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How to prepare for the Microsoft interview process

Use our tips to nail your applications, master the Microsoft interview process, and negotiate like a pro so you can make more money.

Knowledge is a job seeker’s superpower. When applying for tech roles, especially at big companies like Microsoft, it pays to know what you’re in for. Understanding the company’s mission, values, culture, products, and interview structure by heart can give you a major advantage, even over other candidates with stronger resumes or technical skills. At Pathrise, we’ve helped 1,000+ people land great tech jobs. We have data-backed tips for each step of the job search that’s proven to help candidates ace their interviews.

While no two tech companies are exactly alike, their application and interview processes often have a lot in common. Below, we’ve outlined the application and interview process for Microsoft. Use this post to prepare for an interview at Microsoft or a similar big tech company.

Microsoft application process

Luckily for eager jobseekers, big tech companies like Microsoft are almost always hiring. You don’t have to wait to find their listings on job boards like LinkedIn, where they have 600,000+ openings. While we recommend everyone create a LinkedIn profile, Microsoft gets thousands of one-click submissions for their roles. How will your application stand out so a recruiter actually reads it?

One effective strategy is “reverse recruiting”, or contacting recruiters directly. Start by searching LinkedIn for technical recruiters, high level team members, or managers at Microsoft. Narrow down the results to the people you have a connection with, like a shared university or hometown. Finally, craft a LinkedIn message that highlights this connection. Fellows in our program have found that sending a personalized cold email along with their application triples their response rate on average. Check out our cold email templates to craft the most effective introduction possible. For more information on how to reach out to recruiters and a list of contacts, including Microsoft recruiters, check out our full Microsoft guide. 

Photo of Microsoft interview process

Microsoft interview process

While Microsoft interviews tend to be lengthy and intense, candidates’ experiences have been generally positive overall. Microsoft even covers travel and accommodation expenses for onsite interviews.

The Microsoft interview process typically takes 2-9 weeks on average and follows this order.

Stage 1: 30 minute phone interview

Step 2: 1 hour phone interview (may include technical questions) 

Stage 3: Onsite interview, which usually lasts all day and includes multiple rounds with each team. There are around 4 technical interviews per team and a lunch interview. A 5th interviewer has the final say.

However, the Microsoft interview process depends largely on the chosen role.

UX/UI design Microsoft interview process

Typically, the UX/UI interview process takes 2-4+ weeks, divided into the following:

  • Stage 1: 30 minute phone interview 
  • Step 2: 1 hour phone interview where candidates present projects to a design manager and answer questions. 
  • Stage 3: Onsite interview, starting with a portfolio presentation. Next, candidates have 1 on-1 interviews with a senior team and design managers, followed by lunch. In the afternoon, candidates get 1 hour to solve an open-ended design prompt and present the challenge to all interviewers for 30 minutes on the whiteboard. The final hurdle is a 1-on-1 interview with a senior division leader. 
  • Common questions: How do you balance design aspirations with legacy, how do you behave in a stressful & competitive work environment, how would you improve a mobile experience

Software engineering Microsoft interview process

The software engineering interview process is much longer, often 1-2 months.

  • Stage 1: Phone interview (30 minutes) or on-campus interview. This usually involves technical questions related to the candidate’s background and projects.
  • Stage 2: Group interview + whiteboard coding interview. In groups of 10-20, candidates cycle through 4 interviewers. Applicants have 3-5 whiteboard coding interviews, including a lunch interview. Each interview lasts about an hour, with a break in between for the interviewers to discuss the candidate’s performance. Each interviewer gets a hire/no hire decision. If the candidate gets 2 no hires out of the first 3 interviews, they may go home early. The 5th interview is the hiring manager, who has the final say. 
  • Common questions: Implement a lock, swap a doubly linked list in pairs, traditional string manipulation question (but with C++)

Data science Microsoft interview process

Data scientists can complete their Microsoft interviews in 2-4 weeks.

  • Stage 1: Phone screen with a recruiter
  • Step 2: Code test that asks candidates to write R code to solve coding questions.
  • Stage 3: Onsite interview for a full day, including a lunch interview. Candidates have back-to-back algorithm interviews with statistical questions, inference questions, math modeling questions, managing questions, coding questions, and more.
  • Common questions: Explain p-value to customers, basic machine learning challenges, given a time series dataset, how would you predict the future value, replace empty cells with the median

Product management Microsoft interview process

On average, the Microsoft interview process for a product manager position takes 2-4 weeks.

  • Stage 1: Phone interview with behavioral questions/projects plus technical product questions. The interviewer may ask some “case-like” questions that analyze the candidate’s critical thinking skills.
  • Stage 2: Onsite interview that lasts all day. Candidates meet with 4 product managers and possibly a stress interviewer to see how the candidate works under pressure.
  • Common questions: What’s your favorite Microsoft product, how to output a tree in column sequence from left to right, design an airport traffic control system

Sales Microsoft interview process

The interview process for a sales role only takes 1-5 weeks. 

  • Stage 1: Initial screen with a recruiter
  • Step 2: Phone interview with a hiring manager
  • Stage 3: Onsite interview, which includes technical, behavioral, and cross-functional sessions.
  • Common questions: Why sales, sell me this Microsoft product, what were the names of everybody in the room yesterday and how would you describe them in 1 word

How to prepare for Microsoft interviews

Microsoft interviews usually start with a fairly casual phone screen. However, candidates should still prepare with company research to learn about Microsoft’s mission, values, culture, and products. Even if you’re reading this on a beloved Microsoft product, understanding the specific vision behind their products will help you stand out. Candidates who use language from Microsoft’s values not only show dedication, but they also appeal to recruiters who may be seeking highly specific skills and values that align with the company’s mission. You can learn more about Microsoft in their About, People, and Values pages. Check out our list of phone interview questions and answers to practice for the phone screen as well.

Photo of Microsoft interviews

For your technical interviews, you should practice popular questions and time yourself solving them. Aspiring Microsoft software engineers may want to practice pair-programming questions with a partner. All roles should be prepared to explain their thinking aloud as interviewers want to see how candidates approach problems. Check out our list of Microsoft interview questions to further prepare for software engineering, data science, product design, and product management interviews.

Candidates will have more behavioral interviews onsite. This is another opportunity to show off your research on Microsoft’s company values and mission. Write down your responses to popular behavioral questions first. Once you know how you’ll answer common questions, practice aloud in front of a partner or a mirror. We’ve put together a list of behavioral interview questions from top tech companies to help you prepare.

Microsoft offer process

While getting a Microsoft job offer is cause for major celebration, it’s not the end of the process. Successful candidates should be prepared to negotiate. Microsoft salary offers are on the high end, even among top tech companies like Facebook or Amazon. However, you can still potentially negotiate equity, signing bonuses, and other great benefits. 

Photo of Microsoft salary averages

Negotiation will be so much easier if you don’t mention specific salary ranges or benefits in the early interview process. If the recruiter asks, tell them you’d like to do more research on market rates or simply say salary is “Negotiable, within reason.” Check out our negotiation guide for more information on how to negotiate successfully, including an email template you can adapt.

Want multiple offers? For more information on how to get a job at top tech companies like Microsoft, check out our company guides. Each includes interview processes, questions, values, and everything else you need to get the job.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream tech job. With our tips and guidance, fellows in our program see their application response rate and double their interview scores. It only takes 3-5 months on average for fellows to land a great job.

If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to optimize your applications, interviews, or with any other phase of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.

Apply today.

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Brian Wong

Brian Wong is an experienced senior software engineer and has worked at top bay area startups and organizations. In his free time, Brian works with Pathrise SWE fellows to help them land their dream job and learn insider tips on how to ace technical interviews.

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