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Interviewing at Microsoft

I found this web page about interviewing at Microsoft

I found something there interesting:

MS rarely asks logic/riddle questions anymore. They're not a good indicator of a good employee.

They don't? Personally, I'm very happy. What do others have to say about this? (You too, Joel!)

Saturday, August 21, 2004

They ask coding problems for their interviews now. I interviewed there last December. 2 days, two jobs, 13 different interviewers 13 different codng questions.

It was pretty grueling.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Logical/riddle questions are essentially hit or miss.  Just because a potential employee can't determine how to get 3 ducks, a goose, and a coyote across the river in a canoe in only three trips doesn't mean they don't understand the intricacies of .NET.  I much prefer to look at the interviewee's past accomplishments and evaluate their personality to see how they will fit into the organization.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

At some point in time, somebody decided that logic/riddle questions would help them identify exceptionally clever people.  And so they became all the rage.

Finally, slowly, they are beginning to realize that this method isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

I get the impression that every interview is different. It depends on who you happen to interview with. I interviewed last fall and had a good mix of questions. I had a 3 of the logic riddle type problems, and a bunch of the more typical questions. Only two coding questions.

Good luck in the interview, and make sure you get lots of sleep...I was there for 6 hours straight. Not only was it a long day, it was mentally taxing. I went back to the hotel room and just had to sit and stare for a while before I could even order room service to eat.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

So you guys that interviewed, did you get a job offer?  And what did it take to get an interview?

Saturday, August 21, 2004

I had an interview recently with a company that obviously had read about the old Microsoft approach. They even finished with "How are M&M's made?" I was stunned - didn't they realise that this is a well-known interview question from Microsoft, and that many candidates knew it?  It seemed to me all that was being tested was whether I had read about this question already.

As I left the interview I decided I was not interested in working for them.

I was interviewing for a coding position, and the only coding question was a riddle. I found a solution easily so they asked for a solution using a constant memory. The answer was definitely an Aha! solution - once you heard it it was obvious, otherwise it was damn tough.

Bad Interview in Germany
Sunday, August 22, 2004

I interviewed with Microsoft almost two years ago but did not get hired.  Most of the questions were coding questions like reverse a link list type of thing.  I think I had one logic type question but I think the guy asked me it because I aced the coding question he gave me and needed to fill the time.

The interview at Microsoft was by far the most mentally challenging task I have ever undertaken.  I was wiped out at the end just like another poster said.  To even get to the interview in Redmond I had two phone interviews.  The first was from an HR type who had a list of questions.  I was/am a Java programmer so they were all Java related.  They were the standard type questions such as are method inputs pass by reference or value.  The next step was a phone interview with a developer where I had to go through another round of tough questions and even "write" code for him over the phone to reverse a string.  After that I got a free trip to Redmond for the big challenge.  It was pretty much all afternoon of interviews.  I am pretty sure I did will with all the technical types but the one interview I didn't to do as well was with the guy I think was the PM.  He was the first interview and I was pretty nervous and all.  I can say afterwards, I had much more respect for Microsoft and the employees.

Bill Rushmore
Monday, August 23, 2004

Indeed.  Brain-teaser questions are discouraged.  I have never liked them and I never use them.

Many are well known, in which case you are testing the candidate's knowledge of brain teasers, not coding skills.

Many have "stock" answers which are wrong or incomplete.  "Why are manhole covers round?" or "how do you weigh an airplane?" for example.  An interviewer who knows only the stock answer and is looking for it is grading the candidate on their ability to parrot wrong information, which is a skill we want to discourage!

Though I agree that "out of the box thinking" is a valuable skill, most of the real problems I solve are solved "in the box" -- through application of time-tested, carefully implemented standard practices.  Brain teasers simply do not test many of the skills I am interested in.  Attention to detail, ability to choose the right mix of tradeoffs in a constrained design, how to ask probing questions to deal with ambiguous customer requirements -- none of these are tested by "how many gas stations are there in Peoria?"

Time is the fire in which we burn.  Every minute I waste talking about how to identify which switch goes with which lightbulb is a minute better spent talking about "how did you ensure that your last project was well tested?  What were some of the security issues you faced?  How do you typically like to work with testers?" etc, etc, etc.

Eric Lippert
Monday, August 23, 2004

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