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Interviewing Tips

Hi,
I got a couple of interview calls - and one from Microsoft! I am pretty much excited about this. Any tips - both technical and the "soft" stuff - the HR stuff. They would ask questions about why I changed jobs and why I want to change now. I heard they ask lots of puzzles and C programming. I read books like Programming Pearls, More Programming Pearls. Would appreciate info on some good books/links/personal experiences.
Thanks
Bob

Bob
Wednesday, December 18, 2002

http://www.techinterview.org

http://www.sellsbrothers.com/fun/msiview/

there were a  couple of threads in this forum on the same topic, do a search for it.

Prakash S
Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Tired with your senior dev *already*?

Well, I had an interview with Microsoft for a level 3 SDE/T position a few months ago (unfortunately I didn't get it: although they liked how I solved every problem they gave me, they thought my coding 'too rusty').  Now, Microsoft's a big company, and every group and every position does things a little differently; however, the formula for the interview is pretty much standardized.  Usually you will interview with three to five people on the interview day, each lasting about 45 minutes to an hour.  The format for each interview is like this:

1. General questions about your background
2. A warm-up "logic puzzle".  It really doesn't help if you've heard the puzzle before, though.  They want to watch you solve the problem.
3. Ask you to code something on the whiteboard (in my interview, they were strrev(), the line-drawing algorithim, itoa(), and a constant-memory algorithim to determine if there is a cycle in a linked list).
4. They'll then ask you to walk through your code, demonstrating its correctness and lack of bugs.
5. For a test position, they'll ask you for different inputs that would be useful for testing.
6. Then they will ask if you have any questions about the position / company.

In my first interview, I was asked to look at the following code (renamed to "FunctionX" instead of "bitcount") and to determine what it did:

http://www.cs.umu.se/~isak/Snippets/bitcnt_2.c

This was an evil, evil question.  It took me about a half hour (and a few false starts) to determine that it counted bits -- basically, I tried to look for mathematical identities, and once frustrated with being unable to do that, I tried various 8-bit inputs to a abbreviated version of the program (0x00, 0xFF, and 0xC5) ... I think the interviewer would have been happy if I never figured it out though ... he was just interested in the methods I tried to solve the problem, and how long I'd perservere until giving up.

My basic recommendation is to memorize, in C, the code to strrev(), because that question pops up like 90% of the time, from what I hear ...

Alyosha`
Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I tend to think that political issues are much more important on interviews.
From those I had I almost never had to use my brain "on high gear" since the
questions were always easy. What was really important are all those
"communications" and "politic" things - why do you want to leave your current
place, what do you like to do. The way you talk, argue, agree or disagree with
people is 100 times important for them. If you read books and especially John
Bentley books I suppose you don't lack any professional skills (may be you do
for MS ..), so I was suggesting to get yourself ready for the peopleware issues.

Damn, I hate when smiling and giving them the answers they want to hear is what makes
the difference, but that what I felt happens most of the time. From my experience, very
few people know to differentiate between good developer and the bad one.  So
they base their decisions on other silly unprofessional (IMHO) criterias.

Good luck and have a nice talk with them !

Evgeny Goldin
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Play to win.

Try to play an active part in the job interview. It is not only there so that the company can find out if you are the right person for the job, but also, for you to find out if the job and the company is right for you. Ask questions.

Be confident about your skills, but be honest. Do not try to fake skills you do not have. Don't mumble, don't look to the floor when you do not have the answer to a question straight away. Instead, openly and actively work on solving the problem, ask for more information or share the insight you already have with the interviewer.

See every interview as a learning experience for yourself. See it as something to look forward to. Be aware but not ancious.

Most of all:

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Thursday, December 19, 2002


I once came to conclusion that interviewing looks exactly like a blind-date:
you can prepare, think about how good do you look or sound, but after all
she may like you or not and her decision may be very smart or stupid but usually
you can do almost nothing about it (well, that's the way I think and there will
probably be some folks who won't agree with me). You can only try (but, of course,
behaving at least like a good person is required).
There are certain things you shouldn't do but they depend on whom do you talk
to. They also depend on how much do you want to work there and what price do you
want to pay. Say, lying. I think, almost every person here will agree that lying
is a bad thing but there will be places that either you lie or you stay out.
Same about saying "I don't know" - it's never shame for us to say it (even more,
we all know that those not saying it are damn liers) but there will be places
where you won't be accepted just because you was honest saying "I don't know"
(and I don't mean the situation where you could try and think but gave up at
the beginning. No, I mean you don't know something you can't figure out by
yourself - it's either you know or not). Again, same as dating - are you ready
to lie and behave like another man just to get the girl ? Or what you need
is a honest relationship and you'd better stay alone ..

Like I said, it all depends on whom are you talking to. On one of my interviews
I saw a very professional and friendly guy whom I thought I could trust.
So, talking to him I said "don't know" every time he asked me about something
I had really no idea - I didn't want to lie and invent things just to look smart.
We became friends since then and I've got a job offer .. :)

Like I said - a blind date.

Evgeny Goldin
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Why work for Microsoft to earn 45K when you can make 60k+ somewhere else. MS has lost its magnet baby.

wiser
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Wiser --

You've got to be kidding.  Microsoft pays programmers only $45K?

programmer
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Yeah that's what I heard. Pretty sad eh?

wiser
Thursday, December 19, 2002

I've heard the same thing.  Although I think that the more senior level people get paid more than $45k (they probably get some stock, too...).  I think that the $45k is for some kid straight out of college, depending on experience the pay will vary.  I don't think that the company is starved for programmers the way they used to be 7+ years ago, they can pick and choose and I'm sure the cheaper and smarter the better, for them...

Tim
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Isn't it even worse than that? Is it at zazona where they post actual government documents showing that they pay their H1B people something silly like $17.5k or $22k or some such craziness? It's been a year or so since I read about this thing.

not this again
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Alyosha`:

What was Microsoft interviewing you for, I'm assuming a Software Development Engineer, but for what product/group?

Did you get the job after going through all that?

Just wondering, since I may have to go though all that myself...

nojuan
Thursday, December 19, 2002

45K? I thought Microsoft paid higher. But they can pick and choose anyone they want. They can even set up a n guys for 1 position and pick the best. Geez.

Bob
Thursday, December 19, 2002

"Play to win.

Try to play an active part in the job interview. It is not only there so that the company can find out if you are the right person for the job, but also, for you to find out if the job and the company is right for you. Ask questions.

Be confident about your skills, but be honest. Do not try to fake skills you do not have. Don't mumble, don't look to the floor when you do not have the answer to a question straight away. Instead, openly and actively work on solving the problem, ask for more information or share the insight you already have with the interviewer.

See every interview as a learning experience for yourself. See it as something to look forward to. Be aware but not ancious.

Most of all:

Have fun, "



Who thinks mr/mrs jutta is a recruiter?

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, December 19, 2002

45K is way, way off for even college grads with no experience.  I'm not going to say what the actual salary is, but it is very competitive with any other offer you are going to get.  With the added bonus that the company isn't going to go bankrupt any time soon.

Microsoft Employee
Thursday, December 19, 2002

My current boss was offered a job at MS for 60k a year after only about a year of experience along with a masters.  He turned down the position because he had a lot of other, better offers.  That was a couple years ago, so I'd assume they're paying slightly more now.

Vincent Marquez
Thursday, December 19, 2002

Punch the interviewer in the face, and then when he/she stands up with a dazed look, ask:  "How you like them apples?"

Amanda Huginkiss
Thursday, December 19, 2002

In my mind, recruiting at Microsoft is a total mess. It's so phony, unintelligent and irrelevent most of the time.

Ever been to Redmond recently? you would be amazed to find bozos all over the place. It's a sad state of affairs and MS knows that too. That's the price of exponential growth.

Quick question to the forum: what precentage of current MS Employees (technical) are as technically adept as Joel Spolsky? just a thought.

wiser
Thursday, December 19, 2002

NoJuan:

It was a testing position in the Visual C++ group.  The primary focus would have been to ensure that templates were being handled in a standards compliant manner.

Alyosha`
Friday, December 20, 2002

> Who thinks mr/mrs jutta is a recruiter?

Hey, I'm not, I am just a totally normal software developer ;-) it's mrs btw, just so you know

What made you think so?

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Friday, December 20, 2002

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1580627595/qid=1040677282/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-0076503-5850311?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
Best ever interview book. Read the chapter on interview questions and why they are asking. It is all good.

Doug Withau
Monday, December 23, 2002

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