Road to the Red Pill - Part 2

Published 30 March 05 03:43 PM | mhawley

In Part 1 of “Road to the Red Pill” – I described how my resume was submitted and how my first few interviews went. This part will focus on my remaining interviews. Enjoy!

…nay, it was the beginning of an arduous adventure that strained my brain and kept me on my toes for the next month. Yes, thats right, the on-site interviews. Many have described these as being horrendous days that strain your brain in knowledge, logic, and creative thinking. While in most cases this is true, I was lucky enough to not endure such a hardship. Could it be that Microsoft is starting to ease off the hard questions, or could it be that for the position I was aiming for didn't need it. My personal opinion is that it was the former.

Roughly a week went by from the time that I had my phone interview with the hiring manager to when I was contacted by my scheduling coordinator. During this time I was on the edge of wondering if I was just fed a line, and that I wasn’t really going to get the opportunity of a lifetime to make such a trip out to Redmond to show my expertise. Days came and went, and then I received the email asking for all of my personal information and suggestions for when I could make it out there. Now, at this point, I still hadn’t informed my employer that I was interviewing, so I set out to find either a Friday or Monday that I could make the trip out to Redmond so that it just seemed like I was taking an extended weekend. Another requirement, was that it had to be at least two weeks in advance to secure the appropriate flights for me.

The date was set, February 28th. I would fly out Sunday afternoon and fly back Tuesday morning. Getting the vacation time was just as easy, as I all had to do for getting my on-site interview setup was let them know when & where I wanted to come from / go to, as well as if I wanted a rental car or take a taxi. While some say taking a taxi is best, I’d have to partially agree, as I got lost several times trying to 1) get to building 100 to meet my recruiter and 2) got lost trying to get out of Seattle after visiting the Space Needle. Taking a taxi just merely allows you to worry about the important things, like your upcoming interview. Two weeks+ passed, and I was on my way. I didn’t realize at that point how long taking a plane would actually take…nearly 5 hours going from Chicago to Seattle is just something I’m going to grow to like.

Anyway, I arrived in Seattle at about 6:30 PM and promptly got my bags & rental car. Following the directions to the beautiful hotel I was put up in, I found that commuting will be a major thing I’ll want to try and avoid if I would land a job with “the man.” Upon arriving to the hotel, I checked in, got some free dinner, and went to bed. I had forced myself to stay up to 11 PM (aka 1 AM CST) just so that jet lag wouldn’t be an issue the next day.

With a wakeup call at 6:30 AM the next morning, the day had arrived. I found myself getting more and more nervous. After I finished breakfast, I headed back up to my room, popped in my iPod ear plugs and jammed away for an hour to calm my nerves. This was key – you had to be calm and collected prior to heading out, so if you’re in the same situation, do whatever it takes to make you calm. Then it was off to building 100 where I would meet my recruiter.

Boy, I tell ya what, this building is the worst building to try and find…I ended up missing it and having to go out on the highway to make another round trip to only go in the back way. Seriously, they need to do something about that (another key point on why a taxi should have been taken!).

So finally I arrived, checked in with the secretary, who told me to just sit back and relax. I had arrived at about 8:45, which gave me enough time to calm my nerves again. I’d suggest not arriving much earlier than what I did, as all you’ll do is sit…and wait…and sit…and wait. So finally, my recruiter came and got me. We went back to her office where we had some small talk (god, I’m seriously bad at that, and no I’m not talking about the language) and then went into how my day was going to go. She let me know of all of my interviewers (well, the first 4) and what they’ll be focusing on. And then, she started priming my noggin’ for some of the questions that got asked time and time again – like “Why Microsoft?”

Then I was off. I was lucky enough that all my interviews were in the same building (109, I believe), so I didn’t have to take the recruiting shuttle from place to place…however attempting to park in a jam-packed parking lot is not fun! Anyways, I was on my way for my day long interviews. Like many have stated before, your first interview is probably your worst. I’d have to agree – but not on a technical level, just in general. I fumbled over my answers, and got really nervous, but something may have clicked with my technical background that he liked. This interview focused more along the lines of my creativity and knowledge of the SDLC. Then it was done, phew!

My second interview, oddly enough, was with my primary contact who I sent my resume in. What a relief that was…I really enjoyed finally meeting him and having a great discussion with him. This was along the lines of my more technical interviews. A lot was asked from Scott’s list as well as some other good questions. I’d say that I nailed about 90% of the questions, and my 2 white boarding questions – which btw, was me writing T-SQL code according to a table structure and report they wished to have retrieved.

My third interview was a lunch interview. Don’t be fooled, you get to eat, but don’t let that impede your ability to answer / ask questions of your interviewer. This interview was focused more along the lines of project management skills (since I was applying for a Sr. App. Dev. position). While I thought my answers were sufficient, I later found out that mostly all of my interviewers thought I didn’t have the capabilities yet to hold that position. I promptly agreed because, well, why lie! I’m only 23, so I wasn’t expecting to try and get my hands on a position I couldn’t handle currently. Okay, anyways – back to the story. We finished up lunch and headed back (I think it was at this time that I realized how many BMWs or Mercedes there are in Redmond) where I had about an hour break waiting for my next interview. So, I was stuck in an empty office by myself, and gave my dad a ring to let him know how things were going, then jammed out to more music on my iPod.

My fourth interview went awesome. It was a mix of technical / creativity / logic questions that I just rocked. It was in this interview that I had my first puzzle (rather, logic) question. I don’t want to blow his question for future interviews, so I won’t repeat it, and please don’t ask. Anyway, this interview actually only lasted about 20–30 minutes. After which we sat around and chatted and I got to find out more about the area and the culture. This was truly an uplifting interview, because it made me feel at home and comfortable. It was at this point, I was either going back to the hotel or continuing on with a couple more interviews…the latter was the case.

My fifth interview was also another technically challenging one. Much was asked of my knowledge of the .NET framework internals as well as past technologies. This was a grueling interview, but I felt I came out of it pretty decent. It was in this one that I got my second (and final) puzzle question. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it right away, but after a small point in the right direction, it was like someone had just shined a bright light upon me, as the solution hit me like a freight train.

Finally, I made it to my last interview. This was with the hiring manager that I previously had a phone interview with. This was also more of a laid back interview in which he strived mostly on letting me know how I did during the day. He also focused on how I would handle things if hired on by Microsoft (like how I would step up my project management skills or continue learning new technologies). This was another one of those uplifting interviews where I felt confident in myself that I had done a good job. Towards the end, he stated that there was just one more interview – the GM of the division, but he was out of the country on business, and that it would have to wait until a phone interview. So, I was escorted out and my on-site interviews were done.

That next Wednesday, I was contacted by my recruiter with a statement I’ll never forget “You’re interviews seemed favorable.” Favorable? Hmm, I guess thats good, I mean “favorable” indicates something that is better than “good”…doesn’t it? Well, needless to say, it was good, and she just wanted to confirm a final phone interview with me as well. Wow, a final phone interview. And so it was set, for that Friday – oh but as that day came, I was called by my interviewer only to have him push back our interview (good reasons though, he had just returned from a 38 hour flight and wasn’t feeling too great). So, it was rescheduled for the following Wednesday.

That next Wednesday seemed like it took forever to get there. Everyone was asking me Friday / Saturday how things went, only to be dissapointed when they found out I had to wait until Wednesday for it. Yes, people were getting anxious, me included. When it finally did come, I had about a 15 minute interview which summed up to “You did good with me” from my interviewer. Cool, I said to myself, but what does that mean!

Ohh, but everything was answered that next Friday when I received a phone call from my recruiter stating that an offer was forthcoming. Wow, an offer was forthcoming…I had made it…I’ll be working for “the man.”

Comments

# Myrddin said on March 30, 2005 08:13 PM:

Great story! Perhaps one day I'll get the same chance! :-)

# Gert Van Gool said on March 30, 2005 08:33 PM:

I hope one day to walk down the same road :)
Though it won't be a 3 hour flight than :) (from Belgium is bit longer :p)

# Ryan Gregg said on March 30, 2005 08:55 PM:

Great story, and it reminds me a lot of my own experiences. I went through a similar process back in November with a similar outcome! Now that I'm out here I have to say it was the best decision I've made! The whole interview process may rattle your nerves a little, but working at Microsoft is totally amazing!

I'm looking forward to hearing even more about your experiences thorugh the rest of the process in the future.

# Tim Haines said on March 30, 2005 09:21 PM:

The space needle is the bomb. I have a miniture sitting on top of my monitor.

# marco said on March 31, 2005 08:09 AM:

great Matt! Lots of congrats for taking "The Job"! I believe that working for MS at your age is, well, great!
I own my own software firm, but being a softie has always been a sort of wet dream...eheh! good luck!

# Dan Hounshell said on March 31, 2005 12:17 PM:

Congrats, Matt. Very nice story, too. Working for "the man", huh? Maybe "the man" is not so bad after all?

# Scott said on March 31, 2005 04:25 PM:

ewwwww, don't live in Redmond. We live in Seattle and it only takes my wife 30 minutes to get from Seattle to Redmond at 6:30AM. The commute sucks, but living in Redmond sucks more. Imagine a large strip mall surrounding Microsoft. bleh. Redmond is boring, Seattle is fun. If you live in Redmond you'll never make it over to Seattle. You'll think about it, you'll talk about how you're going to go to Seattle this weekend. But then you'll end up sitting there in your house/condo/appartment, you'll go get some sub-standard asian food, you'll look around for some place to get a beer that isn't a chain food bar and grill, then you'll go home. When you talk about going down to the water, you'll mean Lake Samammish or Lake Washington (if the "traffic" isn't too bad). Boring

Well, that's not completely true. There is some pretty country over there. :)

Congratulations on the job. Set a limit on how much you'll spend at the company store the first week you are there. ;)

# Matt Hawley said on March 31, 2005 04:30 PM:

LOL, I think the fiance will have to take my CC away from me so I don't splurge. I guess its that good ehh. Can't wait!

# Cale Corbett said on April 1, 2005 09:41 PM:

Congrats, Matt. It is nice to see that a guy whose controls have saved my time and my bacon is doing well.

Remember us little guys fondly when you land at MS :-)

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