"Well, I did it. I can now say I interviewed with Microsoft. Surprise, surprise, I found out over the weekend that I would be interviewing for a Program Manager position, not a Software Design Engineer position. Anyway, here's the scoop:
My plane landed Sunday afternoon at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The weather was in the upper 70's and the sky was clear. I took a cab to the Courtyard Mariott hotel. When I arrived, I received a note saying that Microsoft would cover food and drink charges to my room.
Monday morning I arrived at building 19 and met with my recruiter. He informed me that I would have four interviews: two with the Microsoft Project team, and two with the Microsoft Word team -- in that order. He then asked for my application and had me sign a non-disclosure agreement.
I was then off to my first interview. I was asked the following: How can computer technology be integrated in an elevator system for a hundred story office building? We discussed how inexpensive sensors might be used to determine how many people are waiting for an elevator at a given time. We discussed what sort of traffic to expect over a typical work week. We discussed variation in traffic over the course of a day and from floor to floor. We discussed the concept of availability and what it means.
The second interview was over lunch. I was driven off-campus to a nearby Italian restaurant. While eating, I was asked a whole bunch of questions about my work history and relevant experience. I was asked the following question: How would you implement copy-protection on a control which can be embedded in a document and duplicated readily via the Internet? Now there's a tough question to be asked during lunch!
After lunch, with no rest in sight, I headed for the third interview. I was asked the following: Define an interface for indenting selected text in a Word document. I had to consider selections ranging from a single sentence up through selections of several pages. I also had to consider selections not currently visible or only partially visible. I was asked about the state of the controls I defined and how the user would know when it is appropriate to use them. I was asked how the user would know what the controls were for.
Finally, the fourth, last, and hardest interview. I didn't know it then, but afterwards I learned that my interviewer graduated at the top of his class at Harvard with an advanced degree in Mathematics. He was the toughest interviewer. The first thing he asked was 'What was the hardest question asked of you so far today?' My answer: the control copy-protection question described above. He then asked: Imagine an analog clock set to 12 o'clock. Note that the hour and minute hands overlap. The question: How many times each day do both the hour and minute hands overlap? Explain how you would determine the exact times of day that this occurs.
I felt the pace of the interviews to be swift, but not overwhelming. I was constantly asked if I had any more questions. I usually did, but when a question was answered, I was once again asked if I had more questions.
The questions themselves varied from easy (those about my background) to open-ended (those for which Microsoft is looking for answers). I think I answered most questions satisfactorily; however, some questions had me stumbling. For instance, the fourth interviewer's first question, 'What was the hardest question asked of you so far today?' temporarily threw me, but I answered him.
I learned of a great deal of benefits that Microsoft provides. Individuality is highly valued. Each of my interviewers had highly personalized offices. One interviewer plastered the walls and ceiling with compact disks.
No one is more than six levels away from Bill Gates himself. Most people are at the bottom level. Microsoft's organization is relatively flat.
'Do I want to work for Microsoft?' is a question I answer, 'It depends.'"