Since getting my job with Microsoft, I’ve been asked numerous times about how I did it. What’s the secret? How did I get noticed? Because of this, I decided to write about my interviewing experience with Microsoft. Hopefully it might help someone else in the future.
How did you get noticed?
I applied. That’s it. No head hunter, no outstanding cover letter, no referral, no big stunt, I just applied. I signed up at careers.microsoft.com, found a job that matched my experience, and then summited my resume. About a month later I got a call.
When applying make sure your skills match the job posting. Don’t waste your time applying for a job that you have no experience with. One, you will most likely not get a call. Two, if you do get a interview, you won’t make it very far.
On to the interviews…
The very first time I interviewed with Microsoft, I didn’t make it past the initial screening. At the end of that 30 minute interview, I thought all hope was lost. To finally get noticed by Microsoft was great, to be told no thank you within 30 minutes, not so great. What went wrong? Well it was for a technology that I had a little experience in. The recruiter was able to figure that out very quickly. Trust me, you can’t fake it. Even though I didn’t get past the first screening, the experience was well worth it. If you can always take the interview! You will learn a lot about a company, and how they question their candidates. You will also learn a lot about yourself.
The second time I applied and interview with Microsoft went a little better. This time I got past the initial HR phone screening without any issues. My recruiter then set up a technical screening for the following week with a engineer from the Hotmail team. If asked, I would always suggest that you schedule something a few days out. This will give you time to study up on the technology you will be supporting.
The interview started out fairly simple, they asked me about my work history and how long I had been working on certain technologies. They asked why I wanted to work for Microsoft, and if I would be willing to relocate. Then the fun began.
This position was on the Hotmail team as a Server engineer. Question’s ranged from network load balancing, server performance, clustering, and Window Internals. We spent a good hour on the phone going very deep into all of these topics, and I mean deep! Make sure you know the technologies very well. If you say you know something, then you better know it. If you don’t, they can tell. I would suggest if you put something on your resume, then you better know it at a 300 level or higher. As it turned out for me, they were looking for someone with more of a SQL background. I was disappointed to say the least.
The third and final time I applied and interview was for a Premier Field Engineering position within Microsoft. Premier Field Engineering is a part of the Microsoft Support organization. The PFE goes onsite to customers that have Microsoft Premier Support and either provide a proactive or reactive service. Like before I had the recruiter screening, which went great. Then I was setup with two PFE’s for my technical screening. This was a hour and a half phone interview. Topics ranged from Active Directory, Clustering, DNS, Windows Internals, and Deployment. The two PFE’s went back and forth asking in-depth questions about each technology. By the end of the interview, my brain was mush. To date, this was the hardest interview I ever went on.
About a week later, I received a email from my recruiter saying I did great during the tech screen, and they would like to continue the interview process. This interview would be in person, and would cover communications and leadership skills instead of just technology. The day consisted of one interview with two PFE managers. They asked a ton of scenario questions, and how I might handle certain situations. In the PFE role, Microsoft is not only looking for technology experts, but also people with strong leadership skills. One week you might be fixing a issue for a customer, but the next week you might be teaching a workshop. You need to feel confortable talking with people.
What happen next? I waited, and then waited some more. Two weeks went by before I heard anything. Finally a call from the recruiter. Congratulations! We feel you will be a great fit at Microsoft. I was in!
Why I think I got hired?
Experience, and knowledge of the technology. Advice I would give is to try and take any job that you will gain experience with. Also crack open some books, and start reading. Find a technology you love, and immerse yourself with it. Conferences, webcasts, books, workshops, blogs, forums, and self study should be your mantra. What about IT certifications? Yes, get those as well. Certs alone won’t get you in the door, but they do help.
I hope this article has shed some light into the hiring process at Microsoft. Wherever your dream job is, find out what they want and need in a employee. Don’t give up, and know your stuff!