Microsoft's hiring process is nowhere near being simple: significant competition, several rounds of interviews, and tricky questions - both specific to Microsoft and on a broad range of general topics.
However, all the torments of Microsoft's application process are well worth it: the company reputedly offers more generous benefits and compensation as compared to some of the FAANGs.
At Levels.fyi, we know that preparation is critical for any job application. In this guide, we will talk about all the ins and outs of Microsoft's application and interview process and provide some useful tips for landing a job at Microsoft.
The Microsoft Hiring Process
Microsoft doesn't follow any specific interview format or process - it can vary between different teams and product groups. However, most commonly, you can expect 4-5 interview rounds to test the candidate's problem-solving, technical, and analytical skills.
Before the Interview
- Update your resume. When applying for a Microsoft position, the first thing you should do is to make sure that your resume is metrics- or deliverables-driven. Tailor the resume to the job description, be succinct, and clearly show how you've done before it relates to the position. You can either apply directly on Microsoft's career page or connect with recruiters and hiring managers through LinkedIn.
- Preparation. Make sure to visit Microsoft's career website and do your research about Microsoft's core competencies, culture, and vision for the future. You can also visit Levels.fyi to explore what salary and benefits package you can expect from a specific position or read our blog for interview tips.
If your application has been successful, you are likely to hear back in a week or two. You will then be invited for several rounds of interviews:
- Prescreen with a recruiter. A recruiter will reach out to you either on LinkedIn or via email to schedule a phone screen. This phone call will be approximately 45 minutes in length and will be divided into two parts. Firstly, you will be asked to go over your resume and answer several behavioral questions to gauge your openness to learning, curiosity, and leadership qualities. For technical roles, you can also expect technical questions about algorithms and data structures.
- Phone interview. One to two weeks after the phone screen, you may be invited to the next interview round: a phone interview. While this step is most common for technical positions, other applicants may be asked to complete it as well. The recruiter will usually share potential topics and questions ahead of time. Remember that with each interview, you will be moving up the org chart. Therefore, at this round, it is crucial to show professionalism and great communication skills.
- On-site interview. After another week or two, you will be invited to one of the Microsoft campuses, depending on where you are located. An on-site interview consists of several back-to-back rounds: expect to meet four to five Microsoft developers or managers for an hour each. Each interview round will be a mix of behavioral questions and coding exercises. Read Levels. fyi's blog for tips on how to answer interview questions and apply the STAR method effectively.
- HR interview. Finally, you might be invited for a final HR interview round. This is mostly a formality: the HR may ask a few additional behavioral and technical questions to make sure you are a good fit for the company and discuss salary and benefits.
After all the interview rounds are complete, you can expect to hear back from the recruiter within a week.
In case you don't receive an offer, you will need to wait for another 6 to 12 months to reapply for the same role.
On the other hand, if you have succeeded in your interviews, Microsoft will contact you with an offer. This is a great time to use salary negotiation services from Levels.fyi to ensure that you receive the best possible salary and benefits package.
What Makes Microsoft's Hiring Process Different?
Microsoft follows a pretty standard hiring process, which resembles that of the other big tech companies. However, several things set Microsoft apart from the other tech giants:
- Hiring for teams. Microsoft hires applicants for specific teams. Therefore, it is best to identify with which Microsoft products your skills overlap the most prior to applying. You may work with a recruiter to see where your experience will bring the most benefit.
- The on-site interview. The interviewer at each round of on-site interviews acts as a gatekeeper. So, if you perform poorly on your first couple of interviews, don't be surprised if you are sent home early without much feedback.
- AS-AP (As Appropriate). Your final on-site interview will be with someone called "As Appropriate" (a senior-level manager). They will know how your previous interviews went, and they will be the ones who will make the ultimate hiring decision.
- Hiring levels. Similar to Amazon, Microsoft has several hiring levels. Microsoft will typically hire entry-level software developer engineers (SDE I) with 0-2 years of experience for levels 59 to 60. Levels 61 and 62 are reserved for mid-level SDE roles with 3-5 years of experience. Use Levels.fyi to gain more insights on Microsoft's hiring levels and salaries and how they compare to other big tech companies.
Tips for Landing a Job at Microsoft
While the specific interview questions and process vary from role to role, the following tips can be useful for any Microsoft position you may be applying for.
1. Update Your LinkedIn
In addition to going through piles of resumes, Microsoft recruiters are constantly mining data to find talented people, particularly through LinkedIn.
To improve your chances of getting discovered by a Microsoft recruiter, keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and highlight your skills and projects that showcase your continuous learning on the job.
2. Study the Culture, News, and Trends
Throughout the lengthy Microsoft hiring process, you will be evaluated on how you would fit into the company's culture. Do your homework and study recent news and trends and the culture and the current state of the business.
On their website, Microsoft specifies that job candidates should understand what is going on in the tech industry overall, what Microsoft is great at, and how they can make themselves stand out from the competition.
3. Know Which Teams or Product Groups You Want to Join
Microsoft hires for specific product groups like Sharepoint, Azure, Dynamics, Office, and more. Do the research and work closely with the recruiter to determine your best fit. For example, if you enjoy cloud computing, Microsoft's public cloud service Azure might be the perfect team for you.
Use Microsoft's website to learn about the team you will be interviewing with, understand what they do, and think about why you want to be a part of it.
4. Expect Questions About Real Business Problems
Sometimes, Microsoft uses an "alternative interview framework," under which the candidates are given access to the internet and the same data as the team and are asked to solve a real problem that Microsoft faces.
- For product management roles, you will be asked to work through a specific problem, starting from understanding the customer issue and ending with executing the solution.
- On the other hand, for software developer roles, you can expect questions about system design and recursion, sorted arrays, binary search trees, and more.
5. Be Prepared for Oddball Questions
Microsoft has a company-wide policy of asking oddball questions to see how a candidate thinks on their feet.
Be prepared to hear questions like, "When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why?" You don't need to provide a specific answer here. What's more important is your ability to think quickly and guide the interviewer through your thinking process.
6. Opt for Nervous Instead of Over-Rehearsed
Memorizing questions and answers by heart is never the best tactic to prepare for an interview. For example, over-preparing will not work if the interviewer asks a follow-up question or forgets a specific example you were going to describe.
The better tactic involves going through your past experiences and jotting down a few significant professional situations that you were involved in. Think about how these experiences demonstrate your professional skills and qualifications and what lessons you have gained out of them.
Recruiters and hiring managers are still human, expecting to see a certain level of nervousness in candidates. To combat the nerves, take a deep breath and focus on being self-aware.
Example Microsoft Interview Questions
Companies like Microsoft are always aiming to stay ahead of the curve and try new things. Questions asked at Microsoft interviews are always changing, so memorizing specific questions and answers won't work.
However, you can review recently asked questions to get a general idea of what to expect from your interview process.
Behavioral Question Examples
- What motivates you?
- Tell me about the most challenging project you ever worked on.
- Why do you want this job?
- Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult team member.
- How do you get people to agree with your point of view?
- Tell me about a situation when you had a conflict within a team and how you dealt with it.
- What would you do if you were asked to work on a project, but the requirements were vague?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Tell me about a time you failed.
- Tell me about a time you went beyond what was expected.
Product Marketing and Product Manager Question Examples
- What is your favorite Microsoft product, and how would you market it?
- Tell me about a product that you think is marketed well and why?
- We want to introduce one of our products for data analytics to small businesses. How would you market it to them?
- Design a three-button remote for the television.
- How would you explain cloud computing to your grandmother?
- How would you know what your consumers want?
- How would you design an alarm clock for deaf people?
- How would you motivate users to use your app every single day for a month?
- You are the king of an island. You want to switch which side of the road everyone drives on. How do you go about doing it? Read this article from Levels.fyi for more tips on becoming a Microsoft program manager.
Technical Question Examples for Software Engineers and Support Engineers
- How do you keep your engineering skills sharp and learn new technologies outside of your work environment?
- Explain to your grandmother how the internet works.
- What is the difference between C++ and Java?
- Given an infinite list, how would you find and then remove the second to last element in the list?
- Design a way to remove every other node from a linked list.
- Give us one example of a project where your initial assumptions were incorrect. Describe the steps you took that uncovered this and what steps you took after.
- Explain the concept of big O notation.
- Why is code optimization important?
- What is the difference between class modules and standard modules?
- What classification does Microsoft use for security threats to its software?
Negotiate a Better Salary with Levels.fyi
While Microsoft's hiring process can be challenging, it is, undoubtedly, rewarding. When you secure an offer from Microsoft, use the salary negotiation service offered by experienced recruiters at Levels.fyi to negotiate an even better salary and benefits package.