How to Get a Product Manager Job at Microsoft

So you want to work at Microsoft. You’re ready to take the leap and apply for one of the most well-known, influential, and game-changing companies in the tech world. The company that has had an incalculable impact on home computing, cloud computing, AI, gaming, mobile phones…just to name a few of Microsoft’s ventures.

That might feel a little intimidating, no matter where you are in your career.

Luckily, we’re here to help! We’ve got all of the tips, tricks, and insider know-how to help you land that Product Manager role.

Microsoft's Redmond building
Images courtesy of Microsoft/Glassdoor

Job Overview

Let’s start with some basic details. Since Microsoft is a global company, and these figures are based on PMs in the USA, you may need to check the job specs carefully if you’re applying for an overseas position.

  • Average base salary for a Product Manager: $124,251 USD
  • Average additional pay: $12,490 USD
  • Benefits: Flexible work schedules, healthcare plans, PTO, health and wellness expenses, 401(k) plans, employee discounts, and more. Check with your recruiter for the benefits available in your country.
  • Locations: Headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft have headquarters quite literally all over the world.

Background required for a Microsoft PM

Due to the size and prestige of the company, it’s unlikely that your first Product Management job will be with Microsoft. If you’re fresh out of college with a few years of programming experience, and looking to jumpstart a career in product, they have some graduate opportunities (positions will re-open in 2021). You could also consider applying for an internship.

To be a Product Manager, you’ll already need to have a few years of experience under your belt. There are a few ways to transition from related roles, such as Program Management or Software Engineering, but either way you’ll need some pretty specific technical knowledge.

Now, you may have heard us say in the past that you don’t need to be super technical to be a Product Manager, and that’s still true. Many smaller companies and startups care more that you have the soft and strategic skills needed in PM, and trust that you’ll pick up what you need to know about the tech along the way.

For companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, they’re building high-level tech products used by millions. In big tech, you’re working with bigger teams, more stakeholders, and there are far more processes in place. Things don’t move as quickly as they do in startups, so to keep the balls rolling as fast as possible, big tech companies benefit from having everyone understand the technology they’re building.

Microsoft's Redmond building outside

So it’s not elitism that drives Microsoft to ask for the best of the best tech talent, it’s a desire for efficiency and speed where possible.

You’ll need to check each job posting meticulously to see what technical knowledge is required, as it will differ depending on which team/product you’re applying to. No two jobs at Microsoft are the same, so be sure to change your resume as necessary for each different application you make.

Company Values

Microsoft operates in a similar way to many other big tech organizations, so be sure to be aware of the key differences between working for a startup and a large company.

As a corporation, Microsoft state their three core values as respect, integrity, and accountability.

That’s all very nice, but what does it look like in your actual day to day as a Microsoft Product Manager?

What most employees praise Microsoft for is its commitment to ethics. The missions its teams are sent on are meaningful, and the work environment is known to be friendly. Management are keen on investing in individuals and helping to build up their employees careers and skillsets.

If you want to work for tech that makes an impact, Microsoft is the place for you.

What Does it Take to Be a Microsoft PM?

When it comes to being the best Microsoft PM, you don’t just have to take our word for it. Learn from the experts themselves! While we have a whole host of talks by Microsoft Product professionals on our YouTube channel, here we’ve handpicked the ones which will be the most helpful to you if you’re aiming to work for them:

The Product Manager Life

This useful talk by a former Product Manager for Microsoft gives you an in-depth overview into what it’s like to be a PM. This is especially helpful if you’re moving into your first product role, but also if this is your first time working at Microsoft. Every company does PM a little differently, so it’s good to get some insights before diving in.

You may also be interested in: Introvert or Extrovert: Which is Better for Product Management?

Working Effectively with Cross Continent Teams

If you’re working at Microsoft as a Product Manager, you’ll most likely be helping to build products that span several different markets. This means bridging gaps with your teams like timezones, different work schedules, and cultural differences.

How to Transition into Product Management

This talk is especially useful if you’re transitioning into PM from another tech-related industry.

How to Be a Growth Product Manager

What does ‘Growth’ mean for Product Managers, and how do the product teams at Microsoft impact and influence the growth of a product? Find out in this expert talk by a Microsoft Senior Product Manager.

The Interview Process

Getting a job at Microsoft is highly competitive, which means that the interview process can be long, taking up to two months and involving several rounds.

Check out: Hacking the Product Manager Interview with fmr Amazon Senior PM

You’ll need to bring your A-game to each state of the process. Luckily, the process is similar to other big tech and Silicon Valley companies, meaning that with a little research, you can learn what to expect.

Stage 1: Phone Interview

Your first hurdle will be a phone interview with a recruiter or a hiring manager. This stage is the easiest, but it’s also the most crucial. Getting through to the next round means connecting with potential team mates, and those connections will be crucial for ever getting hired. (No pressure, right?)

This interview is just to check that you tick all of the boxes required by the product teams. The recruiter is the perfect person to ask about technicalities of the job like location, schedule, remote work opportunities, benefits, etc. They may not necessarily be experts in the software you’ll be using or the project you’ll be working on, so save those questions for later down the line.

Stages 2 and 3: Online interviews with team members

Depending on the teams you’ll be working with, you’ll go through a few rounds of interviews with potential teammates. There’s no set rules for exactly who you’ll be working with, as it entirely depends on the structure of that particular team.

What we do know, is that these interviews are less about which boxes you check, and more about how you think and what your problem-solving skills are like. You should also expect to be invited to a coding or technical interview, which will involve challenges to solve and homework tasks.

Stage 4: Onsite interviews

Microsoft's Redmond building: The Commons

Editor’s note: Due to the situation in 2020, this process may be subject to change depending on where you’re based. Check with your recruiter what the process will be going forward.

The onsite interview(s) really are your time to shine! Here you’ll have the opportunity to make a more personal connection with the people you’re hoping to work with day-to-day.

They’ll be testing everything from your previous experience, your critical thinking abilities, and your technical knowledge, to your personality and potential culture fit.

This is the interview you should prepare all of your best questions for. It’s important to show that you’re engaged in the interview and have your own criteria for working there. Don’t forget that interviews are as much for you as they are the company. This is your chance to find out everything you need to know about the company.

Typical Microsoft Interview Questions

The questions you’ll be asked in your interview obviously depend on the type of product and technology you’ll be working on. We’ve compiled the ultimate list of the commonly asked Product Management interview questions.

You’ll be asked to give a run through of your resume, so be sure to know it back to front, and be able to go into details. Don’t just tell them what you did, tell them how you did it, what the effect was, and what you’d do differently now.

We’ve also found some examples of questions asked in real Product Management interviews at Microsoft, which range from practical questions about your PM performance, and hypotheticals to test your critical thinking.

  • As a PM how can you make a project more profitable?
  • How would you develop a coffee machine product?
  • How would you divide a cake into 8 pieces with only 3 cuts?
  • How would you explain calculus to a 5 year old?
  • Write a program for monitoring a patients heartbeat and calculating the average over the last 10 detection.
  • What is the difference between C++ and Java?

Advice from Real Microsoft PMs

We’re lucky enough to have real Product Managers and Senior Product Managers from Microsoft in our community. Over the years they’ve given some great advice on all manner of product topics, including how to break into PM.

Here’s some highlights to help you in your goal of working for Microsoft, from Richa Rai, and Ria Sankar.

The key expectation of a Product Manager at Microsoft is to be the leader (without direct authority of course). Bring stakeholders together, keep leadership informed, highlight and resolve issues and risk. Basically, own the success and failure of the product/program.
I have fallen several times in my career and personal life, but always try to learn from my mistakes and rise higher and stronger. I ask to find out more about someone’s experiences with failure and their approach to recovering.That can be a great judge of resilience and character – important when you are looking for people to stand with or stand behind. I also check for domain knowledge, if they complement team skills, and if they are better than me at something – it can be anything.

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