Microsoft Campus Visit

Its that time of year again: Fall Career Fair. Everyone is scrambling to find either a post-graduation position or a summer internship and the competition is heating up. While most companies and government agencies are waiting until the full fair this Friday, Microsoft arrived on campus early to get a head start on the competition.

Their recruiting event began on Tuesday morning with what was billed as a resume exchange event. For the uninitiated, I urge caution and preparation. Unfortunately, I was among the many who took the event description at face value and expected a both with fliers and other misc. handouts where I would drop off my resume to a perfunctory thank you and move on. My envisioned scenario cannot be further from the truth. In reality, its a pre-interview process where the select students to move on to real interviews. Upon entering our career center, I attempted to elicit information from the receptionist, who suggested that I simply find a seat and wait to speak to someone. I’m not sure if the lack of guidance is a part of the process or simply a result of a lack of communication between the Microsoft crew and the hosting center. It was, however confusing. The “waiting area” is a high-pressured environment filled with stressed out students seated inches away from in-process interviews. The only respite was these little wooden puzzles they handed out to the waiting students, which are fun to busy yourself with until it occurs that they might be some sort of test. Needless to say, most students left them well enough alone. As for the interview (or ‘pre-interview) itself, that was relatively painless. The Microsoft employees are friendly and easygoing, but be prepared to discuss your strengths/research in detail. And, make sure to bring your resume.

As of the following morning (Wednesday), I haven’t received a call-back. If I’m fortunate enough to, then I will write an update regarding the interview process.

That evening, the Microsoft team hosted a Coding Challenge on campus for teams of 1-3 coders, complete with the obligatory free pizza and soda (why isn’t it ever free sandwiches and juice?). The event started out a a little slow as they had to accommodate for a slew of new participants that were recruited at the meet-and-greet(myself included). Every team has to register not only for the event, but for Microsoft accounts as well. That whole process took about 30-45 minutes, which was a bit long, but the free food and excitement helped pass the time. There was also some pre-event confusion regarding laptops and compilers; some were under the impression that Microsoft would be providing either laptops or specific online compilers and this is certainly not the case. If you’re going to one of these events, I sincerely recommend doing some pre-competition maintenance on your computer to ensure that your compiler and IDE (if you use one) is working and up to date. Furthermore, I recommend getting a seat near the front, as they weren’t keen on employing the microphones and my team in the back didn’t hear that the competition had started. Those five-ten minutes can really make a difference. The code challenges consisted of 6 different questions of some length and complexity. While we weren’t able to focus on all of them, my impression was that every question can be answered using any language, but some languages lend themselves better to quick solutions.

(*Note: A paragraph containing particular information regarding the specific nature of the questions has been removed at the advice of one of the Microsoft representatives. Once the current recruiting season is complete, I may choose to re-include the paragraph.)

Overall the coding challenge was fun and educational, but was delivered with less pomp and circumstance then one would expect; the announcement of the winners and distribution of the prizes happened so quietly that we missed it and the event was over without much adieu. I would have liked to have seen a little more celebration and enthusiasm. After all, we spent three hours participating.

There is a presentation being given tonight, which I will be attending. I’ll update this post later this week with some reflections and (hopefully some photos).