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Friday, September 02, 2011

Interviewing with Microsoft

I've been lucky enough to interview with Microsoft a few times in the last 9 months or so.  I've learned that when you interview with Microsoft, no matter what you think you know, you don't know nearly as much as you think you do.  I've hung up the phone on technical phone screens or walked out to my car after Finals Day and felt like my brain had been taken out of my head, stretched out, stomped on, run thru a wringer, smacked around, steamrolled, and then put back into my head.  I've felt like I've totally bombed and been told I'm moving forward in the process, and other times I've thought things have gone well and been cut from consideration.

I have yet to achieve my much-desired break thru and get a job offer from them, but I will keep applying and trying until I do! :)  Here's a summary what I've learned during my experiences with the Microsoft interviewing process:
  1. Be patient!  The recruiters are dealing with hundreds of applicants each day, plus scheduling, and who-knows-what-else
  2. Never think you "know it all" - You don't.  Expect to be humbled in some way during each interview and by each interviewer.
  3. Relax!  The interview is not a life-or-death thing.  If you are nervous, it's going to come out in the interview when you can't remember simple things, or forget details, or who knows what else.
  4. Think out-loud.  I can't emphasize that enough.  If you think out-loud, the interviewer(s) gets an idea of how you think/troubleshoot/process and could help nudge you in the right direction if you're almost there but are stuck.  If you sit in silence while you think, it's pretty much a given that you're doomed.
  5. It's ok to say "I don't know".  If you try to make something up, you'll get called on it.  This ties in with the previous point - think out-loud.  If you don't know something when the question is asked, think out-loud about it, and if you just can't get figure it out, tell the interviewer(s) - I don't know.
  6. Make it a point to say, "When we're done, I'm going to go learn about [x, y, z]".  It shows that you want to learn and improve.
  7. Research the role you are applying for, and have plenty of questions prepared ahead of time to ask
  8. Refresh your knowledge of the basics for whatever technology you are dealing with
  9. Ask for feedback after every step in the process.  Take that feedback and dive into anything they say you are weak in or need work on
  10. Most important piece of advice - Have fun!  It's a great experience, and you'll talk with some extremely bright people along the way.
Good luck!