How to get hired at Microsoft, according to current and former engineers and recruiters

Microsoft’s job vacancies and internships may be different during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the path to landing a job there looks much the same, according to current and former employees.

Business Insider spoke to a newbie at the tech giant and former employees in Europe about what a candidate needs to get hired.

While the whole process is now quicker and virtual, recruiters are still looking for the same traits in candidates: Someone confident in telling their original story beyond the CV, and a clear reason for choosing Microsoft over other companies. 

The tech giant operates in more than 170 countries, counting more than 144,000 employees worldwide. It is also one of the best places to work for in 2020 both in the UK and the US, according to the company review site Glassdoor.

Microsoft is known for its rigorous hiring process — made up of at least four interviews — testing candidates first on knowledge and then on behavioral traits and culture fit. 

Each candidate is screened by recruiters, their potential boss, and the wider team they will work with. 

Competition is higher than usual as the economic crisis has left many people jobless, and back in April Microsoft announced pausing hiring for some roles due to uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Write a succinct one-page CV stating your most relevant experiences — and stand out

Be memorable, said Microsoft’s former executive recruiter leader for Central and Eastern Europe Deborah Harding.  

“In my team, we were really interested in the short bio at the beginning of the CV,” she said. A candidate once wrote in the bio “I get s**t done” proving Harding’s team that she was good at executing and delivering tasks.

“I never forget it, someone who actually swears on a CV is a bit like ‘wow’, but we bought her in straight away because that’s what they [Microsoft’s recruiters] are looking for: People who are a little bit different, honest, collaborative, creative, and think outside the box,” Harding said.

Soft skills are also important.

You can teach someone else to do something, but soft skills are the ones big tech corporations look for — and it’s harder to be trained on those, she added. 

When it comes to writing to the body of your résumé, include only your most relevant experiences. Don’t give lots of detail about previous roles just because you enjoyed them, said Zach Jones, a Microsoft support engineer hired in September. In Jones’ case, he got rid of his trucking experience, which didn’t demonstrate any of the skills Microsoft sought.

But don’t feel discouraged if you haven’t got the right qualifications, apply anyway, he said. Recruiters look for passionate candidates who can prove their excitement for the subject. So if you make apps from scratch or build robots in your shed on weekends, write it on your resume.

Jones, for example, started programming while working full-time as a motor transport operator in the US Marine Corps as he wanted to learn how to make games — his true passion. He taught himself how to code and then applied to Coding Dojo, an educational company providing programming boot camps, which proved his passion and devotion for the subject.

“My CV isn’t impressive. I don’t have a college degree in this [support engineering], and that’s okay, that’s not necessarily what they [Microsoft’s recruiters] are looking for,” Jones said.

Microsoft makes resources available online — use them

Before applying for a role, understand what Microsoft looks for. On its website, Microsoft has tips on how to best prepare for interviews, with a specific section on how to get ready for a virtual process, as well as a detailed description of its values, which include traits like being customer-obsessed, open-minded, and thinking big.

But don’t limit yourself to its website, dig further online. Watch Microsoft’s series of developer conferences and take notes, said Charul Pant, former project manager at Microsoft and now an MBA candidate at London Business School.

“They [candidates] will get an understanding of what’s going on in Microsoft, what are its future plans, what didn’t go well, how they are preparing for COVID, etc…,” she said. 

She added: “Having a good understanding of Microsoft’s product line and the competitors is very important … I would also advise people depending upon how much time they have to prepare for an interview to go deeper and understand how [Microsoft’s CEO] Satya Nadella brought through a cultural change in Microsoft.”

Review academic studies and technical knowledge specific to your role

Normally applicants can apply for roles on Microsoft’s website with a CV (usually a cover letter isn’t required, but former and current employees suggest uploading it anyway), and, depending on the role, they are also advised to upload a portfolio. The next step is a screening in which a recruiter checks that an applicant’s profile fits with the role.

Then it gets to the real part: recruiters test candidates on practical knowledge. While interviewing for Microsoft’s support engineering role, Jones was asked questions on how to trace information and how it is transferred from front-end to back-end — mostly technical knowledge that he would have required in the job. 

For the final round, you’d be interviewed by the hiring manager, who will check culture fit and behavioral traits. A former senior hiring manager who preferred to stay anonymous said candidates were often tested through a written exercise, which required them to answer a question about the sector they were applying for.

For example, in the case of startups the question would have been: How would you identify the best startups in your ecosystem, and why? Do you have recommendations? 

“It [the written test] is always a good indicator: Some would have spelling mistakes … Others would have a perfect match, beyond the impeccable presentation, and it gives a lot about how a person operates … It was a blend of both thinking, curiosity, as well as how do they [candidates] actually present their ideas,” the source said.

But the source added: “I don’t think there’s any rocket science to Microsoft’s questions, really, giving your heart and mind during the process would make you stand out.”

Prove your interest and curiosity by asking these questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the end of the interview, “it just shows that you’ve genuinely thought about the role and you’re curious about it,” the same source said. 

Ask the interviewer questions such as “How do you define success for this role”; “How do you see us working together as a team”; and if it’s a manager you’re talking to, ask about their management style, the source said.

Microsoft’s Zach Jones said he asked about scenarios his potential team would have faced, and added: “I always recommend asking about [culture] fit, if you don’t feel like you belong somewhere, you’re gonna have a rough time especially right now when everything is over the computer.”

This content was originally published here.

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