Unlike most people, who apply for the Microsoft New Grad PM position right when applications open, or during the fall semester of their senior year, I applied right before Christmas. On December 20, 2021, I submitted my application to Microsoft, and I fully expected to get ghosted. However, to my surprise, I opened my email in February 2022 and found an email from a Microsoft recruiter inviting me to interview for their New Grad Program Manager position.
The first thing I did was text my boyfriend in disbelief. I couldn’t believe that I had a chance! And then part of me wondered if I should even try, since I felt so wildly unprepared for what lay ahead. Of course, I ended up scheduling my phone screen for a few days later and a month after that, I had an offer in my hands. In the time between, I did a number of things to prepare.
Microsoft New Grad PM Interview Preparation
There are three specific things that I did to prepare for these interviews, and all of them are things that you can do from the comfort of your own home. I know there’s many people out there who employed all varieties of methods, but given the short time that I had, I focused only on the following:
Read about the company and its values
This is pretty self explanatory. In order to interview well, you should always know why you’re applying for the company you’re interviewing with and what that company is all about. For both the phone screen and the onsite interviews, I incorporated my findings from this preliminary research into my “Tell Me About Yourself” (my introduction spiel). I made sure that by the end of my introduction, the interviewers knew who I was, what I wanted, and why I was interviewing for Microsoft to be a PM.
Doing this kind of research also helped prepare me for behavioral questions and gave me a starting point for questions that I could ask my interviewers when given the chance. As always, it’s important to show that you’ve done ample reading on the company through the questions you ask (of course you should also listen to the interviewer when they introduce themselves, since those also give lots of opportunities to find something interesting to ask about).
Watch and listen to a TON of mock product interviews
I’ve never been a product manager. The closest I’ve ever gotten to product was during my last internship, where I was persistent (annoyingly so) about coffee chatting my team’s product owners and sitting in on their meetings. This meant that I had a long way to go in terms of getting prepared for the product design portions of the interviews, and I’ve always found that I learn best by seeing examples.
RocketBlocks, Exponent, and Product Alliance all have really great video resources on YouTube and their own websites for aspiring PMs to learn how to structure their interview answers. Watching these videos (some of these I watched multiple times) and taking notes on what I thought the interviewees did well helped me a lot in my preparations. They taught me how to use frameworks without looking like a robot, and how to talk through my thoughts out loud.
To practice, I would look up questions online and answer them out loud while writing notes on a piece of paper.
Talk to others who have gone through the process
I knew one person who had just interviewed for a Microsoft PM position. He had interviewed for an internship, but I felt that the processes couldn’t be too different, so I reached out and asked about his experience. Being able to hear another person’s experience with the process and some examples of questions that I could encounter helped me feel a lot more ready.
I also ended up reaching out to a lot of people on LinkedIn (I searched “incoming PM @ Microsoft) letting them know that I was interviewing soon and asking if they would be willing to speak with me about their experiences. To all the incoming PMs who were kind enough to respond to my message, I asked the same few questions about how they prepared, what the interview structures were like, and what types of questions they were asked.
Being able to talk to people who had gone through the Microsoft PM interviews gave me an idea of where to start preparing and what I should be most prepared for. In addition to these conversations, I also read some articles online, including two articles from Medium.
Microsoft New Grad PM Interview Process
I did my phone screen with a current PM at Microsoft early February, and I was scheduled for final rounds in early March. I did tell my recruiters that I had an existing offer on the table with a deadline, so they tried to expedite the process for me as best as they could. All of my interviews were held over Microsoft Teams.
Phone Screen [1×30]
The first round of New Grad PM interviews is always a 30 minute phone screen. I’ve heard of people having this phone screen with an engineer (in which case you might get asked a coding question), but I had mine with a PM. The majority of my phone screen was behavioral, with some resume related questions thrown in, and a product-related question at the very end. All of the questions were easy to answer given that I had taken the time to familiarize myself with projects on my resume that I wanted to highlight and stories that I wanted to tell for behavioral answers.
Final Round [3×60]
A lot of people who interview for Microsoft will get 4×45 interviews instead of what I got, and I’m still not quite sure why my final round was different. But if you’re scheduled for four final round interviews, then the last interviewer you have will likely be an “As-Ap” (as appropriate), also referred to as a “bar raiser” in some companies. From my understanding, this would be someone who tends to be more senior and will have veto power over the hiring decision.
My first interview was with a Principal Program Manager who opened by letting me know that he just wanted to help me ease into things and explain a bit about the company and the team. We had a great conversation about his work and his experiences, which I found to be really interesting, and I told him about my motivations for wanting to be a PM and for wanting to join Microsoft. Overall, this was a fun and interesting conversation that felt more like a coffee chat than an interview, and I felt really comfortable going into my next two interviews because of it.
For my second interview, I got to speak with a senior PM on the team that I was interviewing for. He explained to me his background and what his team was working on, then we went straight into a resume question that somehow turned into a product question. He picked a project that I had listed on my resume and, after I explained the scope of it and what I did, he asked what I would change if I could go back in time. Since it was a consulting project, where I had proposed solutions to a company problem, my interviewer asked me to come up with some other solutions that could work and prioritize them. This was actually a really fun exercise, and I was able to bounce some ideas off my interviewer. It felt like I was working on a problem with a coworker, and time went by pretty quickly.
My last interview consisted mostly of behavioral questions, but I was asked the famous “What’s your favorite product” question at the very end. Then, of course, that was followed up with a question about what I would improve about the product. Since I had prepared pretty extensively for product related questions beforehand, I was able to answer pretty quickly. By coincidence, the app that I chose was a running app, and my interviewer had heard of it before because she also runs, so that was something we were able to bond over. She left fifteen minutes at the end of our interview for my questions as well, so we spent a fair amount of time conversing.
Results and General Tips
A week after my interviews, I received an email from my recruiter congratulating me on receiving an offer, and two weeks after that, I very happily accepted.
From my Microsoft New Grad PM interview experience, I would say that my biggest pieces of advice for others going through the same process are the following:
- Prepare your “Tell Me About Yourself” really well — this should make it very clear why you want to be a PM and why you want to be at Microsoft. This is how you make your first impression, so make it count!
- Show genuine interest in your interviewers’ work and experiences (if you find them interesting). I explicitly told my first interviewer that I was really glad I got to speak with him and that I thought his work was super interesting. Be genuine about things like this, but definitely tell your interviewers if you’re excited about what you’re hearing!
- Be yourself, be a person! Recognize that your interviewers are people and that they could be your coworkers some day. People want to work with people that they can get along with and have conversations with, so try not to get too bogged down by nerves and bring your authentic self. I had a really good conversation with each one of my interviewers, and it not only made the interview more fun, but I think it also helped me get the result that I wanted.
Good luck on your interviews! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you have other questions or just to share your experiences 🙂