July 21, 2003

Microsoft Recruitment

No doubt some people will be interested in my experiences of the Microsoft recruitment process, so here's how it was for me.

My past dealings with Microsoft over the last few years probably gave me a slight advantage in the right people reading my resume. Having said that, the fact that the parking lot at the Microsoft Recruitment building is full for 3 days each week with cars bearing "Interviewee" permits shows it isn't the only way the system works though. There are currently over 1300 jobs listed on the Microsoft Careers website, so the recruitment machine is BIG. Personally I think you have to admire the strategic vision of a company that is increasing its recruitment efforts at exactly the time when lots of people are becoming available through layoffs and downsizing in the rest of the industry.

In total I had 14 hours of interviews - starting with a 2-hour telephone interview, then 11 hours of on-site interviews with 8 different people, then a final 1 hour telephone interview. It really is a tough process, and certainly not for the faint hearted.

I did not get any of the "Why is a manhole-cover round?" type questions, but I got lots of "What would you do in this situation?" type questions. I'm not entirely sure why I was spared - it may be because I am an experienced candidate for a senior position I guess, or it may be that they already know the way I think through my weblog (which was actually a comment made by one of the interviewers).

I did get to write some code on a whiteboard though - which truly is the most unnatural thing in the whole world, as Chris Sells points out. Explaining all the reasons for each part of the code as you write it makes you sound totally slow and dumb, like you're dreaming it up on the spot, and so may not be the best approach for a programming job.

I also had to do a whiteboard exercise around the design / architecture of a large-scale IT system, including discussing the potential problem areas and some possible alternative technical solutions to solve them.

Overall, I enjoyed the interview day in a masochistic sort of way! It was both a huge challenge and an exhilarating experience at the same time. Being offered the job at the end of it was an added bonus.

What advice would I give to others interviewing at Microsoft?

Be passionate, be keen, but most of all just be yourself.
If you are hired, it will be because of who you are rather than who you think you should be.

As someone who has recruited technical staff in the past, I can say that Microsoft's recruitment process is actually one of the best I have seen / experienced. I have had to make recruitment decisions in the past after having met with people twice for only 2-3 hours total. You can fake almost anything for that amount of time, but 14 hours of probing will always get through to the real you. At the end of the day, Microsoft doesn't recruit you for what you already know (read the Microsoft employment contract to see that in writing!), but how you think and what you are capable of in the future.

I think I'm going to have a great time, and a fun experience all rolled into one!

Entry categories: Microsoft
Posted by Jorgen Thelin at July 21, 2003 01:40 PM - [PermaLink]
Why didn't you get the "Manhole cover is round" questions ? Well, because interviewers have been asked not to do the puzzles anymore. Congrajulations and welcome to the Redmond campus :) P.S. Sorry for the anon post. Posted by: on July 29, 2003 08:36 AM
There are still one or two who insist that solving the "Tower of Babel" is a good test for a program manager ;) Some other tips are 'never call yourself an expert', and 'never lie on your CV' Posted by: Steve on October 10, 2003 04:40 PM