Dos and Don'ts of Interviews by Microsoft's Warren Ashton

Q: What are the dos and don'ts of interviews?

A:1) The best thing to DO is to just be yourself; don't try to pretend to be someone you're not. You will be much more natural and comfortable and be better in the interview if you act like yourself and let the conversation flow.
2) Don't sweat the small stuff. Candidates often get too overly concerned about little details in their resume or skills that might be missing. Or a misspoken response to a question. If you're comfortable and having a good, healthy conversation with a recruiter or hiring team, they will see your qualities shine through from this experience and the little things you notice may not be a concern at all.
3) Do be ready to ask questions. Candidates who don't ask any questions are showing the hiring team that they didn't do much research about the team in order to know what to ask, and that they don't care much about the team or the opportunity. Always have 3-4 good, solid questions ready to ask every person you interview with.
4) Don't be late. Always get there on time. Give yourself a cushion.

Q: What are some tips for standing out in an interview?

A:1) Keep the conversation focused and always directly answer the question that is being posed to you.
2) Let your passion shine through for the job/company/technology/product/team, etc. Companies love to see someone who's excited (in a real way) to be there. An uninspired candidates almost never makes a great impression on a team.
3) Give real examples of your skills and experiences. Give context by highlighting them in real situations. Keep those situations focused and on the point.
4) Highlight examples of how you are great at working with others, that you have strong collaboration skills. It's a necessity in nearly every job and highly valued at Microsoft.
5) Come prepared to ask questions, to answer tough questions, to talk about your past experiences, to give your opinion on the product/team/company. A prepared candidates shows they care to be there and they are excited about the opportunity.

Q: What are some interview tips for recent college grads?

A:Really the same as above. The challenge is using your college experiences as a proxy for industry experience. Use real examples of team projects, collaboration efforts, connecting with classmates on a solution, solving tough academic problem sets. It's really all the same things any candidate needs to do, only the personal history is based on class room experiences and not so much workplace experiences. If you have work experiences or internships, then absolutely include those on your resume and use them as examples in an interview.

Q: What are some questions that keep candidates on their toes?

A:Giving them case studies to walk through, or situational scenarios they need to solve, such as making a decision on a product feature. How would they make that decision? What inputs would they seek before making the decision? Testing their logic in a problem solving situation on the fly. Sometimes we ask them what they fear the most about taking a job or joining a company. See if they are comfortable giving an honest opinion in an interview setting.

Q: What are some questions candidates should ask recruiters during an interview?

A:1) What skills are most important to succeed in this job?
2) How is success measured in this position?
3) What does a typical career path look like from this position forward?
4) What is the reputation of a team/leader inside the company?

Q: At what point in the interview do you suggest that candidates ask about salary, benefits, vacation days, etc.? Or should they wait to speak to someone in HR about these concerns?

A:HR contacts are prepared and most ready to answer any detailed questions related to such topics. Regarding some of this info such as benefits and vacation, etc., much of the information can be found online or in a brochure. It's totally appropriate to ask a recruiter to send you information about these things before the interview. Perhaps they will answer most of your questions. Regarding salary, this varies depending on the situation. It's likely not the best time to bring it up in the first conversation you have with a hiring manager. If invited back for a 2nd interview, it will be acceptable to ask detailed questions about compensation to your recruiter. There is no 'right' answer on this one; it's best to gauge where the conversation is going, and often let the recruiter lead you in this direction before you take the lead.

Warren Ashton is the Group Marketing Manager/Staffing Marketing at Microsoft Corp. He is responsible for Microsoft’s recruitment communications programs. • Visit Microsoft Corp. Career Web site

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