Microsoft Phone Interview

I am lucky enough to have an opportunity to be interviewed by Microsoft (MS). MS has visited our campus couple of months back. It had two rounds of written test.

First one was technical + aptitude test. It can hardly be categorized as technical round as all the questions were based on simple mathematics. For example, the size of block was given and read write speed of device was given and we were asked to find the time it will take to finish the operation. There were 15 questions. Few questions were technical too. Like, find the in-order traversal of the tree using pre-order traversal. This question again comes under discreet mathematics. So statistically speaking 7-9 questions were based on simple arithmetic calculation, 2-3 questions were based on tree as mentioned above. Rest were miscellaneous. No doubt, they were cakewalk.

Second round had some technical questions, in which we were asked to write three programs in an hour. The problem statements were.

  • Convert a number from hexadecimal to decimal
  • Find the three top largest number from an array.
  • In a linked list reverse the fourth, fifth and sixth element. If list has three elements then no change, five elements than fourth and fifth were to be reversed. And so on.

35 students who were there in second round could write code in 45-50 minutes to be max. So overall written test weren’t that tough. The result of second round was announced after two months. On the day of Diwali, 13th November 2012, those who were shortlisted got an email asking to schedule their phone interview in the week starting from 19th November. It also mentioned the positions they were looking for, software developer, software developer in testing for Hyderabad and Redmond headquarters. I scheduled my interview on 21st November 7:30 am pacific standard time (9:00 pm IST). Generally interview duration is 30 minutes and 15 minutes are kept as buffer if any technical issue comes. I have enlisted few tips that might help in interview.Phone interview normally consists of the question  termed as behavioral interview. Scan your life retrospectively and you will find answer to many of this behavioral interview questions.Write them down in word file, it might help you in answering questions on call when you will be nervous. In addition to that, they ask some classical puzzles and which gets repeated every time.

  • Keep a glass of water next to you, which calms you down when you get nervous
  • Use hands-free for conversation, which will free you to do any calculations if needed.

On 21st November on 9:05 pm IST, I got my call.We had received an email as reminder for phone interview. I got her first name in email. So I searched her on LinkedIn and found her profile. She is Indian-American so accent wasn’t the problem. Few of my friends had accent problem. She had done her masters from India, so she was aware of Indian system. All phone interviewers were HR person. So the questions won’t be technical for sure. My interview lasted for 25 minutes. I will list down the questions asked.

  • What is good code?
  • Which is your favorite Microsoft product? Why?
  • Would you like to add some features in it?
  • Name the product of Microsoft which you don’t like and would like to improve.
  • Which is your favorite programming language and why?
  • The longest program you had written and for what?
  • Describe a situation where you had to find solution to technically difficult situation.
  • Though you haven’t worked on java for long, still if you want to answer than, tell me differences between java and C++. If you aren’t comfortable with question than we can skip it.
  • Tell me about your project.
  • Tell me something from your resume that we haven’t discussed so far.
  • Tell me something which is not there in your resume and you would like to mention.
  • How would you test a keyboard?
  • You have 9 balls, equally big, equally heavy – except for one, which is a little heavier. How would you identify the heavier ball if you could use a pair of balance scales only twice?
  • Design a calculator for second grad student.

These are the questions I can remember so far. As you can see they aren’t difficult one. Answering them wasn’t a trouble for me. I was confident because the way it went boosted my confidence and I was sure of clearing this round. Out of 35 in the second round, 10 were selected for this round. My CGPA is also decent (8.26) and my profile good too. So I was expecting an affirmative answer. Moreover she was very much convinced with my answers and had made few points off the record too.

But after a weekend, i.e. on Monday I got email saying I wasn’t selected. Shock came when i heard this. The king of codding ,call him person A, who cleared Google summer of code , who had written 5000 lines of codes on a regular basis, who writes an application almost for anything that he wants to get done wasn’t in the selected list either. Moreover a guy who cleared amazon and was an intern there wasn’t selected. A girl having 9.5 above CGPA dint make it either. As I dint get, I might criticize the system and the process of recruitment by MS. But one can never justify either selection or rejection.  Just when I got no as answer from everyone, there was a girl who made it through second round. She doesn’t even know what virtual function is. By this I mean she might know something else but a person who isn’t having decent technical knowledge and who doesn’t have good communication skill either made it. If decent profile was criteria, two above mentioned guys had chance, if good academic was the criteria then  above lady had upper hand, and last but not the least if communication skills was given the priority I am way better than the girl who got selected. In fact we all are way better than the girl who got selected in every possible manner.  I might be telling this because I haven’t got selected. Sometimes your rejection doesn’t sound as astonishing as someone else’s selection. Had I been on the other side I wouldn’t have been so upset, but rejection of person A was beyond my understanding. Whatever be the reason, it was great learning for me. The week I spent learning new puzzles and solving them was fun.

Is waiting for next opportunity and is eager to share with you :).


17 thoughts on “Microsoft Phone Interview

    1. avjain Post author

      It won’t be. They want to see how confident you are. Moreover the interviewers are HR persons so they know little about technical and more about human behavior. All the best 🙂

  1. Trisha

    thank u for sharing ur experience. so helpful. but d girl who got selected…was she good in some field?? dat might answer wat d MS recruiters r actually lookin for

    1. avjain Post author

      Actually the selection baffled me as i mentioned in the post. She had above 9 cgpa and had done her internship from some private company in pune. So according to me she got selected because of this two reasons. She does not have outstanding profile compared to other candidates. But if you ask for an advice, i would say they are HR persons so try to answer in layman’s terms. and questions keep repeating so keep on googling u will find many question from this list in your interview.
      All the best 🙂

  2. Pranab Gupta

    hey!! My telephonic interview is scheduled on 8th. i want to know how to answer design questions like yours- Design a calculator for second grad student.
    Please revert back as soon as possible

    1. avjain Post author

      To that question my reply was- Second grad student won’t have bigger numbers to deal with. so can opt for GUI which is fun based. Like instead of numbers we can display number of chocolates i.e. 5 chocolates to display 5 and so on. And use the same for basic operations. And such small manipulations in basic calculators.
      All the best 🙂

      1. Pranab Gupta

        This means we just have to tell how we will design it theoretically. what will be your answer for this one- Design an alarm clock.

      1. avjain Post author

        well apart from basic functions what you can add is an option of weekends where alarm won’t be triggered on Sunday. With the help of mechanical manipulations you can pop up one note when alarm is triggered. Just like to do list alarm. to better understand this point, think of bird coming out of clock in olden times. Instead of bird you can give that bird a note which will work as reminder. Got the point ?

  3. Amir

    Thanks for sharing this, but FYI these companies looking for Software Engineer not Software Developer they can easily out source codding IF THEY HAVE GOOD ANALYZERS AND DESIGNERS,
    Analyse and Design are their main concern , you wrote “So the questions won’t be technical for sure.” but these are technical with these Q s they can find how much is your Analyse from time being and future.

  4. Renuka kujur

    Ur experience and ur views made me relaxed some how…but m bit nervous of facing the telephonic interview…it is going to be held in upcoming days…so what should i prepare more on.?.m not that good in programming..but yes my designing is far better…pls suggest can i overcome my fear..

    1. avjain Post author

      Prepared diplomatic answers on the questions like, any improvement in existing products of MS, the product u r most disappointed with. Also looking at the current affairs, form an opinions on their recent acquisitions and top management switching. Let me know if it helped. For the time being, they wont ask u any programming questions, they might ask the length of ur biggest program. so revisit ur programing days. All the best. Next stage can be taken care once u r thru this.

  5. john


    I done with microsoft onsite interview for SAP position, Interviews went well but no response even after 3.5 weeks, sent 3 mails to the recruiter but no response, any idea what would be the situation? Am I going get offer or not? do I need to wait for some more time or proceed with other offers?


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