5 Interview Questions You Can Pinch From Microsoft

As a twist on our usual recruitment ideas blog, this week we've pinched some interview questions from Microsoft. Find out what they ask in this blog post.

June 20, 2023

In a twist on our recruitment idea style blogs, we’ve decided to start revealing some of the weird and wonderful questions candidates are asked by the world’s biggest brands in an interview.

To start with, we’re using the American multinational technology company, Microsoft.

Founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, Microsoft has established itself as a global tech giant. From personal computers to games consoles, it’s constantly evolving to change with the times and bring new innovative products to market.

However, to create and think of new technology, they need a team of highly intelligent, skilled and experienced employees.

So what kind of questions do Microsoft ask their candidates at interviews? And how can your business use these examples to your benefit?

“How would you test an elevator?”

In terms of randomness, this question has to be up there with the best. From asking a series of competency-based questions to this, you can see why it throws a lot of candidates off.

The beauty of this interview question is that it doesn’t really have any relevance to any of the jobs they are hiring for.

What it does is put a candidate under pressure and tests them to see how well they cope with it. However, the real skill and the key point at which Microsoft is looking for is their answer itself.

For instance, someone who starts scrambling and talks about testing the mechanics behind it suggests they are overthinking the whole question. While brains are imperative to Microsoft, common sense is also vital to ensure they stay in touch with a consumer’s mind.

The perfect answer would be “to simply press the button”. Sounds simple, because it is. It shows common sense, a basic logic and the ability to adapt to different scenarios.

“A right [angle] triangle has a hypotenuse equal to 10 and an altitude to the hypotenuse equal to 6. Find the area of the triangle.”

As revealed in the Telegraph, an Indian engineering student at the National Institute of Technology was asked to solve this question by Microsoft.

Understandably, you probably shut off after reading the first few words (like I did), but there is a lesson to be learned with this complex question.

While it might be a little different from a regular interview question, it instantly tests the candidate under pressure and more importantly, their knowledge.

Microsoft might need common sense, but they also need some of the world’s brightest minds to compete with the likes of Sony and Apple.

When you’re carrying out an interview, don’t feel like you should make a decision immediately. Ask them to complete a relevant task either at home or onsite.

It’s important that you find a candidate who can not only complete the job at hand, but to see who is also willing to go the extra mile.

“Show us an example of a website with great design”

This interview question was asked to an experience design candidate and is a perfect example of how to check whether the candidate is proactive within their industry.

You see, a top candidate will always keep their finger on the pulse of their industry so they are up to date with trends and can use them to create ideas for themselves.

Whereas a candidate who happens to be good at their profession, might not actually mean they enjoy it.

In fact, their heart might not be in it at all.

Therefore, they won’t bother or show interest in checking out other industry-related news outside of work hours.

Your business will thrive when it has employees who love what they do.

“Why would you not join Google?”

This interview question is certainly a good way to set the cat among the pigeons! Microsoft picked one of their biggest competitors and ask some of their candidates why they wouldn’t want to join them.

You can easily tweak this for your industry and see how the candidate responds.

In theory, you want them to say that you’re the best. However, this could be a good opportunity to see who has a sense of humour and is willing to make you laugh.

For example, they could reply: “I’ve got an interview there afterwards” or “my application there must have got lost, so I settled for you”.

Interviews don’t always have to consist of a candidate telling an employer how much they love them. Work culture is extremely important within your company, so finding someone with a cheeky sense of humour might go a long way.

Want to build a winning company culture? Check out our blog post for some tips and inspiration.

“Tell me how you would design an airport”

Although this question was asked to a budding program manager candidate, it works for most positions.

If you’re hiring for a technical job like Microsoft, they’d want to hear a level of expertise and organisation. But if you are looking for a marketing employee, this could then open up the door for how they’d structure it based on sales.

For instance, an intelligent marketing candidate might say that they’d position more food outlets next to the boarding gates to entice customers in for a last minute snack. Or in contrast, they could argue that having them really far away will tempt them more to make a purchase on the plane itself.

There’s no real right or wrong answer here, just an opportunity to let the candidates’ imaginations run wild.

Want some more interview question examples? Don’t forget to include some of these to lighten the mood.

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Coburg Banks - Multi-Sector Recruitment Agency
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