Interview Tips From Microsoft’s Senior Tech Recruiter

by Vault Careers | June 19, 2014

In addition to working for Microsoft, Racquel Garcia is an advocate for diversity in recruitment and hiring, and a speaker at conferences and workshops for the National Society of Hispanic Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and Grace Hoppers, a group dedicated to the advancement of women in engineering.

The following interview with Ms. Garcia was excerpted from the new Vault Career Guide to the Internet and Social Media.

What type of workers do you recruit?
I primarily recruit engineers, specifically anyone coming out of college (undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D.). These people are creating, developing, and testing software for almost every aspect of technology—from consumer to enterprise. I have also worked with folks coming into roles such as user design, hardware engineering, finance, human resources, information technology/operations, and marketing and sales.

What advice would you give to jobseekers in terms of applying to and interviewing for jobs?
I recommend that students talk to as many people they know who have either done the role or worked at the company. It will enable them to understand how to tailor their resume. It’s also a great way to get insight from people who’ve actually done the job or been in the environment. I recommend asking these people what advice they’d share with anyone considering a job and/or interviewing at the company. What skills does the company look for overall? What questions were they asked during their interview/s as well as general information about the process? Many applicants become anxious about the unknown and this is an opportunity to help set them up for success if they have the inside scoop.

When they are actually interviewing, I would tell them to make sure to tell the interviewers if they get nervous. Interviewers want them to be at their best and they’ll do what they can to help calm them down. Interviewers are not asking trick questions, but they do want to see how people think on their feet and what they know and what the company might need to teach them. Ask questions you want to know [about the company or job] and make sure you compile a list of good questions to demonstrate that you care about the topic and/or company. I would also encourage them to be themselves. I know this is harder than it sounds, but these are people you might eventually work with. You should get to know them a bit. Ask them how they ended up at the company and in their particular job. What do they like best about it? Don’t be afraid to ask things you want/need to know. For example, if career growth is important to you, ask them how they feel the company fosters their career.

What can applicants expect when they interview?
Interview candidates can expect to meet with a recruiter and a variety of other engineers who will evaluate them. They’ll get a chance to see the actual work environments and buildings they could work in. They’ll interview over lunch, which is typically new for many students. They’ll be asked questions about their previous work experience and/or past projects. They’ll also be asked to code on the white board and asked to think out loud, walking the interviewer through their thought process. They’ll get a chance to meet a few different people on their prospective teams and have the opportunity to ask questions about the role/team/company/etc. They should also expect to have fun; after all if they are passionate about the work, engaging in a dialogue with other intelligent people will make for a good day.

How do you typically find prospective hires?
We find students in a variety of ways, including referrals from people we’ve hired, former interns, professors, and career centers. The usual methods: applying on our website, company info sessions, and career fairs. We also find potential hires at our competitors (people who’ve done internships with them), Facebook groups, coding contests, tech bloggers (those who are blogging about technology and/or chiming in to help others in chat rooms), looking at courses that the university offers in other degree programs where individuals might be developing a similar skill set to what we are looking for, scholarship recipients, and articles/journals/blogs/online papers that spotlight college students who are doing great things.

Are there common areas in which tech industry job seekers are deficient? If so, what are they, and how can they improve these areas?
The most common deficiency is that they don’t write good resumes. Sometimes they’ll sell themselves short by not listing projects they’ve worked on because they weren’t paid but these projects are completely relevant to what we are looking for. Very often if I ask someone about the project they are most proud of, nine times out of 10 they left it off their resume. Students are not leveraging the recruiters or others who’ve interned at the company to gain a better understand of the role, which would help them write a more tailored resume, or identify which skills they should be selling during an interview. Despite all the information out there on company web sites or blogs, lots of people don’t do their homework. I’m also surprised by the number of people who want jobs in tech but think they must have the most ideal job rather than take what they can get. Working in any job in the tech field demonstrates your passion and enables you to gain skills, even if it’s working in a professional environment. All that can be helpful to help build confidence when the right job does present itself.

What can people do to improve their chances of being hired by tech companies?
Know as much as you can about the job you’re interviewing for. Talk to people; don’t be afraid to approach the recruiter. Make sure that anything you put on your resume is true. If you can’t speak about the project, refresh your memory in case you’re asked. It’s disappointing when you ask a candidate and they don’t remember the details; it makes me wonder if they really learned anything. Anticipate questions you might be asked, write down snippets that you’ll want to speak about. More than likely if you leave this on your dining room table, you’ll remember a better example later. Don’t let that example come to mind AFTER you walk out of the interview. This can be cumbersome but it’ll also help you build confidence on the day of the interview. Also, demonstrate your passion. If you have to work while in college, why not work in the computer lab or as the tech person for your dorm. Anything that gets you in the field or working with technology is a huge plus. And network. When you meet people, connect to them on LinkedIn. Reach out to them and ask for their advice on interviewing. People love to tell their stories, and you’ll probably learn something about the role and the company that will help you get closer to landing the job.

To read the full interview, get the Vault Career Guide to the Internet and Social Media.

Read more:
Google Wants 600,000 More Square Feet of NYC Office Space
8 Interview Questions That Will Catch Hiring Managers Off Balance
How to Fight Interview Stress and Fright

Filed Under: Interviewing | Technology


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