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How to Crack the Microsoft Interview

Kavya Sukumar - InterviewstreetToday we’re welcoming Kavya Sukumar, a Microsoft developer who can share some insights on the interview process and how to crack it!


Hello Kavya, thank you for accepting the invite! Our readers would like to know a little bit about you, so…
Yep, sure! I currently work as an Software Development Engineer in Test at Microsoft. I joined Microsoft’s India Development Center after graduating in Computer Science and Engineering. After a year in IDC, I moved here to Redmond, WA.

What’s the interview process in top tech companies like Microsoft?
In Microsoft, there is no fixed interview process or format. It changes with product groups or teams. The most commonly followed interview process consists of four to five rounds, each focusing on analytical, problem solving, designing, coding and testing the skills of the candidate.
It starts with a screening round, which may be submitted in written format, via telephone or in person.
In Microsoft, there are three engineering profiles: development, test and program management. Apart from screening candidates, the initial round also decides the profile best suited for you. Once you clear the screening, you proceed to the next round, which is called a ‘loop’. A loop usually consists of three to four people who interview you separately.

Thanks Kavya! That was indeed a detailed explanation. Now, how does a candidate prepare herself/himself for the interview?
It helps to practice problem-solving and coding. Design and test cases questions are usually where candidates, especially ones who are fresh out of college, fumble. It is a good exercise to try to come up with design and test cases for a given scenario. It is a common misconception that you won’t be asked to come up with test cases when you apply for a development profile job. What you must understand is that it is the job of the interviewers to judge your capabilities. During an interview, your enthusiasm, confidence, approach to problem-solving, articulation of ideas, etc. are looked at with a critical eye.

Fantastic! But, generally students are not expected to know the answers of all the questions asked in the interview, right? How can they tackle questions for which they have no clue?
Absolutely! You are not expected to know the answer to all the questions right away. Acing an interview is not just about arriving at the answer. It is a lot about how you approach the problem, your clarity of thought, how you backtrack when you are stuck, how you use the hints given to you.
Sometimes in an interview you get a question that stumps you. Or sometimes the right answer to a question is very subjective. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be disheartened.

Do not hesitate to ask the interviewer for clarifications. It is important to ‘think aloud’ in an interview, so that the interviewer knows your line of thought and can give you hints. Interviewers usually try to gently nudge you towards a solution. DO NOT give up without trying.

How much importance is academic performance given in an interview?
That is a loaded question 🙂 There is no definite yes or no answer, it usually comes down to individual preference. Some interviewers look at your academic performance in your resume and others don’t. A good grade point average can help you get noticed in a resume screening. It can also make a good first impression on the interviewer. But ultimately it is your interview performance that matters the most.

What advice do you have for candidates who have average grades and are aspiring to work for Microsoft?
As I mentioned already, the role grades play in a hire or no-hire decision is very debatable. Good academic performance helps your resume get noticed. If you don’t have stellar academic record to put in there, try to offset it with a good internship or a project. At the end of the day, it is your interview performance that matters. So preparing for the interviews is your best bet at acing them.

Thank you, Kavya! It would be great if you could share a to-do list before attending a Microsoft interview.

  • Have a clutter-free and easy-to-read resume… Recruiters don’t want to read through a lengthy resume.
  • Practice writing code on paper or board. It is different than typing it out in a code editor or IDE. If you’re taking a programming challenge online, you won’t have this problem.
  • Do not discount the importance of design and test cases while practicing. It usually takes a few tries to get it right and stay organized.

NEXT: Read the HackerRank Guide to Interview Prep

Comments (11)

  • As a former employee at MS, I was surprised this didn’t discuss much about passion for the product, which was always my first question and most important criteria.
    Most of my interviews would revolve around telling the candidates, “Assume you’re hired and you just started this morning. What would you do now?” The great hires already had tons of ideas and could demonstrate how they’d hit the ground running both with ideas and the execution to make it happen.
    In general, approaching job interviews as something you need to crack or prepare for probably means you’re looking for the wrong job. Really the job you want is the one you’ve already spent your whole life preparing for.

  • Book [Cracking the Coding Interview] is the best source to crack the interview of the top companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon etc.

  • I was interviewed as a Junior Developer at MS in 1995 April. I had 2 phone interviews one with HR and 1 with a technical person – who asked me a lot of simple common sense type problems and some puzzles.
    Then they flew me to Redmond and I had about a 10 hour interview from 10.00 till about 7.30 pm. Before 10.00 I had a brief chat with the HR person who updated me all about the next steps and who I would be meeting throught out the day.
    I was also being interviewed during the lunch time – while having lunch in a restaurant with my to be manager.
    Throughout the process I remember, I was constantly asked to solve problems. I was also asked to write sample code to solve the Knap Sack Problem – using different Algorithmic techniques ( at a high level ) example – Hill Climbing Technique, Greedy Technique and then explain the advantages and drawbacks of the same.
    I was asked to do a lot of things on board – reverse a list, and other list related problems I remember. They gave me a Calculator Program ( which is bundled with the OS ) and asked me to find bugs and see if I can break it – though I was not being interviewed for a tester Position,
    By the end of the day I was tired but they wanted to make sure my attention and reaction time did not decrease.
    I have forgotten other details but the interview was indeed very fun and I enjoyed it all the more since I think I was eventually hired.

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  • i am a eee student .my question is? if a programmer came programing questins .if other department came like eee,ece etc. what and how type of question will be asked to them by interviewer?

    • imran
    • July 20, 2017 at 2:55 pm
    • Reply
  • thank you for sharing such a useful information about jobs where we rarely find the true information about jobs. find some more information about jobs here hr jobs in Hyderabad.

    • akhila
    • September 11, 2017 at 11:09 am
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  • Excellent and helpful post… I am so glad to left comment on this. This has been a so interesting ..I appreciate your effort..

  • Thank for this valuable information.

  • Thank you for this wonderful blog..This will be very useful for interview preparation

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