From the Mac vs. PC type of company back in the 90s to becoming one of the best places to work for Software Engineers, Microsoft has consistently stood up to its mission of empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
In contrast to the other fast-paced companies with lopsided work-life balance cultures dotting the Silicon Valley. Microsoft boasts an outstanding work-life balance without sacrificing top-level compensation packages.
You need to understand that there are millions of engineers who also want your dream job. So what do you do?
Here’s what this article will be covering:
- The Microsoft Interview Process
- How to get the interview call?
- What are you evaluated on?
- The skills you need to get the job.
- The different SDE levels at Microsoft
- How to prepare for the Microsoft Interview
The Microsoft Interview Process for Software Engineers
Under the new leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has, over the years, revamped its interviewing process to a great extent making it more humane and abbreviated. Microsoft demands its employees to have a ‘learn-it-all’ attitude that emphasizes soft skills along with technical wizardry.
Through this revamped interview process, which they call the ‘alternative interview framework,’ Microsoft wants to solve the following problems:
- Outdated questions being asked in tech interviews
- Not everyone works well in fast-paced, high-pressure environments.
- The best way to see how someone works is to pair them up.
John Montgomery, Partner Director of Program Management at Microsoft, says, ‘The same type of textbook questions didn’t make sense when we were trying to hire people with different skill sets and viewpoints.’
It’s also interesting to note that Microsoft also shares its interview questions with the candidates in advance, something that’s very different from other big tech company interviews.
According to Montgomery ‘We let the candidates know a few days in advance how their interview day will look like and what problems they will be working on. We allow them to do their research and give them time to think about solutions. No surprises.’
Here are a few ways Microsoft’s fluid interview-style differs from other companies:
- Transparent interview process involving the candidate right from the start.
- Using real problems, Microsoft is trying to solve in the interview process.
- Giving access to the same data set the Microsoft teams are working with.
- Making it a team effort rather than a rigid effort.
- Following a single problem approach.
- Pairing Interviewers to make it more interactive.
Interview Tip: It’s always good to research more about the technologies & projects Microsoft is currently working on. Bonus points if you’ve ever worked on similar projects before.
To help you get an edge in this increasingly competitive interview, we’re breaking down the interview process for you.
How to get the call for the Microsoft interview?
You may think about applying for the job at Microsoft through the Microsoft career page. But thousands of candidates follow through the same process, and you risk having your application getting lost among all the others.
The best way to get noticed by a Microsoft recruiter and eventually landing an interview call is to ensure you have a connection with someone from the team. It’s best to leverage your LinkedIn network to find people who work at Microsoft and who can drop in a word of referral for you.
How long is the Microsoft Interview process?
The interview processes are usually up to 2 weeks long, with some going on for a month. Campus placements in Microsoft, however, take up to 2 months.
Structure of the Microsoft Interview:
Microsoft doesn’t follow a fixed structure, and it greatly varies between products & teams. Most commonly, the interview consists of 4-5 rounds focused on testing the candidate’s analytical, problem-solving & technical skills.
1. Phone Screen:
Like every other interview process, the Microsoft interview process also starts with a telephone interview. The recruiter in this round will be asking you behavioral questions to gauge your eagerness to learn, curiosity & leadership skills.
For developers and Software roles, the phone interview is a little longer (45 mins) & consists of technical questions about Data Structures & Algorithms. You’ll also need to work on a coding problem through a 3rd party shared editor, for which you will be given 30 mins to come up with a solution.
If you pass the phone screen interview, you will be asked to appear for an onsite interview. Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, onsite interviews have now been replaced with remote online interviews. Microsoft conducts all of its interview processes through the Microsoft Teams App.
The face-to-face interviews usually consist of 4-5 rounds, each taking about an hour. The interview rounds are majorly divided into two parts: The technical face-to-face interview and the Systems Design interview.
A. Technical Face-To-Face Interview:
This round of interviews tests the candidate’s ability to solve real-world problems with their knowledge of Data Structures & Algorithms. The candidate should be able to arrive at the most optimized solution to the given problem.
A majority of the problems you will face in these rounds will involve understanding Arrays & Strings. Apart from that, you should also practice questions related to Linked Lists, Graph/Tree Data Structures.
Some of the programming languages Microsoft prefers are: Java, Python, C, C++, & C#
B. Systems Design Round:
This round consists of open-ended questions and is mostly conducted with more experienced candidates. The motive of this round is to test your overall ability to design & scale systems. The interviewer will primarily be interested to know your choice of databases, storage, logging, efficient algorithms, etc.
It’s important to understand that Microsoft develops large-scale projects such as Azure and requires engineers to be efficient and comfortable developing at scale. Thus you must prepare yourself for it.
Some of the most common Systems Design questions asked at Microsoft:
- How would you design a vending machine in Java?
- How would you design a URL shortening service like goo.gl or bit.ly?
- How would you design a global file sharing & storage system such as Google Drive or Dropbox?
3. HR Interview
Within a week of finishing the interview, you can expect to hear back from HR with an offer or a rejection letter. The hiring manager is your last point of contact who will ask you a couple of behavioral questions to understand if you’re the right fit before rolling out an offer.
How are you evaluated in the Microsoft Software Engineering interview?
Each interviewer, after every round, will be marking you as ‘hire’ or ‘no-hire.’ If you receive three no-hires, you’ll not be eligible for further consideration.
The last person to interview you is known as an ‘As-Ap’ or ‘As Appropriate.’ This interviewer holds the veto power over your hiring, and you should not underestimate this interview round.
What are the skills you need to get a job at Microsoft?
- Microsoft is interested in candidates who know their way around Azure, the companies central cloud platform.
- Microsoft C# & PowerShell Skills
- Strong working knowledge of Algorithms & Data Structures
You need to highlight your strong skill set to get noticed by recruiters. Here’s how you can do it:
- Add the relevant skills required for the job to your resume (ex. If you know your way around Azure, add that for an SDE job at Microsoft.)
- Highlight the skills in your cover letter
- Use relevant skill words during your initial interview.
What are the different SDE levels at Microsoft?
While it’s important to prepare to get a job at Microsoft, it’s also essential you know the level you’re applying or interviewing for and the compensation given at that level. Let’s cover the different levels and the salaries you can get at these levels.
Software Engineers at Microsoft are allocated a number between levels 59-67 depending on the seniority level.
*Data points from reported salaries sourced from levels.fyi
How to prepare for the Microsoft Software Engineer Interview?
Now that you’re well aware of what the Microsoft Software Engineering interview consists of, how do you prepare for it?
- Find out the most commonly asked interview questions.
In a typical SDE interview at Microsoft, there is a more considerable emphasis on data structure-based questions over algorithm & design questions. With more priority given to the following topics:
- Linked Lists
- Do background research about Microsoft.
While you may think you know everything about Microsoft as a company. It doesn’t hurt to brush up that knowledge with more information on the current products & technologies they’re developing or working on based on publicly available information.
- Ask questions, and then ask some more.
Don’t straightway jump into the solution. Make sure you check your assumptions with the interviewer before you start forming your solution. Ask all the relevant questions you need for clarity.
- The interviewer only looks for three things in your code.
Does it run fast? Take up less memory & is it stable? If you’re able to tick off all these boxes with your code. You’ll be ahead of most of the competition.
While it may seem like a daunting task to clear the Microsoft interview, it doesn’t have to be that way. With our handy tips on preparing for a Microsoft Software Engineer interview and a roadmap into the entire interview process, you’re already on your way to success.
Join our 2-Month Coding & Systems Design masterclass that will help you nail the Microsoft Software Engineering interview.
Hear it from our Alumni, Tanushree, who secured a position as a Software Engineer at Microsoft ‘The structure was my favorite part of the program. The fact that it goes onto explaining the patterns of each problem, rather than just understanding specific questions, is great. I have studied some of those things long back in college, but as you go into the industry and you keep working, you kind of lose that connection and stop seeing how it is all connected to the fundamentals. With Interview Kickstart, I was able to relearn those fundamentals in a better way.’
Learn more about how you can nail the Microsoft interview by enrolling for our webinar today!