In my last post, I spent most of the time talking about preparation before the interviews. Most people really want to know what an actual interview day is like at Microsoft. Well, you always get what you ask for when you are dealing with us! I am giving you some information here about what a typical day might feel like. I hope this helps out when you are preparing for your big interview day…
The day or night before the interview
If you arrive the day or night before the interviews and have some down time, it might be a good idea to do a practice run to the interview location if you are planning on driving yourself. I did this the night before my interviews and it took the nerves out of trying to find my way around an unfamiliar city. If you don’t have time to do this, you might want to ask the concierge or front desk manager at your hotel about traffic conditions from the location you are to the location of your interviews. You can then plan how much time you will need in the morning and give yourself a few minutes extra if you run into traffic or an accident.
The other transportation option you have is using a taxi. The taxi option is really appealing to those people that know they are going to be too nervous to drive. The taxis we use are also very familiar with getting candidates to and from our building so that can take the pressure off. Gretchen mentioned that she chose this option and it was really helpful to her. However, if you are relying on another form of transportation make sure you have confirmed your transportation the day/night before you need it. The last thing you want is to have everything else prepared and then forget to confirm your taxi.
I make a big deal out of this because arriving late for your interviews can be unnerving and it can also impact the time table for the rest of the interview day. We try to reduce travel time as much as possible by providing you with accommodations close to your interview location; however it never hurts to be prepared for any potential roadblocks!
Typically, I recommend that people arrive for their interviews 15 minutes before the start time that the recruiting coordinator has indicated. This allows you time to find parking, get yourself situated and if you need to complete any paper work prior to the recruiter meeting with you. Make sure you allow for this in your travel time whether you are driving or using an alternate form of transportation.
Oh, I thought this was a given but I might as well say it anyway – get a good nights sleep! It can be tempting to check out the local sites or have dinner with your friends the night before, but you may want to hold off on doing this until after your interviews are over. I have had a lot of completely wiped out people come in for interviews because they spent the night out on the town. Consequently they haven’t preformed all that well during the course of the interviews themselves.
Interview day morning
This may sound a little motherly, but you should try to have a good breakfast the morning of your interviews. I usually recommend eating something with protein vs. high carbohydrates. I don’t know about you but if I have a huge breakfast of pancakes, I am usually toast by 11 am (no pun intended :). If you get really nervous and can’t think about eating, try to at least have a protein bar or some fruit. The one thing you probably should avoid is loading up on caffeine as this can really exacerbate any nervous feelings you have. And, I don’t know if I should say this or not, but caffeine is a diuretic and you might feel the effects of it all day.
I once had a candidate spill an entire cup of coffee on me, my computer and all my files. Hey, no biggie this happens, right? I later found out though that this was his 3rd or 4th cup of coffee that day and it was only 9 am! I figure you can guess the moral of this story.
Anyway, most of our interview days start in the morning, so eating a little something will help carry you through your first few interviews until lunch. I promise you will feel and perform better throughout the course of the day.
Arriving on campus
Okay, so you have done your dry run to campus or you have allowed extra travel time to get to the interview location. Whatever the case, you have finally arrived! The first thing you will do is walk into our building’s main lobby area and up to the receptionist’s desk. The recruiting coordinator will have indicated a recruiter that you should meet with and you should ask for this person. Depending on how early you arrive, feel free to take a seat and a few minutes to relax before meeting your recruiter. You’ll be sitting with other interview candidates at this point and it should be comforting to know there are other people feeling and experiencing the same things you are!
The recruiter will come to the lobby to pick you up at the designated time. If you find you are waiting 10-15 minutes past the time assigned for the interviews, then you should make sure the receptionist is aware of this so they can locate your recruiter.
The recruiter will take you to their office and thus begins the interview day. When I meet with candidates I use this time to cover a few different areas. First, I will let you know what you should be expecting from the interview day. I will give you the first couple of interviewers that you will be meeting with and I will also give you my contact information. Essentially, this is my time to prep you and help you be successful during the day.
I will also use this time to find out any additional information I need to know about you. For example, if we haven’t discussed compensation yet or there are other administrative details we need to get out of the way, this is the time to do it.
This is also a chance for me to interview you again. I like doing this with candidates because it helps me to inform the rest of the interviewers on the loop what they should cover during the day. It also helps get you prepared and in the mindset for the rest of the day.
After we have had our meeting, it is time for me to send you to the product team. I will walk you to the recruiting shuttle and then send you over to your next interview location. From that point forward, your day should be on autopilot. I usually monitor the progress from my office, but if you run into any problems during the day you have my contact information.
Meeting with the team
Once you get to your next destination, you’ll ask the receptionist for the first person on your interview list. You’ll typically wait in the lobby for that person just as you did for the recruiter. The will come down and meet you and walk you to their office.
The way each interview is conducted will vary depending on the person. Usually, they will take the first few minutes to introduce themselves and tell you about their job at the company. Then they will dive right in to asking you questions. As I mentioned before, they will ask a combination of technical and non-technical questions. If you have done the preparation recommended above, you should be well prepared for the questions that might be asked. However, these are some areas where you may be asked questions:
- You resume - be prepared to discuss anything you have put on your resume with examples
- Coding questions – getting up an solving a coding question on a white board
- Testing questions
- Problem solving
- Experiential based - talking about a project that you have worked on
- Technical – explaining your understanding of a particular technology
Before you start answering questions, make sure you have all the information you need. If you are unclear on the problem you are being asked to solve or unclear on the question itself; make sure to ask clarifying questions. Many times you will be given questions with ambiguous information and it is your job to make sure you have all the information you need in order to actually answer the question.
Interviewing is a two way street – always keep this in mind. You are also interviewing us to determine if this is a group, position, and company that can support your short term and long term career goals. Don’t be afraid to these types of questions!
Between each interview you will be waiting in the lobby for the next person to come and get you. You should use this time to regroup and review your performance in the last interview. Self assess where things went well and determine what you can do better in the next interview.
A special note on the lunch interview: Most of our candidates at Microsoft will have some sort of a lunch interview. These interviews are longer then the others on the loop and last for about 90 minutes. Usually the interviewer will take the first 30-45 minutes to eat lunch and ask questions that don’t require working on a white board. Usually they will take you to lunch at one of our fine cafeterias on campus or to a local restaurant. If you have certain dietary requirements, let the recruiting coordinator know in advance. It is really important to stay in your interview mindset during lunch – these are still interviews though they may feel more casual. That said, I remember not eating a whole lot during my lunch interview so you may want to bring a snack with you to eat later in the afternoon (power bar or other protein source) to boost your energy and stave off the tummy rumbles. After taking some time to eat, you most likely will return to the interviewer’s office and finish out the rest of the conversation and interview day.
After the interviews are over
The last interviewer on your loop will let you know when you are done for the day. The recruiter should have let you know in the morning whether or not they will be meeting with you at the end of the day. Either way, you will be returning to their building to retrieve your car or get your taxi.
The recruiter should also have given you a timeline for when to expect to hear back from Microsoft on whether or not you got the position. This usually takes about 5-10 business days depending on how many other candidates are interviewing for the position. I would try to get a commitment in advance on when/if you will be hearing back from the recruiter.
Gretchen has recently posted some articles titled “Après Interview”. I would highly recommend you check these out as they may be a possible result of your interview.
Now that you are done with your interview day you should try to enjoy the rest of the time that you have in Seattle. Relax, take in the sites and tastes of the area. You never know, you could end up moving here in a couple of weeks :)