The Microsoft Sales and Marketing College Hire Interview Experience

There are many blog posts and guides out there about the Microsoft interview experience, but the vast majority of these posts are specific to our technical interviews. I would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on the Sales and Marketing interview track. Though they share some common thematic elements with the technical interview, they are a different beast and require a different method of preparation.

Part 1: Pre-Interview Communication, Travel Arrangements, Etc.

In general this experience is mostly the same as you will see for any Microsoft college hire interview. You will most likely have either participated in an on-site interview at your college campus or a phone interview to 'qualify' you for an on-site. Unlike the technical interviews, where you specify what role specifically you are interested you typically initially will interview for a general area (either sales or marketing, for example). As a result you may not get any specific details about the team or role you are interviewing for until after the on-site has been offered. If you are looking for more specific information or you haven't been given any yet, this is a great time to ask. Your recruiter is there to help you be successful and will reach out to the team they are recruiting for to give you more detail on what you are interviewing for if they don’t have that information already.

Lastly, a travel consultant from Microsoft will contact you to arrange your flight, hotel stay and rental car. My only advice here is to take the full three days/ two nights that they offer. Ideally, have a travel day before and after the interview, if that is not possible, I would suggest coming 2 days before and leaving on your interview day. That is what I did and it game me time to get acclimated with the area and to be well rested. As with the technical interviews, SMSG allows their candidates to expense meals and reasonable tourism expenses. I expensed a couple nice meals and a trip to the Space Needle, the EMP Music Project and the Sci-Fi Museum. Now that we've covered the logistics, let's move on to the interview itself.

Part 2: The Sales and Marketing Interview:

Though different, the sales and marketing interview is similar in many ways to the technical interview and shares many of its qualities. The most important of these features, IMHO, is that the main objective of the interview is not to challenge you on specific sales and marketing knowledge, but to gauge your problem solving skills, ability to communicate your ideas and passion for sales/marketing and technology. It is important throughout the interview to not get nervous about your familiarity with specific sales or marketing topics, and instead to be more conscious of what you are saying and how you are saying it. It is very important to explain your thought process and to defend your logic and assumptions when making an argument or answering a question.

To test you in these areas, the interviews are split into multiple parts across multiple interviewers, so do not be surprised if you are interviewed by several people in succession with no or little break in between (I had four, one hour long interviews, in a row). Each interview will most likely be different, and they may build on each other (as others have posted, interviewers will typically send a summary email to the other interviewers and may make suggestions about questions to validate or suspect areas to investigate more fully as you are moving from on interview to the other). As such, interviewers may ask questions about previous interviewers or interviews, so it is important to keep track of who you have interviewed with and what type of questions they were asking you. It is also definitely important to stay consistent between interviews as the details of the previous interview has most likely already been shared or will be shared by the end of the loop.

In my experience the type of interviews can be divided into four interview types, though your millage may vary depending on the team and position you are going for :

The first of the interviews will be mostly about your previous experience and why you want to work at Microsoft. This interview will mostly revolve around your resume, so I cannot stress enough how important it is to KNOW YOUR RESUME and be ready to DEFEND anything on it. Especially in Business School, we are typically encouraged to use buzz-words and quantifiable/measurable statements on our resumes. Be ready to not only explain what your buzz words mean in detail, but be ready to justify or explain how you came to the measured result. For example, if on your resume it says "Project increased ROI on deliverable X by 30%" be ready to explain what Return on Investment means, how it is measured and how you increased it. If you have something on your resume you cannot explain or defend in detail, reword it or remove it. If you have 'inflated' statistics or experience, I would suggest removing it or rewording it, as it will probably not going to stand up to this level of scrutiny. As they say, the truth is better than a lie in this instance.

The second type takes the place of the technical 'white boarding' exercise from the technical interview and will ask you theoretical questions about sales and or marketing. The majority of these questions will be highly open ended (Ex. You are trying to sell product X to Y type of customer - what type of objections will they raise and how you will you resolve them or what is a product that is marketed well and why do you think so, how would you improve its marketing) and some will be more fact based (Ex: what are the differences between sales and marketing, how are they the same). I don't want to give away the farm here but some important tips for tackling these questions: 1. Take Notes, 2. Start by asking follow up questions before you start answering, the question. Make sure you understand the context of the question. 3. Put yourself in the shoes of the opposition - in the case of the first example, pretend you are the customer - what would your issues be, make a list either on paper or in your head of what those issues are, and be ready to answer them. 5. Prepare yourself to defend the logic of your arguments (how did you get to them, why did you choose them) and be ready to articulate a solution to any of those issues, even if the question did not ask you to do so. 6. Be ready to answer modifications based on your answers or thought process, for example the interview might say "Well that was a great idea but what if the product is competing with X or what if the customer has Y additional quality". The most important thing to remember though is there is no right or wrong answer as long as you can defend the logic and reasoning behind your answer. The interviewer will try to break down your argument, it is extremely important to not take this as a sign that they think you are wrong or stupid and then get nervous. Take this as an intellectual challenge and argue back, prove how smart and passionate you are! I think the worst thing you could do in the face of this type of criticism or challenge is back down on what you were defending.

The third interview type is less of an interview and more of a "fire side chat". This interview is far more conversational and I think attempts to learn more about you as a person. You may be given some questions about previous experience working with teams, what some of your goals or aspirations are at the company and in your life and may ask in more depth about specific Microsoft products or technologies you are interested in. This is your opportunity to let your personality and individuality shine.

The fourth type will typically be your last interview and is with a senior member of the team, perhaps who would be your skip level (your boss’ manager) or their boss (usually a director or higher). This interview can vary greatly depending on the person interviewing you. My only advice is to not get nervous and to try to not let the fatigue of the day hold you back here, as this is typically your last interview, it may be hour four or five of a long day. In my experience and from what I’ve heard from others, this interview usually incorporates elements from all three of the other types, but tends to be much fast and more aggressive. The interviewer has seen three or four other summaries of your interviews already so will typically expect you to answer questions about the previous interviews or interviewers and will most likely have some specific strengths or weaknesses from your other interviews so be ready. This is one of the most challenging parts of the interview process, but also a great opportunity to shine in front of a senior member of the team you may be working for.

Though it may not be possible to cover all interview types, as different interviewers and teams have different strategies, I hope this overview helps you plan and prepare for your interview more effectively. In general, have some thoughtful responses to general questions about Microsoft, its products and why you would want to work there. Review your resume and the sales or marketing basics you discuss on it and be ready to explain them. Lastly, be yourself and be confident in your responses, and let your personality, intelligence and passion shine through and you will do great. Good Luck J