domain they are in as long as you can work through a problem you’ve never seen before.

I have to code?!? Maybe. It depends what job you are interviewing for. Dev or Test, definitely, in at least one interview and probably all of them. Program Manager, UI Designer, something other discipline, maybe – it depends on the group.

Will I be asked those stupid impossible-to-solve-unless-you-know-the-gimmick questions? Maybe. Personally, I *hate* them!

What else do I need to know? Be yourself. Ask questions. Explain your thought process. Ask for what you need. Remember: if it’s the right job for you, you’ll get it!

Comments (6)

  1. Hello Braidy Tester,

    I have been following your blog for close to an year now, silently of course! I liked the Favorite Bugs series though I have not gone through your older posts. Thank you very much for your engaging posts. Not just engaging, but making me think further many days after I have read the posts.

    I liked this post for your candid way of helping out interviewees interviewing with Microsoft.

    Regards,

    Parimala Shankaraiah

  2. Parimala: Thanks for letting me know you like my posts!

  3. Anu says:

    Nicely articulated…I identify so much with the nervousness bit and I can’t count the number of times I have gotten into fights with fellow interviewers that ask "a-ha questions". You can’t infer a thing from those qs – irrespective of whether the candidate answers or not, you know nothing about his analytical skills post the q.

    How is your Windows phone gig going? Any posts coming up on that?

  4. Anu: Going well! I posted today on WP, and there will definitely be many more!

  5. Testing says:

    How much does Software Tester start pay for people with BA in other area.  With STE cert from BCC.

  6. Testing: Regarding pay at Microsoft, that entirely depends on your experience prior to Microsoft and how well you do on your interviews. As for pay at other companies, I haven’t a clue.