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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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Dr. Hardwick presents "Interviewing from the Inside"

Dr. Hardwick, CIS professor, presented "Interviewing from the Inside," drawing from his experience at Microsoft to give insight into hiring at large tech companies.


Dr. Hardwick, professor in the department of Computer Information Science, presented last Wednesday, Nov. 12, on how to interview successfully at Microsoft and other big name tech companies. Dr. Hardwick hails from a 17 year career at Microsoft, leaving the company in June of 2014 to pursue the position here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. While at Microsoft, Hardwick worked in roles such as research and development, software architect, program manager, and software development engineer. During his tenure at Microsoft, he interviewed approximately 100 candidates, served as a "technical expert" in interviews, and grew his own team from 2 to 16. Hardwick shared his wealth of experience last Wednesday during his presentation, "Interviewing from the Inside." Below is a recap of the excellent advice presented, as well as some insight into interviewing at Microsoft.

Interviewing at Microsoft is a process very similar to interviewing at other larger technical companies, as these companies are all looking for the same type of candidate. What are they looking for? Hardwick explained that these companies are searching for a candidate who has the right kind of experience, is good at solving problems, who handles themselves well under pressure, and who would be a positive addition to the team, both professionally and socially.

But just what is the right kind of experience? Hardwick suggests that this includes the length of education and certain computer language skills, but that this is actually evaluating whether or not you have worked successfully in a previous position. This is just the beginning of a length selection process. There may be phone or video screening, and then there will be a series of interviews in which problem solving and the ability to function well under pressure, as well as fit, are evaluated. One specific skill to exhibit here is working out loud and explaining reasoning when writing code on a white board.

The key to showing that you can act well under pressure is to provide evidence that you are able to learn, grow, and self reflect, and that you are aware of your own emotions and limitations. You may be asked to recall past experiences to show this, but beware of using canned responses, unless you can adequately express how you handled the situation and what you would do differently in a similar future situation.

Of course, interviewers are looking for a candidate who they would actually want to work with from day to day. this is when interview tactics like team lunches come into play. In this part of the interview, be sure to show that you can eat a meal with reasonable social graces, are interested in what others do and say (and are interesting!) and you can answer questions gracefully and with appropriate length.

A typical interview process begins with the phone or video screening, followed by a day on site. This will involve multiple interviews one after another with several different interviewers, for about an hour each. Lastly, if the company is interested in a candidate, there may be a final, "as appropriate," interview, typically with a very senior employee, meant to ensure that a candidate is a good fit for the company as a whole.

Some general advice:

  • It's okay to be nervous!
  • If you feel confident enough to do so, it's alright to ask for a do over on a question.
  • Dress professionally, but comfortably. Interviewers can tell if you aren't comfortable wearing a suit and tie.
  • Review your application the day before your interview. You will be asked about it, and you'll want to answer accurately.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer in advance, as well as write down more questions that come to you during the interview.

Good luck on all of your future interviews, CSET!

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