The interview process for Silicon Valley developer jobs has always had a reputation of being an arcane trial by fire exercise designed to weed down thousands of applicants to just the selected few antisocial geniuses.
Microsoft has however been making an effort to improve their hiring process to make it more useful and inclusive, and in a blog post John Montgomery, partner director of program management at Microsoft, explained the changes Microsoft has made to the process, which has meant cutting out such as questions as how many golf balls will fit into a 747.
This has led to the creation of the ‘Alternative Interview Framework’ which has the following 8 elements:
- Share the interview in advance
Candidates are given the problem to be solved in advance so they can do research a few days before the interview. This mirrors the real world, where problems are rarely a surprise.
- Use a real problem
Candidates are tested on solving real-world problems such as improving customer satisfaction, increasing retention or boosting usage of a service or feature. This helps foster a collaborative conversation.
- Give access to data
Candidates are given access to the same information Microsoft is working from, and during the interview, they are free to search the internet or ask for more data. This includes supplying a candidate with our customer research, usage data, designs and mock-ups.
- Make it interactive
The interview consists of collaborative problem solving with the interviewers, which replicates the actual work environment if the candidate was hired.
- Follow a single scenario
Fifth, Microsoft follows a single scenario/problem throughout the day and take the candidate on a similar journey that PMs go through starting with the customer or business problem, understanding the customer’s job-to-be-done, designing the solution, bringing the solution into customer’s hands and ultimately getting them to use and love it. Each interview focuses on a different phase of the process.
- Pair interviewers
Sixth, Microsoft pairs interviewers up. Rather than having one-to-one interviews, Microsoft brings two people from the team into each interview. The result is that conversations are more dynamic with multiple collaborators, it also gave the interview team an opportunity to hear multiple perspectives on the same conversation and fight unconscious bias.
- Hold feedback until the end
Microsoft holds feedback between interviewers till the end of the day, after all the candidates have been interviewed. Microsoft wanted each interviewer to judge the candidate based on the merits of their conversation alone — and not the opinion of interviewers who came before them. Microsoft tell interviewers not to signal to others whether they were leaning toward recommending we hire someone or not. They hand off the candidate to the next interviewer set and give a summary of what we’d learned in the previous session. At the end of the day everyone simultaneously makes their recommendation and explains a bit about what they saw/heard that led to that conclusion.
- Give feedback on the process too
Lastly, at the end of each interview loop, the interview panel not only discuss what they learned in their time with the candidate, but what worked or didn’t work in the process. This feedback is used to make the process better for all.
Ultimately, Microsoft’s goal for the hiring process is to bring great people into the team or company — to make sure they’re a fit and will succeed, and to create a great experience for them so they want to join. Microsoft says they had good feedback for the process, which has been expanding since 2016 and has found that it has given them a competitive advantage over other recruiters.
Read more detail on the process at Medium here.