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I’ve had several mails in the last few days asking about what to expect in Microsoft job interviews.  Here are some general points that might help out you job seekers…

  1. You will be asked a lot of questions.  Sometimes the answer isn’t “the answer”.  Rather it’s the way that you solve the problem.  So, for instance, a favorite question that used to be asked was “How many gas stations are there in America?”.  The only right answer to this question is “I don’t know, but here’s how I would figure out an estimate”, and then come up with some estimate on the basis of the number of cars per household, number of households and so on.
  2. Every interviewer is going to be looking for you to come up with more than one solution to a problem.  The right answer to a “what would you do in this circumstance” type of question is really not just one answer.  It’s to think through the problem, and come up with several possible solutions, and then to recommend one of the solutions.
  3. It’s OK to ask questions.  When you don’t have a necessary piece of information, or don’t understand the problem completely, ask for more information and clarification.  That is looked upon as a sign of confidence and strength, not stupidity, or weakness.
  4. You are going to be interviewed for a particular role.  It’s critical for you to be gung ho about the role.  You will get asked questions that are designed to show how gung ho you are.  A favorite product manager question is “What’s your favorite product in the world, and why?”, followed by “How would you make it better?”.  If you can’t think of a way to make it better, you might as well kiss the job goodbye at that point — Microsoft values enthusiastic folks who see all the angles on a particular problem, even something they are very close to.
  5. Be prepared for hard, on-the-spot, questions that you will have to think on your feet for.  “What’s your viewpoint on the Grateful Dead’s business model — strength’s and weaknesses?”.  “Do you think that the one-child policy in China is positive or negative for Microsoft’s business?”.

And read The Top 5% Rule.


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