Today was Gretchen’s last day of work at Microsoft and therefore the last time we’ll really be driving to work together. <sniffle> It’s been a lot of fun. Five and half years ago we went to NEO (New Employee Orientation) together and got to see billg get asked if "the open door policy extended to him home office". During that first year we’d leave our apartment, one that overlooked the main sign for corporate campus, to walk into work together. She’d stop at building 19 and I’d continue onto 41.

I still believe there are people, maybe even Bill, spying on pedestrians while activating each sprinkler head in line as fresh recruits like us strolled into our buildings. But it was nearly 8 years ago that we had our first experience with Microsoft recruiting that I believe partially inspired her desire to go the extra mile for recruits.

I had just returned to the dorm after a cross country flight that followed after an 8 hour interview day. I was anxious and nervous about hearing the results. I wasn’t so sure about the job I’d be doing, but knew that I’d love to have the opportunity to make a difference somewhere at Microsoft. What follows is a rough, albeit colored by time, transcript of the phone call I received from my recruiter.

Perky MS Recruiter – "Congratulations Josh, I’m calling to let you know that your interviews went well and that we’ll be extending you an offer!"

Nervous College Student who’s not sure what he wants to be when he grows up – "That’s great! Is there any way to find out more about what I’ll be doing as an intern?"

Perky MS Recruiter – "Well, you’ll be working as an SDET with the Visual Basic team. Do you plan on accepting your offer?"

College Student – "What if I would like to work with a different team or try a different type of work?"

Perky MS Recruiter – "Do you know just how lucky you to have a chance to be an intern with us? It won’t matter what team you’re on, the experience is a chance of a lifetime"

College Student with a competitive offer that was more compelling than name brand or money – "We’ll, I’ll have to think about it. I have an offer from another company that told me I could work on whatever I wanted to within reason"

Slightly Annoyed Perky MS Recruiter – "But think about the experience and the opportunity…"

Ambitious College Student – "If I really don’t have a choice in what I’d be working on then I’m going to have to turn down the offer"

Annoyed, but still perky, MS recruiter – "You don’t get a choice in what you are going to do, but people don’t turn down offers to Intern at Microsoft. It would be very stupid to do so"

College student’ who’s nervous he’s about to make the biggest mistake of his life and get a big perma-snub from Microsoft – "I’m likely going to say no then"

MS Recruiter – no longer sounding as perky – "Well, good luck to you then." <click>

Frighten College student saying to girlfriend – "She just hung up on me"

<1 hour passes and the college student has called the other company just to make sure he still has an offer there and the phone rings>

Ambitious Recruiter with Renewed Perkyness – "I just wanted to apologize for the way I acted before and also let you know that I can give you another 24 hours to reconsider your choice. "

Frighten College student – "ok"

<24 hours later and the phone rings>

Recruiter with Renewed Confidence – "I assume you’ve reconsidered our offer?"

Jilted college student who is starting to think he was wrong for telling the linux zealouts that MS really isn’t that evil – "Nope, I’m going to intern elsewhere"

<The End>

So I’ve worked at Microsoft for over five years now. What happened the next time I approached Microsoft for a job…

  • I was flown out without the need for an on campus interview
  • The (new) recruiter had a dialog with me up-front about where my interests where and arranged for me to interview with three teams. She really made me feel we were partners in my experience rather than someone who had to do what they told me.
  • I received three offers and the recruiter called after hours to let me know.
  • She put me in touch with the three hiring managers and helped me digest the answers I received from them.
  • One hiring manager, in particular, also went out of his way to communicate, keep in touch, and answer my questions.
  • The recruiter identified Gretchen, and her needs, as a sticking point in my initial reluctance and would sometimes call just to talk to Gretchen.
  • I joined the team that made me feel welcome and wanted before I had even started.
  • Gretchen was impressed with the experience. She realized that it would be a really cool job to have that level of impact on the candidates experience, life, and overall perception of the company she would ultimately come to represent for several years.

The second experience was a complete 180 degrees away from the first one and Microsoft got two hires for the price of one.

I wish that I had been armed with the knowledge and conversation contained on Jobsblog when I was that frightened college student afraid he wasn’t going to get a second shot. Advice I could have used at the time was posted as recently as yesterday. It’s opened the black box on a process that had remained hidden for too long and I hope Microsoft never lets the lid get closed again.

This whole entry is a long way of saying that I’ve been extremely proud of how Gretchen has been able to make such an impact in so many lives over the last few years. In the product groups it may take a little bit of bravery to have such strong passion for and dialog with your customers, but it takes took that and a lot bit more for someone in her role to do so. She’s never just been the "perky recruiter" and I know she never will be.

If you want just a taste of how far a little bit of openness and real dialog can go towards an increase in customer satisfaction… all you have to do is read the replies in Gretchen’s last post.