Today, Tim answers the question that many have asked: "how do I prepare for an interview?". Tim recruits for our Services business, so consider the context of some of his answers (and how you would apply them to your function).

With Tim's sense of humor, you might doubt that he is a real person, but he is. I swear. I've met him. See? That's him in the picture....the tall guy.

OK, here's Tim's take on interview preparation...

How do you know if you are adequately prepared for your interview?


Back in the day, Tom (one of my colleagues here) and I worked at the same recruiting agency.  I had a client that needed a position filled and Tom had a candidate.  We prepped the guy on what to expect from the client, what to wear, some good questions to ask, etc.  The guy flew out to meet the interviewers.  At the end of the day I got a call from the hiring manager.  Apparently the candidate thought it was OK to ask the hiring manager during his interview if he could take off his shoes because his feet were killing him.  Sooooooo…….using “Don’t ask to take off your shoes during the interview” as a basis, I have a few things you might want to consider when you are trying to prepare for your interview.

Ask the RECRUITER what they know:

·         Unless they are new, or stingy with info, they will know a bunch about the hiring team and the folks that have been hired before

·         Ask about the personalities – are they calm; serious; funny; hates UCLA football, came from the BizTalk product team?...try to find a connection.

·         Ask about what the people that got hired for similar roles did to help their pursuit

o   Did they prepare a biz plan outlining what they would do 30, 60, 90+ days on the job

o   Did they forward whitepapers or successful project artifacts (as long as they didn’t violate any NDAs)

·         Ask people you know that work in the group to tell you about the role/expectations

·         If you don’t know anyone you need to do some research


I like video presentations or audio discussions and use them to get talking points and value propositions (and some deep topics too).

·         Shawn Murray, a MSFT Solution Specialist here in Atlanta has some cool “prodcasts” at his site . These are interviews with product group leaders discussing what their stuff does – awesome Microsoft product material.

·         MSDN is also a great source for MSFT specific tech/product info.  If you search for MOSS and *.wmv you will pull videos of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server presentations (use *.vsd for Visio diagrams, etc). Pick different products, believe me there is a ton of info!

·         I also like Wikipedia for overview discussions of topics

·         And of course, check out the specific Group or Team sites from the company’s public site


Most Microsoft interviews start out identifying how broad you are with your skillset.

Then they start to figure out where the holes are…don’t freak out! No-one is expected to know everything about everything! (except for a couple of groups here)

At that point they take what you do know and see how deep you can go – this is key, you really need to apply to positions where you have your greatest strengths.  Your dream job may be posted, but apply to the job you KNOW you can get.

Depth in a skillset is important to us, but so is Scale: What is the largest project you have managed; largest Active Directory rollout?; how many Fortune 50 companies have you consulted with/sold into? Things like that prove that you really can use/understand the application of technology in circumstances most never see.


The interview process is theoretically a two-way street.  You are supposed to be asking questions about the company/team/person to see if you really want the gig.  The fine line is when you start asking what the interviewer would consider to be negative questions like: “It doesn’t seem that Microsoft really knows what they are doing with respect to competitor X. What do you plan to do about that?”  The better question would be “I understand that competitor X is doing Z. Are you guys doing A,B or C to address that?”

Your questions need to show that you understand the business and have an ability to probe and get sufficient info to start to craft solutions to problems


Manic is not the same as Passionate.  For me, I free associate a lot and speak really fast.  This is not something you should emulate in an interview.  Once you get the gig, you get to be eccentric (or “relentless” according to my manager…Heather probably has her own view).  One thing I have done…and it was really weird for me,….was to have myself videotaped doing a presentation.  You gain a really unique insight into how you look, speak, act when you are discussing something.  I have used that experience to really tone down my speed (clearly not with my co-workers) when I speak to folks in an interview.

You need to convey that you really want the job; the duties, to work with the folks you’ve met, and for Microsoft.  Then, TELL the people overtly that you want the job and hope to get the chance to work with them.  People want to hire candidates that have the skills AND the passion for the job.


·         Get a good night’s sleep

·         Fly in the night before if you can (and if you need to )

·         Look at it as an experience and try not to get too worked up/stressed.  Most people here are really cool/fun and aren’t trying to break you, just see what you know and if you’ll fit in with the team as a contributor.

·         Dress up – it shows you care

·         Bring a few extra resumes

·         Consider a notepad and pencil

·         Consider creating a biz plan for how you would approach the new gig in your first few months

·         Smile!

·         ASK FOR THE JOB!!!

·         Don’t ask to take off your shoes!...especially if you have stinky feet.


This has been pretty overview-ish, so I will try to provide examples of biz plans and some of the topics discussed in a later post.




 For the record, I'm going to concur with "relentless". Thanks Tim!