Applying for Microsoft as a developer

21 Sep

Someone asked me tips and tricks to apply for Microsoft. Just to let you know, I have left Microsoft but I am happy to provide help with getting hired at any company (yep, including Microsoft).

This is only my point of view here; there are plenty others out there. You can read how to do great during interviews on other LinkedIn posts.

While I was working on Windows Azure, I interviewed several people we wanted to hire for our team.

Be patient but proactive

Unfortunately, if you apply for a giant company (Microsoft, Google, Amazon), HR will take their sweet time to reach a decision- sometimes weeks or even months. I find this practice preposterous. I understand that they must inundated by thousands of resumes which they have to filter through, but there is such great talent out there that is being ignored. This process should go faster, especially if you get referred by someone internally, but it doesn’t.

Microsoft offers a referral bonus when someone you refer gets successfully hired. I did refer a couple, and it just never happened. It takes so long that sometimes you’ve already moved on or found another job.

Hey, I’m not here to rant about this, but it is definitely frustrating. Don’t wait months for a response: apply for that giant company AND other companies. If that giant company is interested in you in a few months, re-consider at that point if you are ready to take the leap.

Don’t dress up

Seriously, if dressing up is stressing you out, just chill. You can wear anything you want that is not offensive. I would even recommend NOT to wear a formal suit. Wear something you would be comfortable coding in.

Be passionate

Do you have personal projects? What do you like in technology? Do you follow big frameworks and submit patches? Do you think about designing projects in the shower? Let me know those kinds of things! You can skip the shower part, but I want to know if you are passionate about what you do.

Interview process

At Microsoft (and other big companies), you are in for a good half day of interviews. What they don’t tell you is, longer you last, better it is. You will go through 3-6 interviews.

The interviewers are lazy, uh oh… they might not even have read your resume. Why? I could tell you plenty of reasons, but I don’t think they stand. If the interviewers care enough about someone, they should have done a bit of research. If your resume is too heavy, they might have skipped a good part of it. Show your passion on that resume and in the interview.

The other problem in big companies is the interviewer doesn’t know what you are applying for; when this kind of situation happens, you get asked stupid questions that are not even in your field of interest or aligned with the job description… Sure, sometimes it could be a tactic to see if you can think and come up with good ideas, so you are in for some surprises.

After each interview, interviewers will talk to each other and see what areas they should drill into during the next round.

What kind of questions will the interviewer ask?

I hope that with this awesome heading will bring plenty of visitors to my site!! Let me tell you what people ask:

  • What have you done in your previous company / school project?
  • What did you like most about that project?
  • Tell me more about X Y Z. (Hey! If you talked about it, you should be proficient… we find liars out there that have no clue what they are talking about.)
  • Any problems you faced?
  • How did you fix them?
  • Why are you applying here?
  • Why our team?

I’m sure if you are still reading, you are really dissatisfied with those bullet points. 🙂 In detail? Oh right… I like to ask questions about problems that I recently faced at work: stuff that was hard to figure out and took a few days to resolve. These make for great interview questions.

Think about your previous company or school project. What was complicated that you finally figured out after some deep thinking? Ask yourself that question.

I like to ask candidates to give a code review:

  • What is this code doing?
  • Are there any bugs with it? (yes there are… duh)
  • How would you fix those bugs?

Then if you apply for a Senior JavaScript position, I will ask you JavaScript questions. Otherwise, I will stay vague in the choice of language. In college hiring, I asked this question:

From a string, reverse the letters of each word separately.

Interestingly, people learned how to reverse the whole sentence, but not each word. Most of the students came up with for loops with C pointers. That’s great. Another one came up with the STL… oh geez, I had no clue if it was correct but it seemed promising!

Other students came up with some Ruby, Python or JavaScript. With these high level languages, you can do this so quickly (split, reverse, join). I’m unsure why people didn’t come up with those answers? Too easy you might think? Well, give a shot! Worst case I’ll ask you to give me the long version.

Answering a coding question

I created another blog post, as this question deserves its own post.

6 steps to answer an interview coding question

Did you get the job?

You can definitely ask your interviewer when you will be called back. The answer is one week to two weeks. But the real answer is: I have no clue. We provide feedback, then it goes to the hiring manager then we deal with HR. If you don’t get called back after two weeks, don’t hesitate to give a follow-up call.


I hope this helps! If you need more input or have other ideas, leave a comment.

Jean-Sébastien Goupil (11 Posts)

Web Architect Consultant - Passionate about web projects! Expert in barcodes, automation, and JavaScript