THE MICROSOFT INTERVIEW
Looking to land a job at Microsoft but don’t know what the process looks like?
Well, you’ve come to the right place. Detailed in this post is a look at the timeline of the interview process, preparation guidelines, and what's different or unique about Microsoft's interview process as opposed to other tech companies.
(keep scrolling FOR A FULL WRITEUP with DETAILS)
THE MICROSOFT INTERVIEW explained
Microsoft has a pretty standard interview process that resembles much of the other large tech companies. The interviews are a mix of coding and behavioral Q/A.
There are a few things that separate Microsoft from other tech companies and that can be boiled down to their on-site interviews, the fact that they hire for teams, and the "As Appropriate" interview.
Microsoft’s hiring levels start at 59 or 60 for software engineers. Those that fall under these levels will be SDE I and usually have 0-2 years of experience. Levels 61 and 62 are usually for software engineers with 3-5 years of experience and are denoted by SDE II.
We’ll now go through the interview process, preparation tips, and a deeper dive into what makes Microsoft’s hiring process unique. At the end we’ll provide you with some sample questions asked in a Microsoft interview.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
updating your RESUME
The first thing you should do is update your resume to be metrics/deliverables driven. Be succinct, show how what you’ve done relates to the position, and tailor it to the job description as it will better demonstrate how you’re a fit for the role.
As a best practice, it’s recommended that you apply on Microsoft’s career page as well as browse LinkedIn to connect with hiring managers, recruiters, and your own network. This shows that you’re eager to work there, and it may just put you on the fast-track to getting an interview.
When applying through Microsoft’s site, you’ll be asked to create a profile. Include all relevant experiences and skills that you have, as recruiters will use this information to steer you in a direction that aligns with your career goals.
Here is our guide on how to prepare for the coding interview with a 12-week plan.
CHOOSING YOUR LANGUAGE
preScreen with recruiter
The process from resume submission to first contact is generally around a week or two.
If your resume passes the test, a recruiter will reach out to you either via email or LinkedIn to schedule a call. The recruiter will ask what time works for you; assuming you’re brushed up on your coding skills and technical knowledge, it’s ideal to schedule this phone call as soon as possible so that your resume doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
This phone call will be around 45 minutes and is split into two parts:
First, they’ll ask you to walk through your resume, and sprinkled throughout the conversation will be behavioral questions to gauge your leadership, problem-solving style, and your ability to work in a team. You can expect to spend about 10-15 minutes here.
Second, there will be one coding question that will be administered through a shared editor. You’ll have the remaining ~30 minutes to develop a solution. The coding question will be based around algorithms and data structures. Sample questions include:
Reminder: Once you’re done, always ask what the next steps are so you have a clear understanding of when you’ll hear back from them and what is expected of you throughout the process.
To see the 15 most commonly asked questions in a Microsoft interview, click below:
Microsoft Interview Questions
If your interview went well, you’ll hear back from a recruiter within a week or two. Depending on where you’re located, you may be flown in to any number of the Microsoft campuses.
It’s important to know that with each interview you’ll be moving up the org chart. Each interviewer acts as a gatekeeper and if you perform poorly in your first few interviews, it may end the interview process altogether. Unlike at Amazon, the baggage of each interview stays with you.
The on-site interview is a full day of interviewing so be prepared to do a lot of talking. You’ll meet with 4-5 Microsoft employees for an hour each, who will be developers or managers that are on the team you are looking to join.
Halfway through your interviews, you will be taken to lunch. Now with most companies, the lunch portion isn’t an interview, it’s more of a conversation; at Microsoft, you will be interviewed during lunch. Your last interview will be with someone known as the AS-AP which stands for “As Appropriate”. This AS-AP will have the final say of whether you’re hired or not.
Each round will be a mix of Q/A and coding exercises. The Q/A portion is where they’ll ask you questions specific to your resume. It’s a good idea to practice answering behavioral/personal questions and as a best practice, be able to spend a minute or two talking about each line on your resume. One sentence answers are not going to cut it.
Your coding questions will be centered around algorithms and data structures, so make sure you study up on them. If you need a little extra practice, check out the link below.
Note: If you have more experience (3-5 years) you can expect some system design questions.
Be prepared to work through questions on a whiteboard and discuss your thought process, as your interviewer will look at how you approach problems, what questions you ask (this is key as the interviewer will only give a brief overview of the problem statement), and other approaches you may be able to take. In many cases, your interviewer is not so much concerned with whether or not you solved the problem (which is important) but rather how you think about the problem. It’s important to articulate your thought process throughout.
Data structures you should know:
Arrays, Stacks, Queues, Linked lists, Trees, Graphs, Hash tables
Algorithms you should know:
Breadth first search, Depth first search, Binary search, Quicksort, Mergesort, Dynamic programming, Divide and conquer
Prepare for your Coding Interview
Prepare for your System Design Interview
THE OFFER / no offer
At this stage, you can expect to hear from your recruiter within a week.
In the event you don’t receive an offer, you’ll most likely have to wait 6 months to a year to re-apply. You may be able to work with your recruiter to find a different position which can shorten the amount of time for re-applying.
On the other hand, if your interviews went well, Microsoft will reach out to you, at which point they’ll make you an offer, send you documents to sign, and discuss any further questions you have.
For more information on how to negotiate your salary, click below.
Learn to Negotiate your Salary
THE ON-SITE interview
If you perform poorly or completely flunk the first few interviews, they may send you home early. Don’t expect much feedback, but it’s likely they found a better fit for the position.
HIRING FOR TEAMS
Microsoft hires for specific teams. Because they have a wide range of products (i.e. Azure, SharePoint, etc.) it’s best to identify where your skills overlap and what sounds interesting to you. If you’re not sure where you fit, do some research and work with a recruiter to see where you may be best suited.
AS-AP (as appropriate)
Your last interview will be with someone known as the “As Appropriate”, who is a senior-level manager. They will be interviewing you with all the information from your previous interviews, meaning they already know how your previous interviews went. The AS-AP has a strong say for whether you’re hired or not. Eventually the decision will be made by the AS-AP and the hiring manager.
Microsoft, much like Amazon, has hiring levels. Levels 59 and 60 are going to be entry-level software development engineering roles (or SDE I). Levels 59 and 60 are typically new graduates or those with 0-2 years of work experience.
Levels 61 and 62 are going to be mid-level SDE roles (SDE II). People in these roles usually have 3-5 years of work experience.
HOW TO BEST PREPARE FOR YOUR INTERVIEW
In our experience, it’s best not to try to memorize specific questions. There are no silver bullets.
The questions that companies ask are always changing, because companies of this size are always trying to stay ahead of the curve and try new things. The questions you face will also depend on the team and the hiring manager.
Instead, it’s best to work your way through the fundamentals so you understand the underlying concepts and can answer even new types of interview questions with confidence.
Candidate feedback sample
- 2 minutes to read
The candidate feedback form sample is an Adaptive Card input form that's designed for collecting feedback during an interview loop. We recommend using this with a shared instant flow button to enable anyone on the team to provide feedback on candidates during an interview loop. Extend this by recording responses in a database or other desired data sources to support these additional opportunities:
Facilitate the review of follow-up suggestions before the next session with the candidate.
Facilitate aggregated data review after all responses are recorded.
Notify the human resources representative with the hire/no hire vote count at the end of the process
Inputs/Outputs and notes
|Dynamic Token Name||Placeholder Text||Notes:|
Domina McQuade, Microsoft: How Microsoft Hires Top Tech Talent
Domina McQuade is Lead Technical Recruiter for Microsoft’s tech and data teams, and has learned that hiring the best developers requires a world-class interviewing process. To do this well, her recruitment team focuses on sourcing and screening the best developers, a well-designed interview loop process, an internal debrief session, and building your hiring reputation.
She talks us through what Microsoft’s interviewing process looks like, why it’s set up the way it is, and how she thinks about each stage.
Domina has been recruiting for Microsoft’s tech and data teams for the past three years. There, she’s been a full-cycle recruiter, which means she oversees all parts of the hiring process, from sourcing candidates through to their orientation day. Her position has enabled her to get a great oversight of what success looks like at each step of the process.
But what sets Microsoft’s hiring process apart?
Overall, Domina and her team’s ability to hire the best tech talent comes down to two things: a structured approach that tests for a candidate’s core competencies as well as their technical ability, and a core focus on candidate experience.
“You’d be shocked at how often a candidate’s experience in the interview ends up being an attractor, or a detractor,” Domina explains.
“I’ve had candidates tell me about other companies, where they got ‘waterboarded’ for a day, and ultimately chose my offer, for less money because of the ‘meh’ experience they had at another company.”
To understand how each step is designed, and what her team does to make it really effective, Domina discusses Microsoft’s four-step hiring process in detail. The steps are, in order:
- Tech talent sourcing and screening (recruiter)
- Technical assessment and screening (hiring manager)
- In-person interview rounds
- Internal hiring team debrief session
- Building a hiring reputation
Teach talent sourcing and screening (recruiter)
At Microsoft, Domina says any recruitment process tends to start with one of three ‘streams’ for talent sourcing, namely:
- Online applications from people applying via Microsoft’s job page, for example.
- Referrals from current Microsoft employees, or people within a recruiter’s network.
- LinkedIn searches, where Domina’s team uses tool like LinkedIn’s Talent Insights function to conduct out-bound candidate sourcing.
Online applications tend to be where the most tech talent sits, but they require the most heavy-lifting for Domina’s hiring team. Often she says that they’re a hit-or-miss: “On the bright side, you know that they’re interested in your company, so you don’t have to do as much selling; but the downside is you get a lot of people that apply who aren’t quite qualified.”
Statistically, Domina has found that referrals still have the highest rate of successful hires, and is where a lot of Microsoft’s hiring energy is focused. This is because they are not only more likely to fit the culture of that particular team because of their networks, but referrals also make the hiring process much faster for the recruitment team:
“We’ll often have an idea of their work ethic and their competencies, so they tend to do better in interviews.” Domina explains. Referrals come from past experience, or known qualities, which help inform her hiring team of some traits they have already shown. “They’re also typically easier to close, because they already have a friend they know there, so there’s that sense of, ‘If I go there, I’ll fit in’. Plus, they’re easier to close because the person referring them usually does some kind of ‘side selling’ on behalf of the hiring team.”
Some advice she has for encouraging referrals is to build internal referrals contests, whereby team members are given rewards or badges for referrals that turn into hires. Alternatively, she’s also seen companies host ‘referral lunches’: “A manager, for example, would take everyone who referred a hire out for lunch. So, you get some face-time with a leader in your company. There’s a lot of creative things you can do if you don’t have a lot of budget to increase referrals.”
Mining LinkedIn is one way of reaching-out to top tech talent, but Domina’s team uses the LinkedIn Talent Insights tool built into the app. This tool’s data insights on the market helps her team understand how they need to adjust their scorecard to fill that role with the top tech talent available:
“Talent Insights basically takes all the data of everyone on LinkedIn, and breaks down all kinds of cool data: How much is male versus female? Where is that talent located? You can also see trends of your competitors, and what companies are hiring the most of that talent.”
Another benefit for Domina’s hiring team is that they are able to do specific keyword searches relating to the tech talent they need, and halve the number of profiles they need to look at. For example, if a candidate needs to be in Redmond and know basic Python, Talent Insights can pick out those keywords from someone’s bio, experience, and education, and only display candidates who match those keywords exactly. You can also filter out certain keywords to get an even more specific search result.
Online/telephonic recruiter screening
All three of the streams above turn into an online or telephonic screening with one of Microsoft’s internal recruiters: “What I do in that first conversation,” Domina explains, “is: I focus on trying to uncover what’s motivating them to talk to me at all.” Candidate experience lies at the heart of Microsoft’s recruitment experience, and taking this approach not only helps make a candidate feel like you’ve considered them, and it also informs the rest of the interview process. By knowing what a candidate wants, Domina’s team can can clearly communicate how the company does and doesn’t meet those expectations - so that the hire can be the best possible fit.
“You need to give them something - a better title, more money, more growth paths,” she says. “So I just try to figure out what’s important to them, and once I do that I can relay it to the rest of my team, and we sell on that through the whole process.”
Online/telephonic hiring manager screening (hiring manager)
Once a recruiter has had a successful screening, they share their learnings from their interaction with the relevant hiring manager - this includes a candidate’s goals, reasons for moving job if relevant, and some noticeable takeaway traits. The hiring manager then has an online or telephonic screening as well, which takes two forms depending on whether the candidate is a junior or a senior programmer: An online technical assessment or an hour-long remote meeting respectively.
The reason for this differentiation is that, in Domina’s experience, seniors don’t consider online technical assessments to be a true reflection of their experience in areas like leadership, for example. She explains: “They need a little more ‘wooing’, and selling, and a personalised type of process.”
For juniors, though, the online technical assessment helps Domina’s hiring team remove as much bias from their recruitment as possible. A candidate often has abilities that go beyond their CV, and by doing an online screening like a technical test, Domina has seen rock-star candidates shine through, where they otherwise might not have been afforded the opportunity to:
“One fun story was a candidate who worked at Pizza Hut, but he had a master’s - or maybe even a PhD - but his resume said Pizza Hut. How many managers do you think would have given that person a chance? But doing the online tech screening, he made it through. Interviews went well, and what ended up happening is the guy had two promotions in less than a year.”
In-person interview loop
After both the recruiter’s the hiring manager’s screens, Domina’s team invites a candidate for an in-person ‘interview loop’. This loop is done in one day, and comprises of between four and five interviews in total. The day is split into a morning and an afternoon session: The morning session normally tests for coding, design, and problem-solving abilities, and the second-half of the day tests for Microsoft’s six core competencies:
“Being a strong coder and designer is obviously important; but what is more important is what we call core competencies.”
Some examples of core competencies Microsoft looks for are:
- Adaptability: “The tech industry is changing so quickly that we need developers that are adaptable to changing technologies, environments and circumstances,” Domina explains. “The language you specialise in coding now could be irrelevant in 10 years.” Being able to show specific examples of when you’ve been able to pivot or adapt in the past will give the interviewers an idea of how you’ll act in the future.
- Collaboration: Domina’s team wants people who are good team players and can work across different teams or organisations successfully. “Part of our reviews,” she says, “are actually based on how we made others better. We don’t want brilliant people who can’t be team players.”
- Customer-centric: Whether or not a candidate thinks about a customer’s needs during problem solving, is another area that Domina says big tech companies look for core competency skills: “Are you anticipating customer needs or expectations? Can you give examples of when you put customer needs first or solved a customer pain point? We want people who put the customer first.”
The focus for the interview loops is the candidate’s experience. Domina and her team recognise that every candidate they interact with is almost always also a customer: “If they have a terrible experience with Microsoft in an interview, and they’re our customer, that’s bad news.”
For this reason, Domina schedules a prep-call with the candidate before the interview loop, does an entire interview loop in one day, and uses behavioural-based questions that encourage candidates to show examples of where their abilities shine through. These help candidates feel better prepared for their interview day, as opposed to arriving nervous or stressed where they won’t be able to do their best.
The prep call takes a candidate through logistics for the day - things like where to park, and who they’re going to be meeting when they arrive - which Domina says really helps a candidate feel confident on the day, and gives the opportunity to prepare:
“Those details matter. It can make the difference between them showing up at the interview and being really stressed, or being like, ‘I got this. I know I’m going to park here, I’m going to walk through that door, and I’m going to ask for this person.’ If they can prep, they can look up the people they’re meeting on LinkedIn and see what their background is like, see if they have some common ground. It can make the difference between somebody being successful in an interview day or not.”
Meeting a candidate on a human and genuine level in that prep call will make them feel a lot more comfortable when it actually comes to their interview day: “I tell candidates on that prep call, ‘If you get flustered or feel like you’ve messed up one round, the interviewer should be asking you for breaks. Just center yourself, refocus, and start fresh.’ I also make sure the interviewers are prepared by telling them to let candidates grab a glass of water, use the restroom, and give them a chance to collect themselves for the next round.”
One-day interview loop
Instead of stretching a round of interviews over a few weeks, Domina and her team do four to five interviews in one day, all with different interviewers. This, she says, comes down to their focus on candidate experience and efficiency:
“From the candidate experience perspective, they only have to take one day off of work to meet with the team, as opposed to multiple days. Also, if you drag those five interviews over a few weeks, it extends the time to fill the role. So, it’s efficiency on both sides.”
Having multiple people from multiple different roles involved in interviewing also means that a candidate is reviewed more objectively. As a result, the interview loop can better be designed to suit the candidate’s unique context: “It’s usually a mixture of contributors, people that would be peers to that person, managers, and then a ‘high up’ leader. I also try to mirror the loop to be like the person: So a female candidate in an all-male loop, statistically, has a lower closing-rate. So if it’s a female candidate, I’ll put another woman, or multiple women, in the loop.”
She also mentions how the interview loop is set up in the prep-call with a candidate. Candidates know roughly what to expect, can prepare for the different interviews a little, get advice from Domina on certain questions they have, and are thus less likely to arrive on the day feeling overwhelmed.
‘Normal’ interview questions, Domina says, tend to be straightforward and expect a one word or ‘yes-no’ answer. When it comes to testing for core competencies, however, she tries to ask questions that give her deeper insights into situational behaviours and responses:
“We frame it - not in a ‘yes or no’ type of question - in an open-ended question. We ask them for an example from their past work history where they’ve exemplified that skill. So, ‘Tell me about a team where you had to collaborate to be successful’, or ‘Tell me about a time where you failed and what you learned from it.’ Those types of questions go a lot deeper.”
This allows candidates to demonstrate real-life experience, and gives Domina insight into how a candidate responds and behaves in different scenarios.
Internal hiring team debrief session
Previously, Domina’s team would enter their feedback onto a form after every round of an interview, so that other interviewer’s could see what feedback a candidate was receiving. Recently, however, Microsoft has worked towards removing as much bias as they can in those interviews, so that candidate’s are given a fairer and more accurate chance.
Now, Domina and her team interview candidates ‘blindly’, so that they can make a decision based purely on their own experience of that candidate. She says, “Other than the hiring manager, nobody can see the interview feedback throughout the day. If the first interviewer says it is a ‘no hire’ - when two of your peers, or even maybe someone higher than you said ‘no hire’ - it’s really hard as an interviewer to not take that into account when making your decision.”
Instead, feedback on a candidate’s interview loop is shared during a 30-minute internal debrief session. This gives them a chance to see on which areas candidates excelled, and not be influenced by each other’s feedback during the day. Domina’s team shares what they thought a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses were, whether they thought it was a hire or not, and why.
These debrief sessions include two intentional features, namely:
- The least-experienced person goes first: As with the example of an interviewer being influenced by previous data, letting the least experienced interviewer share their feedback first means they’re less likely to change their feedback based on what a senior said before them. “Even though we have a collaborative culture, there’s something mentally about that. It’s hard for someone that’s one level or multiple levels down in seniority to go against that senior.”
- ‘Coachable’ is a trait worth exploring: If Domina sees an area where a candidate could be trained, she takes the time to explore whether that person has the ability to learn, or if they might be better suited for another role: “I ask questions like, ‘Okay, this person isn’t a senior, but could we hire them as an intermediate software engineer, and grow them to that level?’ Sometimes they find that somebody’s a hire for Microsoft, but not this particular team. That’s where I can get good notes, and then refer them to another team.”
But Microsoft’s hiring process doesn’t end there: Once a candidate has finished their round of interviews, Domina’s team uses that chance to ask them how they felt it went.
Building a hiring reputation
Asking candidates for feedback after they’ve completed their interview loop is an important step for Domina: “At the end of the day, after five interviews, a lot of them come out being energised and excited about the team. The more you can make that experience positive… I mean, it’s their first taste of what working for your company is going to be like. So give them an experience.”
Not only does it give her valuable information about how they can improve a candidate’s experience, but it has real business value that can give you something your competitors don’t have: “If ever I hear bad feedback, then it’s a coaching opportunity for me to coach that leader, or that manager. If candidates aren’t coming out of our interviews excited and wanting to work here, it’s a competitive disadvantage.”
To do this effectively, Domina encourages her teams to ask things like “How was your experience?”, “What are your thoughts on the role? Or of the team?”, “Do you love it? Do you hate it? Are you ‘meh’?” Doing this helps build a robust hiring reputation, and means that even candidates who aren’t offered a job leave feeling like they’ve been able to learn something, and contribute to a company of which they are inevitably also customers.
To follow more of what Domina shares online, or get in touch with her about advice for when it comes to interviewing at big tech companies, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.
(Please note: These are Domina’s own opinions, and are not necessarily those of Microsoft.)
The Evolution of Microsoft’s Hiring Process from an ex-Microsoft Recruiter
Plus, the 6 core competencies you’ll be assessed on
Microsoft used to be a very cutthroat environment without a lot of work-life balance. But things have been changing from the experience that employees have to the hiring process they use to assess and hire new people.
We sat down with Carrus Coach Carlos Hattix, who has prior experience as a recruiter not only at Microsoft but also at Amazon and Uber. We’ve asked his take on what to expect when it comes to interviewing at Microsoft, so read on to learn insights!
Microsoft’s Culture & Great Benefits
What makes Microsoft stand out amongst top tech companies is their attitudes towards work-life balance and caring for people. Microsoft is very family-friendly and offers equal paternity and maternity leave for parents, Wellness Leave (outside of regular paid holidays and sick leave), and they have a strong focus on philanthropy.
Microsoft has always been a community-based and charitable organization. In fact, they will pay you 40 hours to go do community service. Plus, they will provide you with money to donate to charities and they will match your donations up to a certain percent (almost 100). They even have dashboards to help you donate – just pick your charity and click.
Carlos weighs in:
“Some engineers like to refer to Microsoft as the ‘Lazy M Ranch’ and I concur because some employees stay for 20 years because they get really great benefits [including the ones listed above]. When you go to Microsoft and want to make a career change, the internal transfer protocol is solid in that you can move to other units if you want and if there is an opening.
“The organization used to be siloed in that each business unit operated independently of one another which led to a lot of redundancies. But they’re becoming more interdependent and doing sharing and collaborating under the current CEO, Satya Nadella.
“Go in with the mindset that this is the kind of organization that Microsoft has, instead of wondering what kind of personality type they’re looking for. Like most tech companies, they are looking for people who are strategic, adaptable, who have a bias for action, and can bring new ideas to the table.”
Speaking of mindset, Microsoft has 5 key aspects of their culture that they keep in mind during the interview process, including Growth Mindset, Diverse & Inclusive, Values, and Manager Expectations. To learn more about these key aspects, visit their page on interview tips for all roles.
The interview process at Microsoft isn’t as structured as other tech firms like Amazon – but it’s evolving, and in the past couple of years they have been updating their interview process.
In fact, John Montgomery, the Corporate Vice President at Microsoft, shared in 2018 that he had a series of epiphanies about their hiring process as to what hasn’t been working and what they can do to improve it.
Here are his 3 epiphanies in a nutshell:
- Microsoft has been asking outdated (and ineffective) questions
Historically, Microsoft has had a strong reputation of asking brainteaser questions (like “How many tennis balls will fit into a Boeing 747?). But John realized that these questions aren’t the most effective ones to ask, especially when searching for people who would bring different sets of skills or viewpoints.
- Not everyone does their best work in fast-paced, high-pressure situations
When John really thought about it, many decisions were made after people have had a chance to sit with themselves and think through a problem and generate ideas for a solution. Creating a high-pressure environment during the interview is probably not the best way to assess how someone will perform.
- The best way to see how someone works is to work with them
John noticed that the development teams were asking candidates to help them solve real problems, which created a collaborative opportunity to see how a candidate would work with the team. He noticed this is a good way of really understanding how a candidate would work and thought about how it could work for assessing people in non-tech roles.
His epiphanies have led to Microsoft making efforts to shift its hiring approach to
- Sharing the interview content with candidates in advance to give them an opportunity to think
- Using a real problem that Microsoft is currently looking to solve along with the data to analyze, and
- Taking an interactive approach to the interview to engage with the candidate.
Here’s what Carlos shared with us about the evolution of the hiring process:
This evolution of the hiring process has created a sense of “old” and “new” hiring methods. Some hiring managers might continue to interview you in ways that have been done for the past decades, whereas others may have adopted these new kinds of approaches inline with other tech firms to stay competitive.
For example, instead of the “old” approach of asking hypothetical brain teasers, the “new” approach that Microsoft is taking is similar to Amazon’s and Apple’s which consists of asking you questions related to behavioral competencies.
Another “old” method was for interviewers to share feedback with the next interviewer in the hallway before the next session, which they realized was creating a bias for the next interviewer. The “new” approach is for each interviewer to withhold their thoughts until the final debrief where they’ll share feedback with each other.
Between this old vs new hiring process and given that many of the departments at Microsoft have had a history of being siloed in that they have operated independently of each other, there isn’t really a set structure that anyone can guarantee for your experience through the process.
However, Microsoft has been focusing on cross-collaboration which has brought more unity to the departments, though this hasn’t necessarily cascaded through to a unified hiring procedure.
One thing that has not changed, however, is that Microsoft tends to interview many candidates before making a decision and they’ll compare you against other candidates. Other tech companies like Amazon will simply decide to hire or not hire you based on your individual performance.
So what exactly can you expect from the interview process? Keep on reading, there’s more.
Here are the steps you’ll go through in the interview process at Microsoft:
- A phone screening with the recruiter
- A phone screening with either the hiring manager or someone from the hiring team
- An onsite full loop interview with 4-5 people
- Offer & Negotiation
The onsite interview
When you go to the onsite interview, you will meet with each interviewer one at a time. The sessions take around 1 hour each, for a total of 4-5 hours.
“The last interviewer is called an ‘As Ap’, which means ‘As Appropriate’. They’re like the Dalai Lama of the interview process; once you do so well, you’ll meet this person. The ‘As Ap’ is a senior, tenured interviewer similar to the Amazon Bar Raiser, but not as prudent.” says Carlos.
The 6 Core Behavioral Competencies you’ll be assessed on
Microsoft has 6 core competencies that they will assess you on: Adaptability, Collaboration, Customer Focus, Drive for Results, Influencing for Impact, and Judgement.
“For any question you are asked, they are assessing your thought process. How do you go about defining the problem, how are you strategic about a solution, and what are your tactics for execution. The best way to prepare is to provide specific examples and these can be from prior experience or details on what they would do in a situation,” says Carlos.
Here is a break down of each competency:
How capable are you at dealing with ambiguity?
Sample question: Tell me about a time when you were given a task but at the last minute your manager wanted you to pivot or go in a different direction.
“A good answer would be something like, ‘At my current company, we had a campaign that we had to execute in a week and right before we started my manager said we no longer have a week but only 48 hours. I had to figure out how to get my team aligned on the new deadline.
“Your examples don’t always have to be wins, nor that the outcome was the intended outcome. It’s about how you articulate your situation and that you’re able to explain clearly what the challenges were,” says Carlos.
How well do you work with others?
Sample question: Can you give me an example of a time where your team or business unit had to work cross functionally with another organization at your company to accomplish a goal? Describe the situation and what your role was in that effort.
“An example of a good answer is something like ‘While I was at Amazon, I worked in web services and we collaborated with the fulfillment center on increasing efficiency in the warehouse. We supplied them with functional requirements that kept workers from being efficient, got suggestions, executed it and were able to be 5% more efficient.
“State the mission – who you are and who you’re collaborating with – and provide data and numbers. Think qualify, then quantify.” shares Carlos.
- Customer Focus
Sample question: Tell me about a time where a customer wanted one thing but you felt that it was better for them to go a different direction.
“Any response that is general and broad is usually not good. You don’t want to say something like, ‘Customers are doing that all the time and I make sure I steer them correctly.’ What was the situation, what did you do, and was the customer happy with the answer? How can you show that you were customer-focused? Be specific with your response,” says Carlos.
- Drive for Results
Sample question: Tell me about a time when you’ve set a goal for yourself (and others, if applicable) and then pursued those goals with enthusiasm and energy.
How can you show the interviewer that you took action towards a goal or deadline, as opposed to executed the bare minimum?
- Influencing for Impact
Sample question: How do you influence people who do not report to you? How do you get them to do things even if they don’t want to or need to?
Some ideas to consider in helping you craft your answer are to think of times when you’ve used active listening, established common ground with someone, focusing on the positives or benefits of your mission, and reaching an agreement. You can learn more about persuasive influence, here.
Sample question: Describe a situation in which you’ve had to make a big decision. How did you come to your decision, and what were the results?
Be sure to share with the interviewer your thought process. Did you analyze data? Did you research pros and cons? Did you consult with others? The more detailed your response is to help paint a picture, the better.
Want more practice and examples? Here is a full list of Microsoft Interview questions.
Interviewing for a tech role? Here’s what else to consider
During the interview process, you will be asked a coding question and have to whiteboard (literally writing your answer on a white board) to the interviewer.
“The key is to ask a qualifying question to make sure you understand the problem. In the debrief, I’ve heard people say ‘He just jumped into the problem and didn’t ask any qualifying questions.’ They’re going to want to make sure that you understand and are clear on the assignment, so make sure you ask questions before you answer the prompt.” Carlos advises.
Interviewing goes both ways – you want to assess Microsoft as the right career move for you as much as Microsoft is assessing if you’ll be a good fit for their company.
Here are some well-received questions you can ask the interviewer:
- How does the role impact the mission of the business unit?
- What are the qualities in the candidate that would make them successful in this role and in this organization?
“These kinds of questions show that the candidate wants to know what it’ll take to be successful and what the pitfalls are and how to avoid them,” says Carlos.
Microsoft’s hiring process has been evolving, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare well for anything to come.
Our Carrus Coach Carlos has a background in recruiting not only at Microsoft but also Amazon and Uber. Come schedule a session with him to gain insights and prepare for your next move!
eBay, Interview Coaching, Microsoft
will coach you on the key competencies required to reach your career goals and guide your transition into a role in a leading tech company like Microsoft or Amazon
Amazon Coach, Microsoft, Uber
With 10 years experience guiding Interview Debriefs/Hiring Decision meetings at: Amazon, Microsoft, Uber and VMware, I have deep expertise on their interview evaluation process as well as compensation negotiation tactics.
Career Coaching, Microsoft
I am a tech recruiting veteran that has worked for Amazon (API Gateway, Lambda, AWS) and Microsoft as a technical recruiter.
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.MICROSOFT Interview Questions and ANSWERS! (How to PASS a Microsoft Job Interview!)
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