How to Get a Job at Microsoft Part 1: Preparation

Microsoft currently has over 18,000 unfilled positions world wide, with most of those in the United States.  While the demand for great people is obvious, getting noticed from among hundreds of thousands of other applicant can make the hiring process seem more like buying an Irish Sweepstakes ticket.  This is the first in a multi-part series that explains the secrets of getting noticed, getting invited for an interview and getting hired by Microsoft.

In this post I will discuss getting prepared to apply. At Microsoft, two of the most important factors that we consider when choosing the applicant pool is experience and passion.  We use a technique called “behavioral interviewing” where we try to discern what kind of employee someone might be based on how they’ve behaved in the past. In a behavioral interview you are asked about particular experiences you might have had, so you have to have had a lot of experiences to do well.  So the days of keeping your head down, getting good grades and getting out of college in four years are over.  Things that give valuable experiences at college that can help differentiate you include:

  • Leadership: students government & clubs.  Titles don’t matter; you need to have made a positive contribution like increasing enrollment, running a big event, raising lots of money, etc.
  • Internships & part-time work: IT-related is good, but any position where you had to show leadership, use initiative and solved problems is great
  • Out of class or hobby projects: These show passion and a willingness to do more than the minimum
  • Knowledge of cutting/bleeding edge technologies:  Most schools don’t teach these, so if you’ve gone out and taught yourself the latest thing it is REALLY impressive

So the first step is to actually be prepared from a career standpoint by taking the harder path and getting involved in student organizations, having multiple internships, and taking the initiative to learn new things on your own.  When I was a college professor I advised students to talk to their parents early in their education and tell them that the four-years to graduation model is obsolete and not the pathway to success for most students.  Taking longer and getting valuable experience during college is.

For an example of someone who is over-the-top enthusiastic about technology, check out Clint Rutkas’s blog about his passion for integrating software and hardware.  Besides his programmable disco dance floor and automated home bar tender, his latest project is a two-wheeled self-balancing skate board. Clint also video-taped several professionals from some the major game studios (like Blizzard, Bungie, Epic, Microsoft Game Studios), and asked them what they are looking for in an ideal job candidate and they are posted on Channel8, Microsoft Student Developer Community:

Links to other learning resources:


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