Phone interviews check for the potential of the candidate. It can often come in the form of an online test, with a few simple coding problems on Codility, without any behavioral questions. It is the first step in the interview process at Microsoft.
Also called a “phone screen”, this short Microsoft interview is just a quick chat with an interviewer so they can see whether you’re potentially a good fit. Not all candidates go through this screening step, so it’s mostly reserved for those with less experience, or graduates.
If the conversation goes well, and if you can expand on what’s in the resume, you’ll be invited in for an interview, which is a virtual interview. Therefore, try to show off your potential and willingness to grow.
Structure of the Microsoft Phone Interview
Structure: Microsoft phone interview should last about 30 to 45 minutes. The types of questions asked during this phone screen are mostly behavioral with one or two technical questions if it’s a technical role. For a technical role, the phone interview typically consists of:
- Brief discussions about your role
- Brief discussion about your resume and experience
- A few more non-technical questions
- One or two easy to medium technical questions
- A few minutes for you to ask an interviewer questions
Although it might be tempting, avoid asking about salary or benefits at this stage; focus instead on understanding the role and culture better. This shows you’re genuinely interested in the position and not just the perks.
To make sure you pass this first stage, you can prepare by checking the questions and interview tips mentioned below to get a sense of how you would answer. Additionally, you can check out my article on helpful tips to pass the technical interview. The main thing here is to show how you have the potential and skill to apply yourself, grow and add value to Microsoft.
Microsoft Phone Interview Behavioral Questions
Behavioral questions you might get asked during this first round interview (phone screen):
- Tell me about yourself
How to answer: This is just to ease you into the interview. While this answer can be different for everyone, you should try to answer this in a way that’s relevant to the job role and your education/experience. It should seem intuitive, but also should hint at how you’re a good fit for the job position you’re applying for.
- Tell me about your experience/projects
How to answer: You may want to structure your response to include your present, past, and future to make it impactful. For the present, you can mention what you do and your recent project or accomplishment, and for the past, you can briefly explain what you did that’s relevant to this position. For the future, you can say why you’re interested in this job, why you fit in Microsoft culture, and share your excitement to grow at Microsoft.
- Why do you want to work at Microsoft?
How to answer: Create a list of things that are required for that job role, and connect that to your skills and your interests. Think in terms of “Why am I a good fit for Microsoft?” Think about what knowledge and experience you have that will benefit the company right now. This will make you seem like a better fit that complements the company and culture.
- Do you have a favorite Microsoft product?
How to Answer: Even if you don’t like Microsoft products, you should try to pick one. It’s a good idea to read a bit about a few Microsoft products you have the most interest in. To answer this question, you can try to pick and choose a few useful features of one product and simply say what you like the most about them and why. Maybe even what you would add to improve such a product.
While this question seems light, your answer can reveal much about your familiarity with the company’s products. So, even if you primarily use competitor tools, discuss a Microsoft product you genuinely respect or find intriguing.
Tip: Don’t pretend you know more about Microsoft products than they do. If you come from a different background, roll with it. Go with your instincts, be yourself, and answer truthfully.
- A specific question about your experience from the resume you provided.
How to answer: It’s a specific question, so try to be specific in your answer. Try to quantify the answer to make it impactful. Explain how you grew through your experience. In general, know your resume and how it relates to this job role you’re applying for, which will give the impression you have the ability to do the job at hand.
Some phone interviews may not even be done by someone from the technical job position, and you may only get behavioral questions.
Microsoft Phone Interview Technical Questions
For a typical tech role (SDE, CS, etc.), Microsoft interviewers tend to always ask at least one easy to medium LeetCode question. The variations are infinite, but here are some of the online technical screen questions you might get asked in this first round interview:
- What is a virtual function in C++?
- Give me a function to evaluate whether or not two words (strings) are anagrams.
- Explain the difference between an abstract class and an interface in Java
- How would you explain recursion to a 9-year-old?
- What is your favorite programming language, and why?
- What’s the difference between TCP and UDP? (network engineer)
- What is a linked list?
- Reverse a linked list.
- Given 9 balls of which 8 balls have equal weights and 1 is heavier, find the heavier ball using a weighing balance in the shortest number of tries. (similar variations may apply)
The technical phone interview questions will depend on the job position you’re applying for, as well as your experience and background.
TIP: When practicing leetcode questions always check leetcode discussion and compare other solutions to your own. This way you’ll improve and learn more about how to solve typical coding problems, which will give you insights into areas previously unknown.
Always approach technical questions with a calm mindset. If you feel stuck, take a deep breath and break the problem down. Sometimes, explaining the problem back to the interviewer can help you find the solution.
Microsoft looks for candidates who not only have the technical skills but also resonate with their mission and values. Ensure you familiarize yourself with Microsoft’s latest initiatives, like their commitment to AI and ethical computing.
How to Prepare for Microsoft Phone Interview?
Based on the experiences of others from Microsoft screening interviews, here are the best tips to prepare for the Microsoft phone interview.
Learn about Microsoft and the job position:
Prepare a few answers:
- Prepare to mention your growth mindset during the phone screen
- Prepare to answer what excites you (some technology and its potential impact)
- If you’ve done hackathons, prepare to mention them with passion
- Prepare an answer about your favorite Microsoft product (even to sneak in between answers)
Practice, be honest, and learn your resume:
- Practice easy and medium leetcode questions
- Be honest about your education and work history. (They may ask you for specifics to support and expand on your claims from the resume.)
- Be sure you know what’s on your resume. (When you get asked a specific question about technology or a company you should be able to answer it).
And finally, but just as important:
- Don’t try to google during the phone interview, they can tell. (even if it’s a silent keyboard, some recruiters can figure it out)
- Equip your interview space with a notepad and pen. Jotting down key points can help structure your thoughts and shows the interviewer that you’re actively engaged.
- Have a good night’s sleep the day before. (can’t stress how important this is)
- One last tip: Don’t be silent. Think out loud when answering, especially the technical question. Even if you don’t know the answer, you can get partial credit by thinking out loud, or you may even solve the answer with the interviewer’s help.