Gretchen and Zoe on Channel 9 – What my interview experience was like

Wow, the memories. Gretchen and Zoe were recently interviewed by Scoble on Channel 9 about interviewing at Microsoft. Whenever I visit Gretchen in Building 19 and I walk through that lobby, I’m overwhelmed by remembering just how nervous I was waiting in those chairs to Zoe’s right. I think Gretchen thinks I’m crazy that I still feel nervous being in that lobby. So, here’s how it went down for me on that Friday, three years ago:

I arrived at building 19 with about 15 – 30 minutes to spare. I caught a ride with someone from the apartment / hotel complex who was also interviewing. This one alpha-candidate of all of us candidates sitting at the table decided she was going to break the silence by having each of us go around and talk about ourselves and what school we go to. We go around and the schools I hear are, “MIT”, “Notre Dame”, “UCLA”, etc. Finally it is my turn, and I hear myself say, “Mississippi State…” I’m thinking, “why did I get here so early?” Xbox didn’t come out for another 6 months.

My interview with the recruiter was really short. It was the first time I heard what teams I would be interviewing with. When I heard “Visual Studio” I about stood up with excitement. I had used Visual J++ every single day for almost 1.5 years in college working on WebTOP. I couldn’t wait to meet people on the Visual Studio team.

Dazed and confused, I interviewed with Exchange that morning. I had no prior testing experience, but I caught on quickly what they were looking for as a tester. I was really rusty with the coding questions, mostly because I was so nervous. I don’t think I did very well. I think I was still overwhelmed. Fortunately, I had a really good lunch interviewer who allowed me to eat (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!), so I was in really good shape, by this I mean I had a chance to eat food, when it was time to interview with the Visual Studio team that afternoon.

I think I did a really good job with the first interviewer. He asked me about WebTOP, and I explained to him that I had put together the Reflection and Refraction module that demos in VRML (virtual reality for web) how the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection and all that jazz (which means good stuff Jeremy, all good stuff). For example, say you’re swimming underwater. If you’re at a certain depth you can still see people standing alongside the pool, but the deeper you get, the less you can see of the surface. After I explain how I put the module together based on the professor’s specification, he says, “yep, Snell’s law.” I looked at him like “How did you know that.” He says, “I’m a physics major.” I said, “Oh man, I can’t believe I just forced you to listen to all of that.” He says, “well, you got it right.” I replied laughing, “I better have gotten it right, or I might not have a job when i get back to campus.” <grins>

The second interview I thought I didn’t do so well. I got caught-up on some stupid Math problem because I was taking an Advanced Calculus course (where it’s all proofs and no numbers) and I tried to write the proof that a number n cannot be divisible by any number greater than n divided by 2. As soon as I started writing, “For every epsilon in the set of R, there exists…”, i think it was over. Advanced calculus really messed with my head that semester.  I think the interviewer was surprised that I challenged his assumption about a number n not being divisible by a number greater than n/2.

Finally, I had my last interview with the test manager. He asked me the 4 jars testing question, which thankfully, I never heard before. After a few iterations, I figured out the problem. And the interview continued.  He started talking about life on campus, life working on his team, and…  Next thing I know, I shot up in my chair and started working again on the problem, saying, “you’re wrong, you can do it this way and here’s how…” Then I turned around and frantically apologized for interrupting him. I’ll never forget the smirk on his face when he said, “it’s okay.” All I could say was, “Sorry, it was still running in the background," hitting the back of my head.  He just laughed, and I just knew I had the job.

Comments (4)

  1. Chris says:

    What’s the 4 jars testing question?

  2. sara ford says:

    Comment Policy Notice: I will delete any comments that give away the answer.

    You have 4 pill jars. The jars are of equal weight and size with no identifying features of any kind. 3 of the 4 jars contain pills that weigh 10 grams – the good pills. The last jar contains pills that weight 11 grams – the bad pills. You have 1 scale. What is the least amount of times that you need to weight the jars to figure out which one contains the bad pills? Why?

    How does this apply to software testing? Because we live in a world where we never have enough time to test everything. This problem shows how you always need to think what is the most efficient way (read: fewest steps) to test with the most effective results.

  3. gretchen says:

    This is a great story, Sara. I’m sorry that visiting me makes you feel uneasy. 😉

  4. sara ford says:

    As long as i don’t go through the lobby, i don’t feel uneasy =)

    Slight correction to the 4 pill jars. "What is the least amonut of times that you need to weight pills from the jars" to figureout which jar contains the bad pills"

    What i have written above might be a Freudian slip. =)

Skip to main content