Bizarre feedback from Microsoft, UK interview



  •  

    I recently had a day of 6 face-to-face interviews at Microsoft, UK. I had to submit 3 programming solutions in advance and take part in 1 Internet whiteboard coding session beforehand. During each of the 6 interviews I had to answer 2 coding questions. In total that makes (6 * 2) + 3 + 1 = 16 solutions.

    I messed up the last solution at the end of the day because I was getting tired of answering questions. For another question, I choose to answer verbally rather than write on the whiteboard. So in total I messed up 2 solutions out of 16. My apologises if the number of technical questions I was asked is slighly less than 16. My recollection is that the interviewers mostly asked 2 technical questions per interview.

    Two weeks later the Human Resources person told me I didn't get the job. She asked a good time for her to phone me with the feedback. I wasn't really that interested as I thought I would only get a blanket comment. I said I was just interested in getting my travel expenses paid. Anyway she asked again about the interview feedback and I agreed.

    The next day she phoned me. I had to put up with a long tirade of criticisms. However apart from the one question I messed up at the end, the criticisms weren't really techical in nature.

    I was told:

    1) I hadn't viewed an animation on YouTube that the manager spoke of. The manager may have mentioned this in an early interview, but if it was vital I viewed it why wasn't I sent the URL by email?

    2) I had paused for about 20 seconds before answering one question.

    3) During one optimisation question for which I answered correctly, my offence was to make a comment before I gave the correct answer. I only said that computers can loop to a million pretty quick. But then I gave a good answer and the interviewer didn't disagree with the answer I gave.

    This is truly a WTF. They don't care about whether I answered the questions or not. They only care how long I paused before giving the answer or whether I made a comment beforehand.

    During lunch as I was trying to eat my chips, the interviewer asked me what my previous managers thought of me. I explained in that job I had 7 different project managers and 3 different people managers. In the end I said that one manager had commented on the fact I did lots of things done quickly - at the time she noticed I had taken part in 3 different projects and everything was done on time.

    However this was not good enough for the Human Resources woman. By making a comment before answering properly, I had not answered the question directly. I was only trying to make the point it is a difficult question question to answer as I had so many different project managers. I was concerned that I would not answer the question properly if I only said what 1 or 2 managers thought of me.

    I suppose Microsoft must protect themselves in case people take legal action against them for discrimination. I have no intention of doing this. But this is going to far. They crossed the line between feedback and being mean.

    One other thing. During one interview I was asked to write code for a Connect 4 game. I never played when younger. After a minute or so of writing code, I realised I had make a mistake and started over again. In the end I gave the correct answer. However the manager at the end of the interviews asked me about previous interviews and I mentioned this mistake. The manager mocked me for writing code before finding out all the specifications.

    The Human Resources woman said one reason I didn't get the job is because I couldn't give the manager at the end correct feedback about how I did in previous interviews. This is just self-referential nonsense.

    During the telephone feedback, I heard the HR woman typing. She must have been typing what I said in reply to the lengthy negative feeback.

    Also during the face-to-face interviews, some interviewers were making continuous handwritten notes of everything I said. In the last interview, the manager spent the whole time typing. He must have been recording everything I said.



  • It is not the fact I didn't get the job. It is the fact that not viewing a YouTube animation I was never given the URL to is not a reason for not getting a job. Neither is the ability to answer you well you did in previous interviews at the last interview.

     The Human Resources woman told me the manager told her I didn't even know the code I wrote for the very last problem I was given was incorrect. During that interview the manager mocked me for writing a few lines of Connect 4 code before finally working out a minute or so later myself I had made a mistake and corrected it. He said they don't write code before knowing the specifications.

     The fact is that after having to solve 10 plus programming puzzles I was getting tired of answering questions at the end of the day. I knew that. It seems as soon as you tire these people verbally attack you.

     I have written a vast amount of code over the past decade and yet I was treated with contempt.

     Someone needs to tell these people treating people this way in not acceptable.



  • TRWTF is that anyone I have delt with at Microsoft UK has been very misguided on what they want to achieve..... Trying to purchase compilers for projects that they do not know the specification of.



  • @aries2007 said:

     Someone needs to tell these people treating people this way in not acceptable.

     

    But you were going to accept this job if they offered it to you...? Perhaps this screening process is looking for people who match those crtieria (someone who wants to work that long on uninteresting work and take crap if they do it wrong...) 



  • I realize many people are in need of a job and can't afford to be choosy, but as far as I'm concerned, you are better off not working there. I cannot imagine anything useful or of any decent quality coming out of a place that focuses on such inane details. No interview I've ever had was like that.



  • My stomach tells me that this is just some kind of game. Reminds me of that "not clean enough game" they play on new recruits in the army. (At least here in Austria; I bet no room was ever clean enough when the first inspection happened. Even if you could transfer a clean-room for chip production into the barracks, they would find those 12 dust particels of dust per m² and punish you for each one.)

    So my bet is on this: They would have rejected you anyway, and they expect you to apply again, to show you are full of resulution / willing to learn / willing to bow / really want that job / whatever.



  • @ammoQ said:

    My stomach tells me that this is just some kind of game. Reminds me of that "not clean enough game" they play on new recruits in the army. (At least here in Austria; I bet no room was ever clean enough when the first inspection happened. Even if you could transfer a clean-room for chip production into the barracks, they would find those 12 dust particels of dust per m² and punish you for each one.)

    So my bet is on this: They would have rejected you anyway, and they expect you to apply again, to show you are full of resulution / willing to learn / willing to bow / really want that job / whatever.

    I would agree with the first part, but this is Microsoft we're talking about - their hiring practices are notoriously insane and you're probably ascribing too much rationality to them. Their expectations are probably more along the lines of "if we find reasons to reject everybody and eat cheese then there will be a moose in the cafeteria". More than a few people have described working at MS to be similar to swimming in kool-aid while waiting for your stock options to vest.

     

    Although, if you started implementing something before finding out all the specifications, I'd probably mock you too. I wouldn't hold it against you if you corrected the mistake, but I'd still mock you. It's a really silly thing to do.



  • @asuffield said:

    Although, if you started implementing something before finding out all the specifications, I'd probably mock you too. I wouldn't hold it against you if you corrected the mistake, but I'd still mock you. It's a really silly thing to do.

    You are probably not the biggest fan of agile development methods, are you? 



  • I'll state everything that happened to make things clear.

     1) I was asked to write some code to find out if there is a winner on each turn of Connect 4

    2) I start writing a few lines of code

    3) I then realise the "4" part of Connect 4 is important and that you win by getting 4 counters in a row (or column or diagonal) rather than a whole row.

    4) I say something like "Duh, the 4 of Connect 4 is important"

    5) I come up with the correct solution

    6) The interviewer agrees

     

    In the last interview the interviewer is on the very margins of hostile and mocks me for writing code before knowing all the rules.

     

    I think anyone with a working mind will realise the whole thing is stupid. This is not a real life situation. Software I have written has recently gone from being on hundreds of computers of paying customers to thousands. Software I have been responsible for over the past year, has only had 1 real bug and that was caused by a Microsoft API and an optimisation I added that was only turned on for a certain option. The bug was spotted within a couple of weeks and corrected.



  • @ammoQ said:

    @asuffield said:

    Although, if you started implementing something before finding out all the specifications, I'd probably mock you too. I wouldn't hold it against you if you corrected the mistake, but I'd still mock you. It's a really silly thing to do.

    You are probably not the biggest fan of agile development methods, are you? 

    It would depend whether you mean "agile" in the sense of "short development cycles" or in the sense of "start banging on it without thinking it through, in the hope that you turn out something useful by applying the 'large number of monkey-hours principle'".



  • I wonder what the interviewer would have though if you first wrote some test cases for you connect 4 solution...



  • @aries2007 said:

    The Human Resources woman told me the manager told her I didn't even know the code I wrote for the very last problem I was given was incorrect. During that interview the manager mocked me for writing a few lines of Connect 4 code before finally working out a minute or so later myself I had made a mistake and corrected it. He said they don't write code before knowing the specifications.

    Since this is Microsoft we're dealing with, you should have finished your mistaken code and declared the specifications such that they fit what you wrote.  Then start a massive ad campaign touting your new, broken version of Connect 4 as the only way to play.  Maybe you could bulliy computer companies into packaging Connect 4 on their new PCs, less you withhold other important programs you sell.  Or, failing that, simply go to an international standards body and get your new Connect 4 specification passed and tout it as the only version that meets industry standards.



  • Just one other point.

     In the stream of negative criticism I had to endue, one comment was that I didn't understand how to interact with QA.

     The trouble with this is at Microsoft there is one software tester to every software developer.

     All of the other companies I've worked at in the past aren't like this. At one company I worked with, there were only 2 QA members for 30 plus software developers. On one occassion they had to QA a very big project launch and had no time to test my project work. However my project work was responsible to a key part of the custom facing e-commerce site working properly. If my project work wasn't launched soon, the website would slowly crumble into a big mess. However the QA folks were busy and management didn't want to get involved. So to speed things along, I gave the QA folks a list of tests I had compiled. They QA'ed my work. My work was launched and the databases were saved from crumbling into a mess. Everything went fine.

     When I mentioned this in response to a question I was asked at Microsoft, it immediately disqualified me and led to more negative comments from the human resources woman at Microsoft. By helping the QA folks out by compiling the tests myself, I had committed an offence. However at the time there was nothing else I could do.

     It seems to me, one of my Microsoft interviewers simply doesn't have experience of non-Microsoft companies were there are less dedicated software testers. It is a pity because I place great emphasis on software testing.



  • @asuffield said:

    @ammoQ said:
    @asuffield said:

    Although, if you started implementing something before finding out all the specifications, I'd probably mock you too. I wouldn't hold it against you if you corrected the mistake, but I'd still mock you. It's a really silly thing to do.

    You are probably not the biggest fan of agile development methods, are you? 

    It would depend whether you mean "agile" in the sense of "short development cycles" or in the sense of "start banging on it without thinking it through, in the hope that you turn out something useful by applying the 'large number of monkey-hours principle'".

    Agile as in "implement one part at a time, without having a complete&immutable requirement definition in the first place". 



  • @aries2007 said:

    Just one other point.

     In the stream of negative criticism I had to endue, one comment was that I didn't understand how to interact with QA.

    Given the track record of MS' product quality, you should understand that they are rather picky on that subject. And that's even though they nearly have a billion testers, most of them even paying for the chance to test the software.



  • @bstorer said:

    @aries2007 said:

    The Human Resources woman told me the manager told her I didn't even know the code I wrote for the very last problem I was given was incorrect. During that interview the manager mocked me for writing a few lines of Connect 4 code before finally working out a minute or so later myself I had made a mistake and corrected it. He said they don't write code before knowing the specifications.

    Since this is Microsoft we're dealing with, you should have finished your mistaken code and declared the specifications such that they fit what you wrote.  Then start a massive ad campaign touting your new, broken version of Connect 4 as the only way to play.  Maybe you could bulliy computer companies into packaging Connect 4 on their new PCs, less you withhold other important programs you sell.  Or, failing that, simply go to an international standards body and get your new Connect 4 specification passed and tout it as the only version that meets industry standards.

    Where can I buy this Connect 4 of which you speak? Sounds like a great program! I must have it now! </sheep>

    Who says good marketing never works? ;)
     



  • @Quinnum said:

    @bstorer said:

    @aries2007 said:

    The Human Resources woman told me the manager told her I didn't even know the code I wrote for the very last problem I was given was incorrect. During that interview the manager mocked me for writing a few lines of Connect 4 code before finally working out a minute or so later myself I had made a mistake and corrected it. He said they don't write code before knowing the specifications.

    Since this is Microsoft we're dealing with, you should have finished your mistaken code and declared the specifications such that they fit what you wrote.  Then start a massive ad campaign touting your new, broken version of Connect 4 as the only way to play.  Maybe you could bulliy computer companies into packaging Connect 4 on their new PCs, less you withhold other important programs you sell.  Or, failing that, simply go to an international standards body and get your new Connect 4 specification passed and tout it as the only version that meets industry standards.

    Where can I buy this Connect 4 of which you speak? Sounds like a great program! I must have it now! </sheep>

    Who says good marketing never works? ;)

     

    Connect 4 - Best Practices Edition



  • The take-home message is that if Microsoft, UK wants to telephone you with interview feedback after telling you that you haven't got the job, then YOU MUST REFUSE.

     

    True, they might tell you something valuable, but the point of it is to justify their decision and to record your response. They will twist everything you said in the interview and reel off to you a whole string of negative criticisms. The fact that in an interview you may have got the answer correct is irrelevant to human resources. If like me you can be offended by being verbally attacked for 15 minutes non-stop, then do not accept their call.

     Additionally you may want to think about interviewing with people that continuously write down and type into a laptop everything you say during an interview.

     True I messed up the last question I was asked. But that doesn't give Microsoft, UK the right to telephone me and tell me that I am so stupid I don't even realise when I get a question wrong or incomplete. In fact I did realise it. I was just getting tired of answering questions.

     



  • Microsoft interviews are a well documented and explored phenemenon.   They love to be off-beat and see how it throws off candidates.  If you do some research on the Internet, you will find a lot of stories like yours.  The interviewers use confusion and stress testing.  The "yelling" at you was probably intended to see how you react to criticism, if you would stand up for yourself, and how you would do so.

     Never be afraid to tell the interviewer that he is wrong, sometimes they are looking for such an answer.  If not, do you want to work with someone who can't admit a mistake?

    My interviews with MS specifically included a letter explaining that they would never comment on why I wasn't selected, and not to bother to ask or reapply for one year.  I expect it was a legal issue, but does the same not apply in the UK?


     



  • @iAmNotACantalope said:

    My interviews with MS specifically included a letter explaining that they would never comment on why I wasn't selected, and not to bother to ask or reapply for one year.  I expect it was a legal issue, but does the same not apply in the UK?

    Under UK law, an employer is explicitly required to explain their reasoning in writing, on the request of the candidate. It's a mechanism for detecting discrimination against politically-effective groups. 

    I don't know why they did it over the telephone without being asked. Probably somebody in the legal department was stoned.
     



  • @iAmNotACantalope said:

    Microsoft interviews are a well documented and explored phenemenon.   They love to be off-beat and see how it throws off candidates.  If you do some research on the Internet, you will find a lot of stories like yours.  The interviewers use confusion and stress testing.  The "yelling" at you was probably intended to see how you react to criticism, if you would stand up for yourself, and how you would do so.

    Never be afraid to tell the interviewer that he is wrong, sometimes they are looking for such an answer.  If not, do you want to work with someone who can't admit a mistake?

    You're defending this insanity? 



  • Interviewing at MS is very, very varied. This does sound like one of the more extreme interviews I've heard of. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

     I bet this was a department in TVP, Reading who dealt with Internal HR systems integrating with Seibel... I heard or similar bizarre stories. Myself I, was looking to internally transfer. Having been a lead developer for a team I understand the MS recruitment procedures quite well, having done many interviews before. There is a book called 'How to move Mt <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Fiji</st1:place></st1:country-region>', which contains many abstract problem solving questions. I had a telephone interview question with someone who would have been a peer. He asked me 'How would you move Mt <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Fiji</st1:place></st1:country-region>', to which I rather flippantly replied 'I would read past the front cover of the book' <o:p></o:p>

    Our policy was all about team fit, we just want the candidate to demonstrate intelligence and ability to problem solve through the interview... Our favourite question was 'write a function, in the language of your choice that takes in two integers, multiplies them together and returns the result'. You cannot use any existing multiplication functions.<o:p></o:p>

    We judge on the kind of questions they ask.. Does it need to accept negative integers? Some candidates are ambitious and try and do it through bit shifting, most go for a simple loop. Some try and do everything all at once; others start to write a little table of inputs asking you at each step if that is a requirement, and then the expected outputs. e.g. {{x=0, y,0}, {x=1, y=0}, {x=1, y=1}, {x=2, y=10}, {x=-1, y=-1} .. and so on (we like people who do this.... very TDD)<o:p></o:p>

    We simply then drill through their CV and get them to talk about the projects they have been on, we chip in with questions, if they were at a lower developer level ask them how they would do it different. More senior positions, we’re just a bit tougher on the tech side (we expect a good skills match, while a junior position we really only look for a 40% fit, skills wise) and really drill down on the QA, leadership and communication side of things much more.<o:p></o:p>

     



  • I am impressed by how you can talk so long and say so little. You have a bright career ahead in middle management.



  • @asuffield said:

    I am impressed by how you can talk so long and say so little. You have a bright career ahead in middle management.

    you never cease to please! 


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to What the Daily WTF? was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.