Preparing for technical interviews at Microsoft - which is amongst the best tech firms in the world - can be significantly challenging. The interview process at Microsoft comprises multiple rounds, and candidates are often put through tough tests to see if they’ve got what it takes.
At Interview Kickstart, we’ve successfully trained 3500+ engineers to land their dream job at the most successful technology companies in the world. Our rigorous and comprehensive training programs put our candidates ahead of the race, maximizing their probability of getting offers at these companies.
In this guide, you will learn about Microsoft’s Interview Process from real people who have interviewed at the company. You will also learn about the qualities that Google looks for in candidates. We will also cover technical and behavioral questions asked in previous Google interviews. We have also prepared useful tips that you can use in your interview and resume that have proven to be successful. This guide also features job-specific information for various roles such as senior software engineer and senior program manager. Lastly, we will go over an overview of Google’s company culture so you’ll know what to expect during your interview and hopefully, when you start working at Google.
Qualities Microsoft Looks for in its candidates
Microsoft expects you to be proficient with at least one programming language, preferably in Python, Java, C/C++, PHP, C# or Go. You will initially be tested on various facets pertaining to the programming language you’re proficient at. Prominent areas typically include Linksets, Advanced Sorting, Object-Oriented Design, Dynamic Programming, APIs, and Algorithmic Problem Solving, among other areas.
Logical and Analytical thinking are aspects that are valued significantly. Microsoft looks for candidates who have the ability to adopt an innovative approach to problem-solving and those who exhibit strong critical thinking capabilities.
Programming and Problem-Solving Abilities:
A prime quality required to crack the technical rounds at Microsoft is your programming skills. How good you are as a programmer will be tested thoroughly through various technical interview rounds. It requires dedicated hours of practice if you want to up your game and bring your best problem-solving skills to the table.
Even though you’re applying to a purely tech position at Microsoft, your communication skills are almost equally valued. Being a good communicator will help you coordinate with different teams and establish effective cross-communication channels.
Your ability to demonstrate thoughtful and effective leadership is an attribute that will take you a long way in realizing your goal of becoming a champion executive. Strong leaders build strong teams and aren’t afraid of taking challenges head-on. Microsoft gives you an opportunity to showcase your leadership skills, and how you perform is certain to influence the outcome of your interview.
The Cultural Quotient:
How much do you know about Microsoft’s efforts across the product and service spectrum? How passionate are you to work at the tech giant? Do you have the right mix of qualities? Are you going to be the right fit? Well, the cultural quotient, although subtle, significantly contributes to the outcome of your interview, as your inherent ethics and morals defined by your courage to do what’s right and take ownership make for an effective and decisive leader in the future.
Microsoft Interview Process
Image Source: Glassdoor.com
The interview process typically consists of 3-4 rounds.
1: You’re contacted by the recruiter
If your profile is relevant to the position, the recruiter will contact you and ask you questions related to your profile and areas of expertise. If the conversation is convincing enough, you’ll be asked to appear for the Phone-Screen Interview.
2: The Phone Screen Interview
This component will essentially involve writing code on a shared document between you and the interviewer. Problems presented in this section involve fairly less time to solve and are relatively straightforward. To effectively solve these questions requires a good fundamental understanding of Algorithms and Data Structures, so make sure you’re thorough with your fundamentals in these areas.
3: The Microsoft On-site Interview
The real test of your abilities to be valuable at the tech giant happens here, at the On-site interview. You’ll typically be asked to come on-site to the Microsoft office, and meet with interviewers in person. The On-site component usually comprises 3-4 rounds and can last the entire day before your true test as perhaps a genius programmer is tested. If the On-site goes well, you’re very likely to be offered.
4: HR Round and Salary negotiations
The final negotiations of your offer occur in this round. You are free to ask any questions relevant to your profile, your compensation, and the general culture of the company.
Qualifications and Experience for Job Roles at Microsoft
Senior Software Engineer:
This position is for experienced professionals who have adequate experience in various aspects of computer science and programming. Below are the qualifications required to qualify for an interview for this role.
- BS, MS or an equivalent degree in Computer Science or a related technical field.
- 5+ Years of proven, practical experience in C/C++/C#.
- Proven Systems Programming Experience
- Development and System Design Skills
- Solid experience with optimizing low-level code
- Proven experience in developing software code for large projects.
- Good communication skills in the English language.
- Experience of working with product design, Machine Learning, Unix/Linux OS, and preferably network systems.
Senior Program Manager:
The Program Manager position at Microsoft is a prominent and coveted one, and one that requires you to have adequate experience in Design, Project Management and Coding.
Below are the Qualifications and Experience required to apply for the Program Manager Position at Microsoft.
- An MS or BS degree in Computer Science or equivalent experience.
- 6+ years of Product Development and Project Management Experience, with specific emphasis in the user experience facet.
- Proven experience in developing UI/UX platforms for consumer interaction.
- Demonstrated excellence in communication and verbal skills.
- Proven understanding and experience in Cloud and Data Services.
- Effective Relationship-building skills and ability to interact with cross-functional teams to deliver time-bound results.
- Experience in various facets of computer science programming, including being adept with C/C++ and C#.
- Experience in IOT programming is an added advantage.
Microsoft Interview Questions:
It is important to note that Microsoft, like all other top tier tech companies, has a number of interview questions that they keep rotating between. Problems are also frequently removed from the rotation, and new ones will pop up on a regular basis. The most effective and efficient way to prepare for technical and behavioral interviews is to look for conceptual themes and patterns, rather than looking for “what questions are most commonly asked at company X”.
If you want to ace interviews at the most competitive companies, place an emphasis on pattern recognition and building your problem-solving skills. This is the only way to solve problems that you have never seen before and the only way to fully explain your solutions. That’s precisely what we cover in our Technical Interview Masterclass, and to learn more, you can sign up for our free webinar.
That being said, here are some of the most common questions we see today being asked in Microsoft technical interviews.
The questions fundamentally test your strength in programming concepts, coding, and design.
Microsoft Technical Interview Questions:
- How to design a URL shortener.
- Sorting an array – 0s, 1s and 2s.
- Print a pattern without using a “Loop”.
- Find the middle element in a linked set and reverse a linked set.
- Problems involving Kadane’s Algorithm.
- Problems pertaining to Data Types and Storage Types in C language.
- You’re given a Binary Tree, check if it is a BST.
- Write a code to evaluate if two Trees are identical or not.
- Finding the nth node in a Singly-Linked List.
- Write code to covert a certain Binary Tree into its Mirror Tree.
- Designing Redo and Undo Operations using computer language.
- Problems Involving Structures and Classes in C Language.
- Deleting a Node from a Linked List.
- Adding Three Numbers, each represented by a Linked List.
- Checking for a Root-to-Leaf path in a given Tree Structure.
- Returning Multiplication and Division of numbers that are represented as Strings.
Behavioral Questions at the Microsoft Interview:
- How would you address conflicts at your workplace?
- How do you approach big challenges at work?
- What is your course of action if you disagree with your manager on something?
- How do you stay focused to deliver projects in a time-bound manner?
- How do you bring-in passion to your everyday work?
- How would you react in the face of failure while working on a project?
- How do you take negative feedback from your higher-ups?
- How do you go about Multi-tasking in the face of tight deadlines?
- How do you go about learning something you don’t know, but is essential for the project at hand?
- If your co-worker isn’t reverting/reciprocating on an important issue and you need help, what is your approach and how would you deal with it?
Microsoft Interview Tips
Technical Interview Tips for the Microsoft Interview:
1. Know what role you wish to apply for
Microsoft has about 150,000 employees working across domains covering tech, marketing, R&D and innovation, among others. Even within the confines of the technical interview, there are multiple roles in the offing. Hence, the first step must involve knowing what role you’re applying for. So do your research on available roles and what vacancies currently exist.
2. Know what the Microsoft Interview Process consists of:
Once you know the specific role you’ve decided to apply to, find out details about the interview process. For the most part, the interview involves solving a bunch of coding questions – your efficiency and acumen to structurally approach coding problems and solve them, are tested.
The process typically has 2 Main Rounds – the Phone Screen Interview and the On-site Interview, as explained earlier in this guide.
3. Practice adequately
The kind of questions, especially technical ones, which you will be asked would be very different from the kind of problems you work on in your job. Hence, it is critical to practice solving a variety of different kinds of questions to get really good at them. More importantly, you need to learn how to identify the patterns behind these questions as you can’t possibly practice every problem under the sun. Identifying patterns and learning how to solve questions around each of the patterns makes for a far more efficient way of learning. This is what is covered in Interview Kickstart’s Masterclass. To get a better understanding of the course, sign up for our free webinar.
4. Clarifying Doubts once they present themselves:
A lot of times, candidates fail to address concerns that may arise during the interview, especially pertaining to understanding certain problems. If a doubt crops up at any point, make sure to clarify.
5. Doing your research on what candidates have experienced:
Understanding what candidates who’ve appeared for Microsoft’s coding interview have experienced can most certainly keep you ahead of the game. Reading the experience and reviews of candidates and going through questions they’ve posted in forums/discussion platforms should form a key element of your strategy.
6. Show them what you’ve got: To elaborate this point, let’s look at some key characteristics that recruiters at Microsoft will look for in you:
- Your ability to be innovative in your problem-solving approach
- Your ability to demonstrate analytical thinking
- Your inherent interest in technology – are you geeky enough?
- Your behavior during the entire duration of the interview – how you conduct yourself
- Your ability to apply multiple concepts and exhibit a multi-dimensional approach to problem-solving
7. Be proficient with at least one programming language: Microsoft looks for candidates who’re adept with at least one programming language, preferable C/C++, C#, Python or Php.
8. Do your research on Technical Topics for the interviews: Common technical topics can include Dynamic Programming, Linked sets, Object-Oriented Programming, Algorithms, and Design.
General Interview Tips for Microsoft’s Interviews:
- When you’re communicating with recruiters, make sure to speak with clarity.
- Don’t be hesitant or afraid to ask questions relating to problem statements.
- Approach the interview with a calm mind. A relaxed mind will most certainly help you perform better.
- Cross-check everything during your test to see if you’ve missed out on any areas.
- Do your research on the company and its products, especially if you are interviewing for a particular team.
- Remember, adequate practice and identifying patterns behind questions will keep you ahead of the competition.
- Give your preparation a break from time to time and don’t overburden yourself.
- Refer to interview prep books for better clarity and understanding of the interview process, and don’t forget to check up recent experiences of other candidates.
- Attend mock interviews. You can ask friends who are also in technical roles to interview you. But a far better approach is to attend mock interviews with hiring managers or technical leads from top tier companies. We have 15 mock interviews with such experienced professionals as part of our Masterclass, so you can attend our free webinar to know more.
Common Technical Topics to Prepare for the Microsoft Interview
- Linked Lists
- Strings and Arrays
- Trees and Graphs
- Dynamic Programming
- Basic Maths and Statistics
- Searching and Sorting
- Recursion and Backtracking
- Operating Systems – Identifying and Preventing Deadlocks, Threads and System Design
- Object Oriented Programming
Microsoft Interview Experiences – Experiences of Candidates
- Experience of a College Grad:
"I got referred to a specific team at Microsoft as New Grad hiring was halted for 2016. Talked to a manager on the phone for an hour, and was asked about my resume and did an interview question. Was flown to Seattle 2 weeks later and had an onsite interview with the team at Redmond. It consisted of 5 interviews with coding and culture-fit questions. I was at the Microsoft Campus from 9AM to 4:30PM. The process was nice, and the interviews were more conversational than say Google onsite interviews. I got a call 2 days later with an offer to join the team."
- Mark Stathom, Software Engineer applying to Microsoft:
"Took part in an interview event which lasted about half of the day. Four rounds of approximately one-hour interviews with short breaks in between. The questions were based on algorithms and Big-O notation for run-time and space complexity. Questions were either straight from or similar to questions mentioned on IK. Make sure you understand the complexity of the code you are writing or at least be able to walk through the calculation of it. "
- Amy Riviera, experienced Software Architect:
"I attended the MS 30 min on-campus interview last week. I prepared a lot of behavior questions before but it turned out that the interviewer didn't ask any behavior questions. The coding problem he asked me was to find the next larger element in a BST. He didn't even define the BST and the function declarations for me, so I had to define it by myself."
Microsoft Interview - Resume Building Tips
The Introduction section of your resume:
Keep your Intro section crisp and short. Ideally, a 1-page resume is what most recruiters consider perfect. Regardless of how many projects you’ve dealt with or how many years of experience you have, try at best to limit your resume to a single page.
Use bullet points to highlight your employment experience
Using bullet points occupies space, yes. But put them to use as they offer clarity and precision, at least in the eyes of the recruiter. Pen down your experiences across domains in the form of bullet points and only mention what’s needed. Stuffing information is most certainly not going to help.
Evince your keen knowledge in a certain programming language
You’d note that most recruiters hiring for technical positions at top companies look for candidates who are proficient with at least one programming language. List your strengths and detail the topics you’re adept with for a given programming language. As a matter of fact, this is the section recruiters have a keen eye for.
Tweak your resume to highlight aspects pertinent to the role you’re applying to
A lot of candidates ignore this rather vital point – only include stuff that’s relevant to the role you’re applying to. Remove all form of fluff that isn’t relevant to the job role.
Use the right words to convey the right message
It is essential to use the right action-words while describing areas you’re proficient at. Don’t go for excessiveness – keep it to single lines and use words such as developed, designed, built, and created.
Make sure to include subheadings and bold them
Make sure to bold subheadings and keep them crisp and simple.
Average Salaries Offered for Technical Roles at Microsoft
- Role: Principal Software Engineer
Average Salary Offered: $182,841 per annum
- Role: Principal Program Manager:
Average Salary Offered: $188,794 per annum
- Role: Principal Software Engineering Manager
Average Salary Offered: $187, 717 per annum
- Role: Senior Software Engineer
Average Salary Offered: $148,009 per annum
- Role: Software Architect
Average Salary Offered: $149,468 per annum
We hope you found this guide useful and valuable. Learn more on how to crack the toughest technical interviews by signing up for our free webinar!