What the Microsoft Interview is like with sample questions

I’ve worked at Microsoft for 13 years, with most of that time as a Program Manager, and I’ve both interviewed and conducted interviews throughout my years. I walk through what a typical interview day looks like, how many interviews you’ll have, give some sample questions, walk through a good way to structure a response, and talk about how I assess a candidate.

How would you move mount fuji why is a manhole cover round imagine you have a room with three light bulbs and you have three light switches outside of the room you could only go into the room once how do you know which light switch corresponds to which light bulb man these are tough questions if i were in an interview and i got one of those questions i’d just be

Like what do i respond with now when i first interviewed at microsoft many many years ago i remember i went online and i searched for interview questions and those were the types of questions that popped up those are what’s known as brain teasers and man they really do hurt your brain uh because you got to think pretty deeply about how to respond to a question

Like that it turns out those types of questions are not good indicators of how good of a candidate uh you are which is pretty crazy and interviewing at microsoft has completely uh transformed since then today what we’re going to do is i’m going to talk through what a typical interview at microsoft is like why would i know that well kind of crazy to say this but

I’ve been at microsoft now for 13 years not only have i interviewed on many different teams throughout the company in fact i’ve been in many different roles in the company but i’ve also conducted many different interviews the the typical interview day starts out you’ll come in in the morning you usually start at 8am or 9am and you’ll start with someone in hr and

So you have a quick little interview just to kind of break the ice uh get you kind of relaxed get you into the rhythm of interviewing the typical interview day has about five to six uh different interviews so yes that’s a long day talking to five or six different people it gets pretty tiring the reason you talk to five or six different people is we want to get

Different points of view of you as a candidate and typically what will happen is each interviewer is looking at a different skill set so you might have one person looking at how data driven is this person you might have someone else looking at what is their what is their teamwork ability uh what is their problem solving ability how do they collaborate so you’ll

Each candidate or each interviewer will ask the candidate different questions trying to get at these different competencies and then you typically have one person at the end of the day they’re the final decision makers so what they’ll do is they’ll read the feedback from each of the interviewers and then they are the ones to make the final call on is this the right

Candidate to bring to the company now each interviewer they don’t talk to each other much between the interviews they might say things like hey i didn’t get a chance to dig into this why don’t you dig into that some more but typically you don’t want to talk to the other interviewers because you don’t want to bias the interview i mean imagine i came to you and said

Hey this candidate they were awful oh gosh like it was just bad the next interviewer they’d probably take that and say oh man they’re not that good and then you go in with that bias up front or it could go the other way too when you come into the interview what will happen is let’s say i’m an interviewer i might ask a question like so you know first you break the

Ice you have some chit chat and then you might say something like hey why don’t you tell me about a group project that you worked on whether it’s in school or whether it’s at a company or maybe tell me about your favorite group project that you worked on this is a behavioral interview question now behavioral interview question what that means is we’re looking at

Your past behavior because we believe that that’s an indicator of what your future behavior will be and keep in mind this is not what you should do with the stock market don’t look at companies and then say hey they’ve done well in the past i should invest in that because i believe it’ll do well in the future so what we do is with behavioral interview questions

With this group question example so tell me about a group project you worked on and i’ll start out by saying hey tell me about the situation what was the situation and so let’s say you’re a college student who’s interviewing you’ll say well you know i was it was in my engineering class or it was in i don’t know a business class that i was taking and um you know

We we had four different teammates and we were just automatically assigned them and we had to look at blah blah blah so we had to look at this situation as an interviewer one of the hardest things is i have no idea what you worked on i don’t know what projects you were on i don’t know who you were working with give me as much context as possible i’ve had so many

Interviewer interviewees come in where they tell me a story and i just get lost because i don’t have any of the background i wasn’t in the class with you so you need to just ground everything and tell me about the situation the second thing that uh you should cover as an interviewee um and as an interviewer something i want to hear is what were you specifically

Responsible for so if you’re working with other people or you’re working as part of project what part of the project did you drive what part did you own maybe you say well you know i was in this group project and we divided it up in this way and this is the part that i was responsible for the next thing i like to hear about is what the actions you took so if it was

An extremely hard problem that you were trying to solve you know i talked to x y and z and i i kept working on a solution and i did research i talked to the professor i worked with other teams or i talked to customers and i wanted to understand from customers what they wanted i want to hear what you did to go about solving this problem kind of once you’ve walked

Through that the third thing is what was the result of all the work you did so what was the outcome of of all the actions you took and typically we want to see that you were thoughtful about what the what the result was that you had a sense upfront of what the result would be uh so that’s that’s kind of the typical thing i want to hear and then kind of the last

Thing that i want to hear is part of a response for an interview question is self-reflection if you could go back in time would you have done anything differently and now it is unbelievable how many people come in and i’m like hey so would you have done anything differently and everything i do in life i i don’t do things perfectly and i could think back in anything

And say yeah i would have done this a little differently or in hindsight i would have done that a little differently a lot of people come in and they say yeah you know actually it was perfect i wouldn’t do anything differently and that’s a big red flag because you want to work with a teammate who doesn’t think back and think hey how could i how could i’ve done

Something differently so that’s a typical flow i refer to it as the stars process where tell me about the situation tell me about the task you did tell me what actions you took tell me about the results that you achieved and then lastly self-reflect and can you think about how you would have done something differently so that’s the typical format i like seeing

An interview response in and if someone interviewing isn’t following that format i’ll nudge them along and help them along that flow you’re responding to one of these types of interview questions it’s really hard to fake the question because you’ll have a question like hey tell me about your favorite group project you worked on um and then the question is going

To go very deep and all ask probing questions i’ll say hey tell me more about that or tell me more about this or tell me what happened there tell me why that happened as an interviewer i mostly like to listen so i want to do much less of the talking and let the other person do most of the talking and so i try to find things like hey are they a good collaborator

Or are they would they be a good teammate at the end of the day with any interview as an interviewer what you’re trying to do is you’re looking at the person saying hey is this someone who i’d want to work with the way i like to think about it is imagine that i had my own startup and i was hiring my number two the second employee for my company is this someone

Who i’d want to hire is this someone who would elevate my company or is it someone who would slow down the company so that’s that’s how i usually think about interviews in the description i have a whole bunch of sample questions you can take a look at those they’re just different questions i get at different competencies you can take a look at that the way i

Usually prepare for an interview when i’m interviewing is i’ll actually look at those interview questions and i’ll think of stories from either if when i was younger i would look at school and say hey what are projects that demonstrate uh or would provide a good response to those questions or now that i’m in the workforce i think about what projects that i work

On that would really demonstrate uh what they’re looking for in those questions well um and and so these are good questions to kind of look through and then formulate stories that really help answer those questions uh and if you do that uh it’s it’s really a good process and one thing that’s really amazed me is i’ll go into interviews and i’ve done that prep work

And most of the questions that you get in an interview line up exactly with those types of questions you know i’ve interviewed at microsoft i’ve interviewed at accenture at amazon all these other companies and you find that the interview questions tend to be uh pretty similar or pretty consistent another one thing i haven’t interviewed for is a developer question

At microsoft you could expect a developer question to be pretty similar to this because you still want to find out is this person a good teammate but the one difference will be is you’ll also have some coding questions in addition to that uh so i hope you found this video helpful this is just a pr quick preview of what it’s like to interview at microsoft i think

It’s pretty similar to the types of interview questions that you get at many other companies many other companies have also adopted behavioral interview questions but this is how we interview at microsoft i think it’s similar to how other companies interview if you found this helpful please give this video a thumbs up and if you want to see more content like this

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Transcribed from video
What the Microsoft Interview is like — with sample questions By Kevin Stratvert