Shelley Powers posted a comment to a recent post of mine about her experience interviewing for a Microsoft position. She wrote

Tod, if I sound angry, I am. Bill Gates went in front of Congress and said we should have unlimited H1Bs, because Microsoft just can't find 'good' people in this country.

I interviewed with Microsoft. As soon as I started talking with the guy, I knew he wasn't interested. Within the first five minutes. I've been around long enough to know when someone isn't interested.

Microsoft doesn't hire 50 year old men, must less 50 year old women.

As for interviewing, yes I have interviewed people. And hired them. I've never once had a bad hire. You can tell when you talk to people, their enthusiasm, how they respond to what you say, if they're a good fit. Do they have to have all of the tech background? Not a bit. Oh, I wanted certain things: interest and background with a specific programming language, experience with relational databases, and so on. But as for the nits, most of us can do something called 'learn'. I looked for motivation, interest, fit with the team, experience, but more importantly interest in the job.

I can understand Shelley's frustration around not being made an offer for a position she feels qualified to handle. Last year, when I decided to leave the XML team I interviewed with a bunch of teams at Microsoft including the newly formed RSS team within the Internet Explorer group. The job would have involved community evangelization around the Longhorn/IE RSS efforts and working on platform APIs for RSS. Given my work on RSS Bandit and the fact that the job I was leaving was designing the core XML APIs in the .NET Framework I thought I was a shoo-in for the job. I wasn't. I didn't get an offer because I wasn't "passionate" or "experienced" enough according to the feedback I got when I inquired as to why I didn't get the job.

I could have decided to give up because "Microsoft doesn't hire black men" or "Microsoft doesn't hire people in their 20s for high visibility positions" but didn't. Instead I kept interviewing and ended up at MSN working on social software. Personally I think I'm happier at MSN than I would have been on the RSS team, I've gotten to broaden my technical horizons and work with a more diverse set of individuals on a prettier campus. Also I still get to work on RSS stuff both in my personal time and with different teams at Microsoft in an advisor role.

It's easy to give in to despair. Don't.


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