So you want to be a program manager at Microsoft?
I have just been through the interview process, multiple time actually, so I can share some of the findings I made.
The typical interview process at Microsoft is based on 4 interviews (and a 5th one if you did well enough to the previous interviews). Each of the interviewer are going to focus on a particular aspect of the skill needed to be a good PM and also generally decide if they would like to work with you.
PMs at Microsoft are part of the engineers’ trio (developers, testers, and PM). So you have to be an engineer at heart and be ready to not be coding. Expect to be asked why you want to be a PM. There is no correct answers by the way but explaining that you like code and the rest of the product (user, business, …) too, shows that you got the core engineer skills and as well people and organizational skills.
You will also have fundamentals computer science questions: algorithms, databases, system design, etcetera. For these one there is no secret, either you know or you don’t. Do however pay attention to share your thought, always explain why you take one solution or another.
The most frequent type of questions you will have, however, are problem solving type of question. How would you go ahead and build something? As a PM you are expected to be able to change your scope from highly detailed to high level point of view. The framework I have been sticking to in order to answer this type of questions is going from the high level to the detail view:
- What are the business goal / justification
- What kind of personas are we targeting
- What scenarios do we want to support
- What are the requirements expected
- What are the features you will build
- What would be the overall technical design for these features
- What work items would need to be done and in which order
Ask questions to get clarity on each of these points, if you notice that your interviewer is not really interested, then skip gently to the next item.
The last type of questions would be about evaluating your PM skills:
- Making decision
- Building trust
- Dealing with crisis
- Dealing with people
You need to realize that for each position you see from Microsoft, there are a lot of people applying for it. So if you already get the interview scheduled, you should be proud of you! The interviewer are trying to get a good fit for the team and for you. If you don’t have an offer, at least you have had a nice training!