The actual on-site Microsoft Interview

September 3, 2006 at 1:23 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Personal | 12 Comments

I left off the last post with having good phone interviews with both Microsoft and Amazon, but they were unable to proceed with me due to a lack of visas. My only two hopes were, the position(s) would still be open in Jan 2006 (when they said they would contact me), or the team from Microsoft coming to Egypt would contact me to schedule an interview.

A couple of months later, I was checking my junk e-mail and noticed a couple of mails from Microsoft. One of them, they had tried to schedule a phone interview with me, and the date had elapsed, and then another one trying to schedule a new one. I quickly added the domain to my email safe-list, and responded.

I had a phone interview scheduled with Priya Priyadarshini, one of the Microsoft International Recruiters (and now a blogger on JobsBlog). It wasn’t too difficult now that I knew what to expect and I had done well on the other phone interviews, so my nerves were a bit calmer. Towards the end though, I recall getting a Microsoft puzzle questions. It was very simple and straight forward (involved getting socks in the dark from a drawer). I misunderstood the question though and gave some ridiculous answer. I was told that I had done great so far, and that she would give me one more chance to answer…so I knew I was wrong, and I felt like this question could blow my chances, so I became nervous again. She repeated the question to me very slowly, and I realized she was asking something very different than what I thought (it was much simpler!) But now I began to doubt myself in case I misunderstood her again (I didn’t think it could be that simple). But it was 🙂

I waited some more after the phone interview, and then I got an email informing me that I had been selected to be interviewed when the recruiting team came to Egypt. It would be at the beautiful Four Seasons Nile Plaza. My timing was at 8am on a Friday. I found out (from friends interviewing) that they were coming only for 2 days of interviews and they have morning and evening sessions and about 5-6 people per session. So that meant I got a spot in a max of 24 possible interview spots, which made me feel good that I had gotten this far.

I went on Friday at 8am. The roads were deserted (as Friday is a weekend in Egypt). I had images of my car breaking down on the way (it has a habit of doing that!) Then I began to worry that I would go to the wrong Four Seasons (we have two that are very close by to each other). But finally I got there, and I found 5 other guys searching for the room where we would do our interviews.

We found a main suite room where we would sit, and where there were plenty of refreshments (tea, coffee, cake, soft drinks, cookies, muffins, fresh juices, etc.) It was actually a very nice set up. The team interviewing us would be the Windows Serviceability Group (who are responsible for the service pack and hotfixes of the latest Windows release).

I started off my day with interviewing with Holly Peterson (International Recruiter/Talent Scout). It was simple, and there were no complicated programming problems. One of the questions involved her handing me an inanimate object and asking me how would I test it (a Microsoft favorite I believe). I also got a couple puzzle questions at the end which I was able to nail.

I had two other interviews which were a lot tougher than anything I had experienced. There were no whiteboards, so I wrote my code using pencil and paper. In between interviews we would all go back to our initial room and sit together, while the recruiters/hiring managers would go discuss the results. We were (obviously) not allowed to talk or discuss the interview questions together.  But people were coming back with very negative results, complaining of how brutal the interviewers were, how difficult the questions were, and how they had many bugs in their algorithms which were pointed out to them. I didn’t feel or get any of the same results so I was hoping I was doing good at this point in time.

After 3 interviews, they sent everybody else home, and asked me to stay for further interviews. I felt that this was a good sign. I went in, to what would be my last interview for the day. I had spoken too soon 🙂 It was brutal. The interviewer asked me a question, and then attacked my answer which shook my confidence in the answer. In hindsight, I think he was trying to probe my weaknesses and see if I could stick to and back up my answers, which I don’t think I adequately did. At this point they thanked me for my time, and said they would be in touch in 2 weeks with the results.

I really was disappointed at this point in time as I felt I blew it in the last interview. I figured, I did my best though and that I could still try to pursue my possible interview in January with the Microsoft Speech Server group if things didn’t work out here.

It was an agonizing wait. I remember the day the results got emailed. The subject said ‘Microsoft Interview Results’ and I was afraid to open it. My wife thought I was being silly and came and opened it for me (I think she was dying to see the results more than me though!) I saw the words ‘Congratulations’ and that I had been accepted.

This is so far one of the proudest accomplishments of my career and I am real excited and looking forward to working at Microsoft.

I will attempt to write in the future some tips and advice that I would recommend for conducting Microsoft Interviews.



  1. Hi Ali,

    First, kul sana wa enta tayeb. Ramadan Kareem.

    Second, Congrats on your new post. I was looking of info regarding MS interviews and ran across your blog.

    I have recently known that MS will be conducting interviews again this December in Egypt.

    I am currently busy working on my thesis and hasn’t been focus on the developing side for a while now.I have a bachelor degree in IT and currently finishing my master in Business IT.Only been a graduate for a couple of years so you can say I have yet limited experience.

    I’ll be able to start preparing by the beginning of November.I don’t know if that wil give me enough time to nail those type of question and puzzles. Do you have any recommended sources to prepare for?Also , would you recommend that I take my chances in this December or wait till they come back if ever next year?

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Best Regards,

  2. Hi E,

    Kol Sana wenta tayeb and thank you.

    Programming is pretty much mandatory, especially good knowledge of algorithms. I will try to write a more well-thought out post regarding how I think someone should prepare for the interviews, but please bear with me as I am still getting settled in here 🙂

    You may wish to hold off from them coming in December, as they may come later on in the year. I know this year (2006) they came in December, and at least two other times (I think once in Fed/March and once in May). I can not gurantee they will do this next year though. Your best bet is to ask Priya or someone from the intl recruiting people. The thing is, if you interview and you don’t make it, you will have to wait for usually a year before they will consider you again. This not a hard and fast rule though and it may vary by person.

    Also, I would definately recommend if you wish to apply to do it before April 1st, as this is when the door becomes open for H-1B visas – and they finish pretty quickly (last year they finished mid-May, next year it may even be faster). So you need to be accepted before then if you wish to come in October 2007.

    Good luck with your choice and keep tuned for the preperation post.

  3. Thanks Ali,

    Hope things will go fine with you in the settling process.

    I actually am good when it comes to algorithms and ideas but I have been working in R&D in a specific topic for a year and half or so. So some how your brain becomes accostomed to thinking in this specific topic mainly and became rusty and slow in other stuff. That’s why it needs a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery good warm up.

    But still as you said, I wouldn’t like to take the chances and wait for one full year. I have already sent Priya asking about their schedule next year.

    I am determined to NAIL it and willing to pay off what it takes to prepare for that.

    Looking forward to your post about preparation.

    Thanks again and enjoy Ramadan.

    Best Regards,

  4. Oops…

    I almost forgot!


    May Allah bless you


  5. No problem and thanks for your kind words, glad I could help and I hope Priya can help you more.

  6. Hi Ali,

    First of all congrats on your success!!!

    Last month i have given my first round interview with Microsoft and got the resuts immediately that i cleared the same and they asked me to travel to redmond for the next interviews. I have done all the rpeparations and even teh tickets were booked by the Microsoft Coordiantor….but then because of the h1, they were like we have to postpone your interviews bcs of h1 as it exceeded the 65000 quota. (Hey I am from India)….Its been almost 2 weeks nad they said they will get back to me….with the schedule…Till now they have’nt…My question here is?will they get back or they would have hired some other person for that?Actually they have applied H1 visa as well for me…

    Kindly let me know…


  7. Hi Priya,

    Thank you…I just want to mention first that I am not a Microsoft spokesperson and that the best thing for you to do to get an official idea of your situation is to coordinate with your recruiter..

    Having said that, I have heard that due to the H-1B situation, many people have had their interviews postponed. Typically, Microsoft has many openings and if your recruiter thinks you are good enough, even if this position is filled, they can try to find you another position where you can be a good fit…

    I do not see how they applied for a H-1B visa for you if you have not been formally accepted…I am not a lawyer, but as far as i know, you need to be accepted for a position before you apply for H-1B.

    Your best bet is to contact your recruiter and give them a friendly reminder that they said they would get back to you in two weeks.

    Good luck!

  8. Hey Ali,

    You are great at posting your experience, I got my onsite interview next week in redmond for SDET. What is the best tips you can give me? I am scared of the whitebored questions :S


  9. Wow – sorry for the delay in response. If you did your interview already why don’t you post about your experience.

    The best tips I can give you is – practice the whiteboard-type problems. There are many sources both online and in books on these types of problems and the best thing is it gives you an “algorithm” and problem-solving mentality.

    Good Luck.

  10. How long did it take you to hear back from them about your interview results?? I had my onsite interview on 3/31 and a followup phone interview on 4/7. It is now 4/24 and I haven’t heard anything yet. Is this a good sign? How long does it usually take?

  11. If I recall correctly…I got the results in approximately 2 weeks. Just a mail saying I was accepted…It then took maybe around another month to get the actual details of the offer (due to xmas holiday).

    I would say that you need to try to get into contact with your recruiter to find out what is going on. Your status is a bit strange as usually you have a phone interview and then an onsite. Your best bet though is to contact your recruiter.

  12. Hi Ali


    I have a 45-minute interview over both the phone and the internet. Live Meeting is also there.
    (Both Phone and Live meeting at a time)
    For the SDE, SDET and Program Manager (PM) positions.

    Can you give me tips of how to prepare for the interview?

    Where can I get the whiteboard-problems?

    Please help me.

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