I Interviewed at Microsoft

jInterviewed at Microsoft My name is Eva Williams, and I interviewed at Microsoft for a product manager position.

I was living in Boston, having gone back to school there (after four years of working as a management consultant) to get my master's in business administration. I learned about the Microsoft job opportunity through the job bank at school, and submitted my resume. I had a short screening interview on campus with a Microsoft recruiter, and then I waited.

A cadre of contacts

In fact, getting my interview at Microsoft was an experience not unlike waiting for a phone call after a date. I heard from the recruiter in September that she had "a couple" of positions she thought would be great for me, and she wanted to fly me out to Seattle for an interview. I responded enthusiastically, and then ... waited. By November, I already had two other job offers, so I contacted her again. She was very apologetic, but also mentioned that they had hundreds of folks ahead of me in line. When I mentioned my impending deadlines and my plan to accept one of the jobs, however, an interview scheduler called me the very next day.

Microsoft is a huge company, which means you'll talk to a good number of people during the interview process. Before I even interviewed, I worked with a university recruiter, an interview scheduler, a travel arranger, and a staffing consultant!

One nice thing about interviewing at Microsoft is how cushy the interview travel is. They pay for your flights and hotel, which is standard, but they will also spring for a second night in the hotel and a rental car. It must be tough getting people to relocate to Seattle, so they want to give you a chance to get to know the city.

I flew in, and after a good night's sleep I enjoyed a relaxing breakfast the day of my interview. Microsoft gives you a per diem of $75 a day for food, either from room service or the hotel restaurant, which is a nice gesture. A quick cab ride later, I arrived at the Microsoft Recruiting Center around 9AM.

An impressive process

It says something about a company's attention to getting the best talent when they devote an entire building to recruitment. This building houses not only the recruiting staff, but also a huge lounge area with free coffee, funky chairs and even an Xbox console. It was at this point that I started to doubt my attire, for I had broken out my best interview suit to make a good impression, to appear the part of a project manager any company would be proud to hire. I ran into a guy interviewing for the same role in a different department, and he was wearing ratty jeans and T-shirt that was definitely past its sell-by date. Of course, with tech companies knowing what to wear can be a bit tricky; but looking around the room, I saw a really wide range of dress styles. If I had to do it again, I probably would tone down the suit a bit, while still keeping it professional.

The next tricky thing about Microsoft interviews is that they don't tell you who you'll be interviewing with, or even how many interviews you'll be having, in advance. Instead, they hand you off from one interviewer to the next, while all the time e-mailing feedback among each other. A classmate of mine had warned me about this process, and mentioned that the more interviews you have, the better chance you have of getting the job.

After a quick chat with my staffing consultant, I was sent on my way in one of the many Microsoft shuttles. These are cute Priuses that will take you to any building on the campus. I was ferried over to Bellevue, and I must say, the Bellevue tower was impressive! All glass, super modern, with amazing views.

My first interview was with someone whose position was at the same level as the position I was applying for. Each successive interviewer represented a higher management level. I noticed a wide range of questions, ranging from basic "walk me through your resume" to numbers games and brain teasers. I must have done something right, because I had six interviews over the course of the day. As the day wore on, I was getting more and more excited about working with these cool folks, who occupied these beautiful offices.

A disappointing brush-off

The day ended around 5 o'clock, and at that point I was completely exhausted. I ran into my initial interviewer in the hall as she was leaving for the day and she mentioned that I had done a great job and I would hear from them in the next day or two.

Famous last words. I flew back home on a Monday night, and spent Tuesday sending out my thank you e-mails and following up. I didn't hear anything from Microsoft until Friday, and they gave me the bad news that I hadn't gotten the job, via e-mail. While I was sad that I didn't get an offer, I was more disappointed by the communication: The subject line actually said "Microsoft Offer," which, upon opening, proved to be an e-mail letting me know they had offered the position to someone else.

Up until that point, I had felt really positive about the whole experience -- the travel, the hotel, the recruiting center, getting to know everyone in the interview process. With the amount of time and effort I had put in, at this point I felt I deserved at least a phone call!

Next:I Interviewed at Apple

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