Microsoft Careers: What You Need to Know

Founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, today Microsoft has over 134,000 employees and is one of the largest companies in the world. Slightly over 80,000 work in the US, and about 50,000 of those employees are in Washington state. Because it is one of the largest software companies on the planet, it’s not surprising that about 44% of the employees work in engineering.

The next largest job category is commercial worldwide business with 18%, followed by Global Sales M&O with 16.5%, Business functions with 6.3%, and Finance, HR & Legal with nearly 5%. LinkedIn’s employees make up almost 10% of the total as well. (Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016.)

Fortunately, there are 50,000 Microsoft employees who use Blind so our professional networking platform contains many unique insights about what it is like to work there. Within this article, the questions and answers first present some general facts, and then there are comments from people on Blind who work at Microsoft and other tech companies.

How can I get a job at Microsoft?

It’s standard practice when looking for a job to try to use professional and personal networks. If you don’t have any connections, it’s probably worthwhile to look for Microsoft recruiters on LinkedIn, because Microsoft owns the huge business networking site.

You also might try asking for a referral on Blind, because as mentioned before, there are tens of thousands of Microsoft employees using our service. Here is one example, 

“After 2 successful years at Amazon, I am ready to move on. I am looking for a referral to Microsoft in a non-tech Program Manager role (more than 10 years of experience).” Feb. 26, 2018

Microsoft’s career site has about 2 million applicants each year, so it will pay to do your homework before applying in order to get noticed. Microsoft recruiters reportedly look at traits like leadership, curiosity and learning when examining applications.

 If you receive an invitation for the first interview, you will need to be informed as possible about the position you applied for, what is happening with company in business and technology terms and how well you fit the culture. The interview process is rigorous and you might have up to seven interviews spanning a number of weeks or even longer.

Insights from Blind

“At least for msft it is best to contact hiring managers directly. Recruiters here in my experience are not as active as compared to the counterparts.” July 20, 2017 (read more here)

“Have the candidate apply for the jobs they want and email the hiring managers directly including a resume and lots of good feedback for the candidate. Internally hiring managers are responsible to ask for an interview loop to recruiting and they are also responsible to provide the feedback of no hire. Recruiting is worthless so do your own advertising straight to hiring managers.” Dec. 11, 2017

“Ur LinkedIn profile is more important than ur resume, be sure it looks impressive.” Nov. 4, 2017 (read more here)

One Blind user asked about the value of accepting an invitation to a hiring event,

“They are worth going to and it’s a shorter form of their interview loop. Typically 4 rounds each lasting to about 45 mins and hear back with a day or two. They do both – hiring events and a full loop.” Jul. 18, 2018

Another asked about how much influence the Hiring Manager has and one reply was, “There is no committee, but there is a special interviewer, usually at the end, whose job it is to determine fit for microsoft, help set level etc. In some groups that person cannot be the HM (in some it can of that person is also a certified AA interviewer). When I was in windows our org had relatively few AA interviewers so I got to do a lot of interviews for different groups.”  HM means hiring manager and AA means as appropriate. Dec. 7, 2018

“I interviewed and got an offer for a senior role on the identity team and most questions were in line with leetcode medium + a good bit of system design questions.” Jun. 6, 2018

For a question about the software engineer interviewing process, one Blind user explained, “Easy/ medium leetcode with system/object oriented design. Like others said prepare the behavioural Q’s well. Have a list of the Q’s which u will ask for each interviewer. Research the role thoroughly and see the latest stuff going on from the blogs. I screwed up 2 out of the 5 interviews and still got in because my round with the manager of managers went pretty well.” Jun. 7, 2018

How are the perks?

Microsoft is known for providing an ample amount of perks like free beverages including soda, juice and coffee. Gym membership subsidies, free passes for local transportation, Xboxes, ping pong tables, pool tables, arcades and foosball tables in some buildings, software discounts, cafes in all campus buildings, and a green campus with many trees are some of others.

Insights from Blind

“Microsoft has drinks, $ paid for fitness, pool tables etc, soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, and cool tree houses with meeting rooms. We also have a wellness center. Free food and allowing dogs on campus are the two biggest gaps imo, the rest are mostly covered.” Apr. 6, 2018 (read more here)

“Subsidised food: $2-3 breakfast, $6-12 lunch. They just added the 10% sales tax few days ago 😐. Some/most of the buildings get free fruits (apples, bananas, grapes, oranges etc). Drinks (non-alcoholic) are free and there are plenty of options to choose from. Sports fields, $800 stayfit reimbursement, $100 sports club reimbursement are some of the other perks.” Feb. 5, 2019 (read more here)

“More or less what @HRNj30 says. I basically got told some form of Surface product or a Lenovo when I started at the beginning of this month.” Dec. 25, 2018

“I’ve always gotten to choose my laptop. There’s a list of approved hardware (I.e. hardware good enough to last until your next hardware refresh), and you just need to stay within your team’s budget. I think the guidance differs for PMs and Devs, but I’m not sure of the nuances.” Dec. 25, 2018

What is the compensation like?

Microsoft’s total median compensation is $144,000 per year, according to CNBC. Other tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon typically pay more, depending on the role. Total compensation goes well beyond salary level — it includes benefits, potential bonuses, perks, and stock packages if they are available.

Insights from Blind

Within the Blind platform the compensation discussions provide more specific details. “I’m 62 and make over 200k TC. I’m surprised so many L63 are making less than me. Is this all SDE roles?”
Jan. 24, 2018

“I heard MS usually gave more RSUs to graduate hire. I am a new hire at L63 in Azure team. I was only gave 120k/4 stocks.” Jan. 24, 2018 (read more here)

“As a top lvl 64 my total comp was 271k last year. This included base salary, stocks, cash award and even special stock award. Didn’t included previous years stock vesting. And I was a lead in R&D. Sure if you add benefits its more generous (401k, ESPP and medical benefits are very generous) but 270k for a new hire at 63 seems too high to be true. This said WLB at Microsoft is very good.” Jan. 23, 2018 (read more here)

“I was l63 last year at msft my total comp was 200k (base 145k). Joined google at l4 few months ago total comp 310k (base 155k).  If you have competing offers you can negotiate the comp/level 63/64 are still in the same band after all.” Jan. 25, 2018

“270k in Seattle for L63 is really high. New hire (L63) here: 151k + 40k/2 + 120k/4 + 0-30% yearly bonus. No negotiation.”  Jan. 23, 2018

“Typically L63 makes around $200-$220k. I am making $215k ish. Adding the 401k and other perks which is another $20k, totalling $235k ish.” Jan. 23, 2018 (read more here)

“Based on data gathered from more than 7K Program Managers working at Microsoft, we can tell the average salary is $179K per year, ranging from $137K to $222K. Base Salary is $123K and ranges from $100K to $147K.” Jul. 12, 2007 (read more here)

What is the company culture like?

Microsoft is a huge company with many different organizational units spanning different continents, so there is some variation in workplace cultures. Because it is outside of Silicon Valley and has been very well-established for decades it operates differently from some of the other high-tech companies in California like Google, Facebook and Apple.

Microsoft’s products are have been used by millions of customers for years and the company has been very profitable, so it doesn’t want to be taking great risks. When Satya Nadella become CEO in 2014, he gave some of the Microsoft  executives copies for the book, “Nonviolent Communication” by the psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, which emphasizes using empathy and compassion to improve communication and human relationships. He also wanted to encourage a growth mindset to emphasize constant learning.

Insights from Blind

“It’s a big company with a lot of legacy trying to modernize and behave like a startup. For many reasons some parts can’t. There’s tension between when to behave which way.” Feb. 28, 2018 (read more here)

“There are some “ways of doing things” in many of the orgs. There isn’t a solid on ramp path that teaches it. It creates and in crowd that knows. You need an in person to learn from. And it can make group inadvertently miss out on doing things better. This is blowing up a little with the changes happening.” Feb. 28, 2018 (read more here)

“A lot is changing to attempt to modernize Office, but it’s a process. Different spots are further in the past. Work life balance is good. People are nice. Things may seem slow. Partly because of the added complexity across so many platforms and versions. Partly because of the massive legacy to bring forward. “ Jan. 31, 2018 (read more here)

“work life balance is amazing, some days I went in at 10 and left at 2pm.
-benefits are substantially better (medical, 401k, etc)
-free parking
-cheap and decent food in the cafeterias
-a good place to learn traditional swe best practices: unit testing, code review, naming conventions.” Jan. 31, 2018 (read more here)

“I left MS a year ago, in 5 years tried 3 different orgs and I can honestly say if you’re young it’s a resume killer, since things move slow, so much politics and majority of the roles I’ve seen is depth and rarely involved breadth. If you’re looking for your last job before retirement, then 👍” Sep. 29, 2017 (read more here)

How is the traffic at the Redmond campus?

This location has 30,000-47,000 employees so there is some congestion as one would expect. In addition to all the employees, the Redmond campus has 125 buildings. Once you have an employee badge you can ride on-campus shuttles. Locally, there are public buses and Microsoft employees can ride company shuttles. Light rail is expected to begin operating in Redmond in 2023, and it will be accessible by multiple modes of transportation like bus, bike, car, and walking.

Insights from Blind

“If you want to stay in an urban place, Bellevue and Olive in Cap Hill is the best option that has restaurants, nightlife and public transport. This is the penultimate stop before crossing the water, so unless you want to stay in UDistrict (that too, near the bus stop, which is hard), this is the fastest you can get to MSFT Redmond.” May 12, 2018 (read more here)

“Traffic is fine if you leave after 10am and return after 7 or 8. Capitol Hill is much better for living. I also recommend Eastlake, it’s right at the end of 520 so you can get to MSFT in 20 mins by driving. And it feels really residential but it’s still fairly close to stuff.” Mar. 12 2018

“There’s regular scheduled shuttles to the offices there. (Bellevue) I’d hop on one of those. Bravern, city center and Lincoln Square.” Mar. 12, 2018 (read more here)

“Yes, the Connector is a set of buses run by Microsoft for exclusively Microsoft employees to use.” April 4, 2018 (read more here)

“Connector is for commute to-from home. That’s FTE only. Shuttles is between MS buildings including Seattle, Bellevue downtown, Sammamish. Anyone can ride shuttles including visitors.” Mar. 1, 2018

What is the cost of housing?

The average rent in Redmond is about $2,000 a month with the rent for the typical one-bedroom equalling $1,794 and two bedrooms going for around $2,200. Because the rents are high, you might try a shared living situation, in which case the rents can go as low as $700 a month.

If you prefer to buy, on the low end you might be able to find a 1BR condo for $250,000-$350,000. The most affordable single family home will probably cost at least $400,000.

Insights from Blind

“2k for one of the newer apartments. Redmond is quite expensive, finding something cheaper usually means commuting for 20-30 mins.” Aug. 27, 2018 (read more here)

“When I lived in Redmond, our rent jumped to $2K/month. Newer kitchen with stainless steel appliances and vinyl “hardwood” in bathroom and kitchen. W/D, 2 BR, and carpeted floor plan. Nice gym, indoor pool, and indoor basketball court. When it got to that price, decided to buy a house – that was 2.5 years ago.” Aug. 27, 2018 (read more here)

“Start with 2000 sq ft house which you can get at 700-900k in Sammamish/Issaquah.” May 31, 2018

“Seriously, kirkland is a nice place to visit but not comparable to bellevue for schools or fam friendly. That is why bellevue is significantly more expensive. Median home price is kirkland is 755k. Median in Bellevue is 948k. Bellevue is also likely better for commuting and entertainment although obviously well behind Seattle.” Aug. 8, 2018 (read more here)

“Kirkland between Google, Oculus and Totem Lake Village is the sweetest spot, especially after Totem lake and Kirkland downtown massive constructions finish next year. Generally, 98033 is like Seattle’s Mountain View.” Aug. 8, 2018

What is there to do in Redmond?

Redmond is a small suburban city with a population of about 64,000. The median household income of a resident is $99,000 a year, and the median age is 34. Young adults might prefer to live in Seattle which is about 15 miles away for the night life. Redmond is probably a good place to have a family because of the safety and highly-rated public schools. Naturally, it has retail shops, restaurants and theaters — what you would expect to find in a town of its size. One distinguishing feature is the local velodrome.

Insights from Blind

“If you’re single/under 30 and want access to nightlife, avoid Redmond. All of us (plus amazon peeps) live in Seattle proper. Even Bellevue, I’ve never been to at night.” Jan. 23, 2018

“Had a coworker make the mistake of listening to his dev friends and rented in redmond; still regretful to this day.” Jan. 23, 2018

“Start off in cap hill, then in a year or two, graduate to ballard/belltown/queen anne. If you get locked down, THEN get of seattle. Got married peeps living in Kirkland, West Seattle, wallingford, etc etc.” Jan. 23, 2018

“Live in Seattle. Your weekends will be filled with fun right outside.” April 4, 2018

“If you work in downtown then live in west Seattle. Redmond is safe for kids, but insanely boring and a long commute.” Nov. 15, 2018

“Kirkland 98033 is where you wanna be. It’s kinda Mountain View of Seattle area.” Nov. 15, 2018

How diverse is the company?

About 26.6% of employees are female. Approximately 4.1% are African-American and 6% are Hispanic. Almost 32% are of Asian descent and 55% are Caucasian.

What are some of advantages/disadvantages for Microsoft careers?

Microsoft has a more conventional business model, so it’s not like working at a startup. Depending on your interests and age you might prefer this kind of company. However, if you are younger you might like to work at a smaller company. Working at Microsoft will probably be a good resume builder. At the same time, you will need some patience to work in a very large bureaucracy because they tend to be hierarchical and slow-moving.

Image Credits: Coolcaesar, Wikipedia, Microsoft visitor center, no changes made, CC BY-SA 4.0
 Building 17, no changes made, public domain

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