July 21, 2005
@ 03:44 PM

During my morning blog reading I stumbled on three blog postings about Microsoft and recruiting which paint an interesting picture.

  1. From Shelley Powers's When We Are Needed

    This essay was inspired in no part by a discussion that occurred at Dori Smiths weblog, when she made the statement about women not being able to find work (linked earlier). In her comments, Robert Scoble said:

    Hmmm, at the same time you say the jobs are disappearing I was just talking with a key manager over on MSN Search and he says he is having trouble finding qualified developers in the United States. I also have had the same feedback from the developer division, the IE group, and quite a few others. And if you think this is a Microsoft thing, you should check with HR people at Google, Yahoo, Cisco, and other Silicon Valley companies. They are all having trouble finding great developers.
    I was angry and blasted Scobles comment, anger inspired in no small part by the implication that corporations such as Microsoft are just begging for people, when most of us know (and as I discussed earlier), this isnt true. Here is a fact, technology unemployment in this country exceeds overall unemployment. And women in technology have an unemployment rate higher than the men.

  2. From Joel Spolsky on June 15, 2005


    To Gretchen : recruiting successfully isn't only up to recruiters. The best recruiting department in the world can't make people want to work at a company that's moribund, that can't figure out how to ship a compelling upgrade to their flagship OS , or update their flagship database server more than once every five years, that has added tens of thousands of technical workers who aren't adding any dollars to the bottom line, and that constantly annoys twenty year veterans by playing Furniture Police games over what office furniture they are and aren't allowed to have. Summer interns at Fog Creek have better chairs, monitors, and computers than the most senior Microsoft programmers.

    Recruiting has to be done at the Bill and Steve level, not at the Gretchen level. No matter how good a recruiter you are, you can't compensate for working at a company that people don't want to work for; you can't compensate for being the target of eight years of fear and loathing from the slashdot community, which very closely overlaps the people you're trying to recruit, and you can't compensate for the fact that a company with a market cap of $272 billion just ain't going to see their stock price go up . MSFT can grow by an entire Google every year and still see less than 7% growth in earnings. You can be the best recruiter in the world and the talent landscape is not going to look very inviting if the executives at your company have spent the last years focusing on cutting benefits , cutting off oxygen supplies, and cutting features from Longhorn .

  3. From Steven Sinofsky's Welcome to TechTalk!

    I wanted to start this blog to share information and views about how Microsoft recruits and hires college graduates, and what a career at Microsoft is like, at least from one perspective. I invite questions, points, and counter-points. Im excited to use this forum to have a discussion about college hiring at Microsoft. The name TechTalk comes from the series of seminars we do during the summer for interns at Microsoft--one of the most fun times of the year for me is to get to present to this group and learn from them how they feel about the work we're doing and the future of Microsoft.

    By way of introduction, my name is Steven Sinofsky and I am a senior vice president at Microsoft in the Office group. You can read my "official" bio on http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/ssinofsky . Ive worked on Microsoft Office since Office 4.2d (the last 16 bit release). Ive been a program manager and a software design engineer, in addition to a general manager.

Despite what Shelley thinks I know for a fact that we have a hard time filling positions at work. Whether this is because of a lack of qualified candidates in the US or because the Slashdot crowd hates Microsoft [as Joel puts it] is something I dont know. I do know our product teams spends a lot of time talking to folks who sound good on paper but dont do so hot when we talk to them. As for whether H1B visas are a good thing or not, well I'm here on an H1B visa so I guess I'm biased. :)

It is good to see high level execs like Sinofsky getting directly involved in recruiting efforts. One of the things that is missing in the hundreds of Microsoft blogs is a sense of why the Microsoft internships are so cool. Looking back at my blog posts from when I was an intern four years ago it is fun to see how I became infected by the B0rg. Having someone like Sinofsky take part in showing off why it is so cool to be an intern at Microsoft is goodness. Microsoft's best hires are usually folks who started off as interns.

The Office guys definitely rock.



Categories: Life in the B0rg Cube
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Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:48:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Then perhaps your product teams need to stop being assholes and start listening to people when they interview them.

And perhaps Microsoft should consider putting as much effort into recruiting within the country, as it does outside of the country.

Fact: IT has a higher level of unemployment in this country that other professions. Fact: women in IT have a higher unemployment rate than the men. Fact: Microsoft has less than 25 percent female employment. Fact: most people in this country want employment, even if its with Microsoft. Fact: Slashdot is primarily a boys only club -- which means you still get it. Fact: Microsoft managers don't know how to interview worth shit.

Great that your're there on an H1B. You were a good hire and they're lucky they have you.

But if Microsoft can't find good people in this country, it's because Microsoft isn't looking. Worse, they aren't listening.

Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:51:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
As for internships -- is that how MS is getting people, through internships? No wonder the company can't find good people to hire: it stops interviewing people at age 24.
Thursday, July 21, 2005 6:49:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

After seeing lots of posts on Microsoft recruiting, I have to wonder if the herd effect has dulled everyone's thinking? There are many extremely important things that don't get mentioned. So y'all end up ignoring the facts.

I recently looked into moving to Seattle. I love the area. I just had a great vacation with my wife hiking the Olympics and seeing the sights of the city. And it lacks the nasty pollution of the Dallas area (which is rated worse than L.A. now).

Trouble is, I could find less than a dozen homes in the entire area that I could afford. Seriously. I did a similar search in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Over ten thousand. So while I'd like to explore opportunities with a great company in a great part of the country, there is a huge barrier to entry if you don't already live there.

Given a bit more time, I could point to a few more things. In this case it is certainly more effective for concerned people to think outside the box on this by themselves.

Thanks for a great blog, Dare!
Thursday, July 21, 2005 8:51:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Shelly, I'm curious where you're getting these facts from. I trying to gain a little more insight into these problems and would appreciate a source. Thanks. Are IT pros really even more unemployed than, say, factory workers? Are the factory workers subdivided into smaller categories (hence making their numbers seem smaller). In that case, should we also subdivide the IT ranks, e.g. DB admins, network admins, developers, etc?
Aaron Khoo
Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:19:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

"Fact: Microsoft managers don't know how to interview worth shit."

Boy, if that isn't a gross over-generalization then I don't know what one is. You could say this for every single company...public, private, large or small. Interviewing is a skill that not many people have...period. To say that MS managers are specifically worse than Cisco, Intel, Bank of America or any other company is ludicrous.

Some of your "Facts" have validity, but to be quite honest your comment really comes across as that of anti-msft zealot.
Thursday, July 21, 2005 10:20:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

"Fact: Microsoft managers don't know how to interview worth shit."

Boy, if that isn't a gross over-generalization then I don't know what one is. You could say this for every single company...public, private, large or small. Interviewing is a skill that not many people have...period. To say that MS managers are specifically worse than Cisco, Intel, Bank of America or any other company is ludicrous.

Some of your "Facts" have validity, but to be quite honest your comment really comes across as that of anti-msft zealot.
Friday, July 22, 2005 12:37:21 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Shelley, have you ever been involved in interviewing candidates? I've done some second-level interviewing (with people who got through not only resume filtering but a first interview with a qualified person), and I ended up talking to people who were deeply unqualified for any kind of real development position.

Some of them had resumes that made them look qualified, all of them knew enough buzzwords to bamboozle a technical recruiter, but out of a dozen people (by the time I saw them; probably over a hundred resumes upfront) almost none were even employable in anything but a purely menial role; only one was actually a good developer.

If there's a lot of unemployment in IT, I tend to believe that it's mostly because the IT boom saw a lot of unqualified people get into the field, and in a more sober environment, they won't (and shouldn't!) get jobs.
Anonymous, for obvious reasons
Friday, July 22, 2005 3:52:34 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I have to agree with tod that a lot of people got in during the IT boom. Some of them did very well, others didn't. Those that aren't suited to IT and software will take some time to move on and that probably accounts for part of what is considered the IT surplus. But all of the good developers I know are tied up in jobs where they are badly needed, the only ones I know that are floating around are ones who don't have the technical knack and have to get by on BS. I don't think Shelley knows what she is talking about. We are trying to hire these days and having no luck. The people we've seen are underqualified yet want senior positions, I don't deny that part of the fault is our hiring methods, but still not one of all my colleagues that I would hire myself is suffering these days.
Ben Bryant
Friday, July 22, 2005 5:47:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
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.

These young IT guys at Microsoft, what do you bet they give a tech quiz and call it an interview. Why? Because they don't want to commit to a a 'bad' hire. They don't have gut instinct, and it sounds like MS doesn't encourage it, either.

So Ben, I do know what I'm talking about.

Perhaps if some of these companies thought about opening shops elsewhere in the country, such as Indianapolis (I'm St. Louis, but Indianapolis is home of Indiana U, home of Internet 2.0.) As has been noted, not everyone can afford to live in Seattle, San Franciso, Boston, and New York.

Your companies that can't find people? You're not trying. And why should you? You're employed. What do you care.

Well, you'll care when your time comes...believe me...you'll care.

Friday, July 22, 2005 5:51:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Oh, just as an FYI, in case you think I'm one that 'got in during the boom', and since you're all having such a hard time finding someone, my online 'hire me' page is http://weblog.burningbird.net/hire-me/

Friday, July 22, 2005 6:11:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Sorry, one last comment.

Too bad we won't get that chance to chat at XML2005.
Friday, July 22, 2005 6:11:57 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Sorry, one last comment.

Too bad we won't get that chance to chat at XML2005, Dare.
Friday, July 22, 2005 5:50:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Shelley, I completely understand your frustration. I interviewed for 4 different positions before receiving an offer on my fifth. Two of those I understood that they were technical stretches for me and the hiring teams had no way of really judging my ambition or ability to learn other than the interview (both of which I was really nervous).

But the other two I felt that I was a great technical and personality fit. One of which I had even worked with the team for 3 months (as a contractor) and received accolades and Attaboys out the wazoo. They asked me to interview and then all of a sudden in the middle of it they decided I wasn't technically competent. At the time I was very upset and thought about leaving IT. A few months later I was offered a position with another group in which I really liked the management. In fact, not getting that one offer I really wanted is probably one of the best things that has happened in my career. Like Dare, I'm extremely happy in my current position and team.

Most of the smart & competent people I know at Microsoft have failed one or more interviews. The best way to get hired here is to just be persistent (of course assuming that you're competent in your professional area).

I'm sorry to hear that you hold such a grudge against MS for a single negative interview experience. Best of luck!
Saturday, July 23, 2005 12:31:36 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Maybe the reason you "a hard time filling positions at work" is because you're asking for the world. I know I see it all the time with the open positions at my employer.

And why not? Managers are under a lot of presure to deliver too many features in not enough time. They don't want to "waste" time (say six months or more) on getting someone "up to speed".

Eventually, after the position has been unfilled long enough, and people get tired of interview after interview, somebody "good enough" comes along and is hired. Is that person the "best" for the job, or just lucky enough to be at the right place (interviewing with a particular company) at the right time (later in the process).

Some companies really want to be (very) picky...and that's fine. But then you don't get the complain about how hard it is to find "qualified" people.

And I'm not saying companies should lower their standards and hire dolts. But often even the things on the "must have" list (let alone the "nice to have") aren't really that important. This industry changes very fast; it much more important to be able to learn.

But that doesn't help a manager who wants someone with "SQL and ASP.NET experience" to help get a release out the door in six months.
Saturday, July 23, 2005 4:52:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Regarding: "But as for the nits, most of us can do something called 'learn'. These young IT guys at Microsoft, what do you bet they give a tech quiz and call it an interview."

From what I've seen, MS and Google are amongst the few tech companies that realize people *can* learn. The standard tech company job posting, even on campus "income opportunity" boards is "X years experience with product/platform Y." At least at the new grad/intern level, the only specific thing you need experience with at MS is *maybe* C++ for developers [0].
The funny thing is other job postings will want experience developing for Windows/ASP.NET, but MS doesn't seem to care.

I guess you could call the interview a tech quiz and it is technical, but its not "Does C# use mark-and-sweep garbage collection?" or some kind of trivia contest. They're brain-teaser-esque, and they're designed to see how (well) the applicant solves problems. It might be a coding problem, or it might be "write the test cases for a vending machine" [1]. Many of the coding problems are easy to understand, just challenging to solve.

"You can tell when you talk to people, their enthusiasm, how they respond to what you say, if they're a good fit. ... I looked for motivation, interest, fit with the team, experience, but more importantly interest in the job."

I'm assuming you're contrasting what you look for and what you feel MS looks for.

I know an intern at MS who interviewed with another group and wasn't extended an offer. The feedback he got was that he didn't seem excited or passionate or something. (He only realized recently how monotone his speech is.)

People are always talking about passion at MS. The job postings say "Do you have a passion to improve..."

So I don't think you can say that whether you're offered a job at MS is based soley on the "tech quiz".


Regarding Scoble's comments - I can relate to your frustration somewhat. I was part of a large group of students IBM was dropping some serious cash on to impress, but as I remember it they also made it clear that not everybody in the room was necessarily IBM material. When google came to campus they put up lots of flyers - free pizza! free t-shirts! - but you know they'd only hire 5% of the kids who showed up to the jobs@google presentation, if that. It's kind-of annoying how these companies that can afford to be selective still try to drum up attendance/applications. I almost wish they'd identify the people they'd be willing to hire and court them rather than publicly yelling for applications.

[0] http://www.microsoft.com/college/ft_softdeseng.mspx
[1] http://sellsbrothers.com/fun/msiview
Ira Intern
Saturday, July 23, 2005 11:42:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Can someone just give Shelley a damn job so she'll quit bitching?

If you can't find a job, I'm sorry it's on you. The market here is solid in a lot of areas, if you need to move, move.

Alternatively, just keep coming up with excuses and wallowing in your little bog of non-accountability.

Switch careers, play with the cards in the deck if you want to win. Or go bitch someplace where other eternal victims are there to reinforce your pity pool.
Saturday, July 30, 2005 12:21:19 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
One reason Microsoft, and other 'giants' have difficulty hiring smart people is that some of them don't want to work in Seattle or some other huge, expensive, trendy city. I love my home, I love being near my family. I don't want to move and in this global economy I shouldn't have to.
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