microsoft senior software engineer interview questions

Microsoft interview for Senior Software Engineer (Experience, Tips, Strategy & Suggestions)

2. Example questions

Here at IGotAnOffer, we believe in data-driven interview preparation and have used Glassdoor data to identify the types of questions which are most frequently asked at Microsoft.

For coding interviews, weve broken down the questions youll be asked by subcategories (e.g. Arrays / Strings , Graphs / Trees , etc.) so that you can prioritize what to study and practice first. For system design and behavioral questions, weve listed questions that were frequently reported on Glassdoor and other resources.

1.1 What interviews to expect

Now, lets drill down further into the different stages of your software development engineer interview process with Microsoft. Specifically, this will take us deeper into steps 2-4 above, which are:

  • HR Recruiter email or call
  • First round: phone screen, on-campus or online test
  • Second round: onsite, four interviews
  • In most cases, the interview process starts with an HR recruiter call to discuss your interests and to see what group or team would be best for you. Your recruiter will also use this conversation to confirm that youve got a chance of getting the job at all. You should be prepared to explain your background and why you’re a good fit for Microsoft.

    If things go well with the recruiter, then youll move on to the next step of the process. What happens at this stage varies depending on what team and role youre applying for.

    But, you can usually expect a phone screen if youre an industry hire, an on-campus interview if youre a new graduate, or an online test instead of an actual interview in some cases. Well review each format below.

    Technical phone screens

    This step is called the “phone screen”, but it can also sometimes happen over video using Skype. Each interview will last 45 to 60 minutes. Youll speak to a peer or a potential manager and theyll ask you a mix of technical and behavioral questions.

    For the technical part of the interview, you can expect typical data structure and algorithm questions which youll have to solve in an online collaborative text editor. The text editor wont have syntax highlighting or autocomplete features, so youll need to get used to not having those features during your interview preparation. As an additional note, youre very unlikely to be asked system design questions during your phone screen.

    For the behavioral part you can expect questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” “Why Microsoft?”, or “Whats your favorite Microsoft product? And why?” In our experience, Microsoft interviewers spend more time on behavioral questions than their counterparts at Facebook or Google. So, its worth making sure youre ready for common behavioral questions (more on that later).

    On-campus interview

    If youre a student then youll usually have an on-campus interview instead of a phone screen. Youll be asked a mix of behavioral questions and technical questions that youll need to solve on a whiteboard. In some cases, youll also have more than one interview on campus.

    Online coding assessment

    Microsoft also sometimes uses online coding tests before passing a candidate through to the onsite interviews. The company uses a variety of tests, but the most common one is a three-question test which you need to solve in 60 to 90 minutes and is administered by Codility.

    The questions are typical data structure and algorithm questions for which you need to submit a solution in an online editor. Leetcode maintains a helpful thread of the types of questions that have recently been asked in the test.

    If you crack the first round, the next step is to spend a full day at one of Microsoft’s offices and participate in four on-site interviews. These interviews will last about 60 minutes and be a one-on-one with a mix of people from the team you’re applying to join, including peers, the hiring manager, and sometimes a senior executive.

    Question types

    Three or four of your interviews will include coding questions (i.e. data structure and algorithm questions) which youll need to solve on a whiteboard. The other one or two interviews will cover system design questions. Youll be asked behavioral questions in all your interviews.

    All candidates are expected to do extremely well in coding and behavioral questions. If youre relatively junior (e.g. SDE II or below) you might not be asked system design questions. And if you do then the bar will be lower than for mid-level or senior engineers (e.g. Senior SDE or above).

    The “as appropriate”, AA or ASAPP interview

    Finally, your last interview will be with a senior executive from Microsoft (e.g. your hiring manager or possibly their boss). This interview is often referred to as the “as appropriate”, AA or ASAPP interview because you will only be asked to do that interview if your first three interviews go well. If you dont do well in the first three, then you wont get an AA interview and you wont get an offer.

    AA interviewers have two roles. The first one is to ensure that theres no blind spot in your assessment. For instance, if your first three interviewers have established that you meet the technical hiring standards but arent sure about culture fit, then your AA interview will mainly focus on behavioral questions. The second role of an AA interviewer is to “sell” the company to you if you did well in previous interviews. The idea here is that Microsoft wants to make sure youll accept the offer if they decide to make you one.

    1.3 What happens behind the scenes

    Your recruiter is leading the process and taking you from one stage to the next. Heres what happens at each of the stages described above:

  • After the first round, your recruiter and hiring manager decide to move you to the onsite interviews or not, depending on how well youve done.
  • After the onsite, each interviewer files their notes into the internal system, grades you and makes a hiring recommendation (e.g. “Strong hire”, “Hire”, “No hire”, “Strong no hire”). You usually need to receive a “Hire” grade from all interviewers to get an offer. But in some cases, the AA interviewer and / or hiring manager can decide to hire you even if you got one “No hire”.
  • You get an offer. If everything goes well, the recruiter will be in touch with an offer, usually within a week of the onsite but it can sometimes take longer
  • Its also important to note that recruiters and people who refer you have little influence on the overall process. They can help you get an interview at the beginning but thats about it.

    FAQ

    What questions should I ask a senior software engineer?

    General questions
    • Tell me about your interests in current development trends.
    • Do you enjoy contributing to open-source projects?
    • What do you know about our firm’s technology services?
    • How do you approach setting professional goals?
    • How do your qualifications support your success as a senior developer?

    How do I interview a senior software engineer?

    Use natural skill tests when interviewing senior engineers
    1. Do not ask senior developers to complete a test to explain a simple algorithm or data structure- most candidates for senior posts haven’t dealt with such matters in years.
    2. Stay away from whiteboard-testing.
    3. Ask candidates to share a few work samples.

    What happens at a senior software engineer interview?

    The interview process for senior software engineers comprises three main rounds – a) The Initial Recruiter Screen – where you’re asked questions about your experience, skills, and compensation expectations b) The Technical Phone Screen – where you’re asked to solve 1-2 DSA problems, and c) The On-site Interview – …

    How difficult is Microsoft interview?

    Microsoft coding interviews are really challenging. The questions are difficult, specific to Microsoft, and cover a wide range of topics. The good news is that the right preparation can make a big difference.

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