Interviewing at Microsoft: Part 2

NOTE: This is a continuation of a previous post, Interviewing at Microsoft: Part 1)

Finally, the phone rang. The Caller ID screen identified the caller as “Microsoft Corp,” and I answered on the second ring.

Anne (the Microsoft Recruiter) introduced herself, and spent a moment talking about what the process would be. She would want to get a rough idea of my level of experience, as well as get some answers to some questions raised by my resume.

I was very impressed by this interview. First of all, Anne was excellent at making me feel as comfortable as possible– she was friendly and conversational, but didn’t have to resort to softball questions to keep things going. She asked some very tough questions about my experience…

First of all, if you look at my resume, there’s a lot of overlap, and there is a huge number of companies represented. This is easy to understand, since I’ve been doing private consulting for several years, but without that little tidbit of information, it looks kind of sketchy. She probed into this until she was satisfied that it didn’t represent a red flag.

Second, she expressed some concern about the fact that I’ve worked almost exclusively for small companies, and, more recently, as a consultant. We spent a lot of time talking about what a transition to a larger company might be like.

Then came the technical questions. Anne said over and over that she wasn’t technical, but it was very obvious that she was trained to know when someone’s making up a bunch of technical gobbledygook when they don’t know an answer. She was able to ask appropriate clarifying questions that showed she knew more than she let on. I was really impressed– the teams obviously do a great job not only of providing questions, but also information necessary to decode possible answers. More impressive is that the HR team at Microsoft actually USES this information. I’ve been on the “Hiring Manager” side of the fence in this scenario, and none of the HR professionals I’ve ever worked with would have been capable of providing such an effective technical screen. Good stuff. Specifically, we talked about DRM technologies, various cryptography implementations, and some other topics relevant to content protection technologies.

Once she was satisfied that I wasn’t quite as dumb as I look (which, believe me, is not setting the bar very high) we moved on to the subject of compensation. She warned that Microsoft wouldn’t be able to provide a salary commensurate with the expectations of someone who had been doing private consulting. (However, given my recent experiences with some of my clients, the fact that Microsoft would be unlikely to frequently bounce checks would be enough for me.) We talked through some ranges, and were able to come to the conclusion that we were probably close enough to the mark on both sides that it would be worth moving forward with next steps.

She closed off by talking about what the next steps would be. She would be talking to the team later that day, and I would be hearing from her within the next day or two. Assuming the team was interested in speaking with me, I’d be subjected to a couple of phone screens with hiring managers. (Multiple because I was interviewing for several positions under different managers.) We chatted for a few more minutes, she answered a few questions for me about the team and the positions I was interviewing for, and we ended the call. It took about 30 minutes, and I never felt like I was being grilled. I even got a couple of good laughs out of the call!

I felt like things went really well– Not only was I impressed by Anne, but I felt like her phone screen was actually thorough enough that she had a pretty good sense of my experience and capabilities– which I think is a good thing. I was bummed that I’d probably have to wait a couple days before hearing back, but it turned out I wouldn’t: she emailed me a couple hours later letting me know that she had spoken to the team, and would be putting me in touch with the first hiring manager for another phone screen. I was through the first (of many) steps.

The first hiring manager emailed me the next day, and we set up a time to speak the following week.

(To be continued…)