How to get a job at Microsoft

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Microsoft is currently looking to fill 50 positions in Australia, so if you've ever wanted a piece of one of the IT industry's biggest pies, now would be a good time to strike.

Liz Tay speaks with Fiona Hathaway, Recruitment Manager for Microsoft Australia and New Zealand, about the company's arduous recruitment process, and finds out a surprising statistic: one in five candidates interviewed for a position at Microsoft make it into the company.

Who is Microsoft currently looking to hire?

Each one of those 50 roles is different. We've got everything from product managers, to consultants, to presales people, to programmers.

In Australia, there have been 55 positions filled from July this year. We've got pretty aggressive growth targets this year for the business, and so in order to achieve that, we need to bring in particular skills. In particular, our services business, which is where the professional services are and where we implement Microsoft technology into clients, is really growing. So in the technical side, I would see really steady growth in newly created roles for the rest of the financial year.

I would expect by June 30 next year we would have recruited probably about 200 roles. That's what we did last year, and we'll do the same this year.

How does Microsoft go about searching for potential employees?

We do hire some people through head hunters, the rest we source ourselves. This year, to date, the statistic is about 13 percent through an agency and the rest of the hires we do direct.

We have five internal recruiters who do most of the recruitment. When you talk about sourcing candidates directly, obviously there's a variety of different ways you can come across them. We have an employee referral program, where we use the people that work for us to tip us onto the good candidates who are out there in the market. We do a high proportion of internal moves as well, to fill the roles.

We're quite lucky that we've got a strong brand in the market. We advertise on our own Web site, or we do branded ads on some of the job boards - particularly SEEK. We find SEEK gives us a good result. Other than that, we use the employee referral program, and talk to people like you [Computerworld], and try and publicize the role to people out there in the market.

We have a program for hiring graduates, we call it the Microsoft Academy for College hires, and we would take 12 graduates on every year - we did 12 last year, and our target this year is also 12. They can either be undergraduates or MBAs, so we talk to all the MBA schools as well as the major universities.

One of the things that is interesting often to people out there in the market is that we use Australia as a graduate hiring ground internationally. Three times a year, the American staffing team comes over to Australia, and they hire out of Australia to the U.S. They're technical people that they hire, and they're due here again in early January, in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland.

Is higher education a requirement of all candidates?

We do value higher education, but it's not exclusively your academic qualifications for us. We have lots of people working for us who don't have a degree. I do a lot of marketing to TAFE, so we're not elitist in looking for particular academic qualifications; the experience is very important to us and so we do recruit through a variety of different channels.

What does Microsoft look for in a candidate, and how much industrial experience would someone with no degree need to be a good candidate?

It would be great if they had three to five years - anything less than that, it's a little bit difficult.

The Professional Competencies Microsoft looks to satisfy in hiring technical professional staff include, analytical problem solving, building customer relationships, project management, strategic insight and technology expertise.

What's the recruitment process like?

We're probably quite renown for quite an exhaustive recruitment process. We would typically interview people four or five times, by different interviewers, before they [candidates] get offered the role with us.

We don't really make an apology for that because it's not so much about the technical skills that you have, because we can gauge them quite easily within the first and second interview. It's more actually about are they a fit for the company, and in particular, are they a values match.

So when we interview, we interview against three criteria. The first thing we interview against is the values, and if we don't feel you're a match to the Microsoft culture, whether you're technically capable of doing the job or not, we would not put you forward into the role.

The second thing is the job competency. We do competency-based interviews; they're behavioral-based interviews and we look at things like in a sales role, drive for results; and in a technical role, it might be the consulting ability that they have.

And the final thing is just their technical knowledge, whether they're a consultant, or a .NET programmer, or a product marketing person. That comes kind of third on our list to the top two.

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