There is no doubt that Microsoft PM interviews are incredibly challenging: the questions are complicated and highly specific to Microsoft and cover a broad range of topics.
The good news is that you can feel more confident about becoming a Microsoft Program Manager and landing your dream job with the right preparation.
At Levels.fyi, we are always here to support you throughout your professional journey. Read on to learn everything you need to know to succeed in your application for a Microsoft Program Manager position.
What Do Microsoft Program Managers Do?
A program manager position could be challenging to describe, as there is no single definition. This position isn't unique to Microsoft; other big tech companies like Google and Amazon have their own PM roles, while Facebook has a position for technical program managers, who share similar job responsibilities.
In general, a PM position at Microsoft involves "3 Ds": discover, design, and deliver.
- Discover: A program manager role involves framing the landscape. This can include gathering data about competitors, customers, the market and technology trends in general, and more. This data is then analyzed to identify opportunities, trends, and gaps in the current market.
- Design: Once a clear opportunity is identified, the program manager must define what solution to build and the specific deliverables along the way. This step's output is the spec - a document providing very detailed information on how the final product should function and look.
- Deliver: In this step, the program manager's job is to ensure that the right product is delivered on time. This involves working with the product team and ensuring that every team member knows what is going on at each stage of the project.
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4 Steps to Becoming a Microsoft Program Manager
The route to becoming a Microsoft program manager can be competitive, but it isn't undoable.
Here are the common steps you can expect from the application process:
Application: Your best bet is reaching out directly to a program manager or a Microsoft recruiter on LinkedIn. Try to research the technology or product that you are most interested in and contact a program manager currently working in that field.
Interviews: You can typically expect three interviews before the final decision is made:
- Recruiter phone call: At this step, you will be asked some basic questions about your background, past experience, and your interest in program management and Microsoft specifically.
- Program manager screen: If you do well on a recruiter phone call, you will move on to a phone screening with a program manager, where you will be asked some design and technical questions.
- Onsite interview: The final step is an onsite interview, where you will have several back-to-back interview rounds with four or five different Microsoft employees. Similar to a phone screen, you can expect a variety of technical and design questions.
Hiring committee review: After all interviews are completed, your performance will be evaluated by the hiring committee to determine whether you are a good fit for the Microsoft program manager role.
Offer: If you successfully pass through all the application rounds, you will receive an offer from Microsoft. Remember that each offer is negotiable - you can use Levels.fyi salary negotiation service to get the best compensation package possible.
Microsoft Program Manager Interview Questions
The most challenging aspect of PM interviews at Microsoft is that you can expect a wide range of questions. However, all of the questions can be summarized into five main types.
Below you will find the description of each type of questions along with the frequency they were asked based on questions reported by former PM candidates. The interviewers will ask you a mixture of all these questions, but the frequency of each type of question varies.
Behavioral Questions (Most asked)
Microsoft places a heavy emphasis on behavioral questions. Most of the questions fall into one of three categories:
- Your past experiences
- Your motivation to work as a PM and at Microsoft
- Your understanding of how successful program managers should perform their duties
Some examples of behavioral questions asked by Microsoft are:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why program management?
- Why Microsoft?
- Tell me about a product you lead from idea to launch.
- How do you know what your consumers want?
Design Questions (Commonly asked)
These types of questions assess your creativity, customer empathy, and the ability to follow a structured approach to design projects.
Some example design questions asked by Microsoft are:
- Design 3 button remote for a TV.
- Design a kitchen.
- How would you design an alarm clock for the blind?
Technical Questions (Commonly asked)
Microsoft is looking for a fair amount of technical expertise from candidates. As a result, you can expect quite a few technical questions during the interview process.
These questions aren't designed to test your coding skills in a specific language, but rather to see whether you have a good understanding and can explain certain technical concepts in simple terms.
Some examples of technical questions asked by Microsoft are:
- What is the difference between C++ and Java?
- How does the internet work?
- How would you explain what Cloud is to your grandmother?
Strategy Questions (Less asked)
Finally, strategy questions are designed to assess how comfortable you are thinking about a broad range of aspects that a PM would have to take into account while making product decisions.
This can include pricing, competition, time to market, marketing, and more.
Example strategy questions asked by Microsoft include:
- How would you motivate users to use your app every day of the month?
- Imagine you are a program manager at a startup that works with big data. Now what?
- How can you optimize the production process within a production chain?
Other Questions (Sometimes asked)
Successful program managers are good critical thinkers and can make swift and confident decisions. Microsoft often tests analytical and estimation skills during the interviews.
The interviewers are also likely to check your "outside the box" thinking with puzzle questions. Examples of other questions asked by Microsoft include:
- How much money do Americans spend on cat food per year?
- What metrics would you use to measure success for Microsoft Outlook?
- You have nine balls of equal weight and size, except for one that is a little heavier than the rest. How would you find which ball is heavier using balance scales no more than two times?
Need Help Negotiating Your Job Offer? With the right tools and preparation, you can expect to ace your interviews and get one step closer to becoming a Microsoft program manager. And, when it comes to negotiating your job offer, don't forget to use salary negotiation services from Levels.fyi.