One of the things I constantly stress to my job hunting clientele is the importance of looking beyond just the “household name” organizations in town and doing the research needed to uncover some great small-to-mid-size employers worth pursuing.  There are nearly 140,000 companies in the Greater Seattle area alone, after all, many of which are fantastic places to work and don’t tend to be nearly as competitive in terms of the screening, hiring, and interviewing process.

This being said, however, let’s not pretend that the largest employers around town (Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, etc.) don’t account for a major chunk of the local economic pie, as well as tens of thousands of quality positions and paychecks.  So here’s my thought.  Given that I suspect a number of my readers out there have worked for these companies, or at least interviewed at them, I thought it might be an interesting exercise if we all “pooled our collective wisdom” about these high-profile organizations, how best to get hired by them, and what they might really be like to work for.

So for the remainder of the month, my plan is to write articles focusing on the career scene at each of these big companies, one at a time, providing a number of links where people can gather further information — along with a few rumors, insights, and observations that have been shared with me about each company by clients over the years.  I’m hoping that many of you will choose to chime in with “comments” at the end of these articles, as well, sharing your own experience with these various organizations.

While admittedly, a fair amount of the material compiled will be subjective in nature, and shouldn’t necessarily be taken at 100% face value, let’s give this idea a try — starting with Microsoft — and see what we can learn by comparing notes!

GETTING HIRED AT MICROSOFT: USEFUL LINKS & ARTICLES

•  Microsoft JobsBlog | Life at Microsoft
•  Glassdoor.com Microsoft Reviews Page
•  Glassdoor.com Microsoft Interview Questions Page
•  Indeed.com Reviews on Microsoft
•  Indeed.com Forum Articles Related to Microsoft
•  JobCrowd Reviews on Microsoft
•  Forbes Article: What is the Worst Thing About Working at Microsoft?
•  Working at Microsoft (YouTube Videos)
•  Here’s What You Can Earn Working at Microsoft
•  Behind the Curtain at Microsoft: 3 Things You Should Know
•  Why Should I Start My Career at Microsoft vs. a Startup?
•  Cosmopolitan Article: How to Get Hired at Microsoft
•  The Fearful Stack Ranking System at Microsoft (11/14 Update)
•  Microsoft to Cut Off All External Staff After 18 Months
•  7 Tips That Will Help You Get a Job at Microsoft

GETTING HIRED (& WORKING) AT MICROSOFT: INTERESTING THINGS I’VE HEARD

•  The company is full of bright, assertive people and really respects confident people who can strongly “advocate a position” even if English isn’t their native language
•  Executives at Microsoft typically maintain an updated PowerPoint file (called a “walking deck”) outlining their key contributions and accomplishments
•  If you’ve interviewed at Microsoft three times, without success, you will no longer be considered for future positions (although I’ve had a recruiter deny this, too)
•  Microsoft has a separate internal referral system that’s different than their main job board; if a current employee recommends you on this system, your odds go way up
•  Working at Microsoft tends to be much more complicated than other companies, given the massive number of departments, buzzwords, and proprietary internal tools utilized
•  Given the above reality, Microsoft prefers to hire existing vendors and partners for roles, versus outsiders, since these folks know the tools and can hit the ground running
•  Most Microsoft interviews follow a “loop” format involving 4-6 meetings in a single day; if you don’t do well in the first few rounds, the process is cancelled mid-stream
•  While Microsoft is historically famous for its “why is a manhole cover round?” interview puzzle questions, such questions are now discouraged and not used very often
•  If you’re a contractor at Microsoft (there are two types: A-dash or V-dash) you’re often treated as a second-class citizen; in fact, the internal slang for contractors is “dash trash”
•  Many people who leave Microsoft later want to come back, due to the scope of opportunities within the company and the great benefits provided
•  Offices and workspaces are assigned to employees based on tenure, not rank; i.e. an assistant could have a much nicer office than their actual boss
•  Microsoft experience can work against a job hunter, especially when applying to startups who worry that Microsoft alums aren’t used to working with limited resources
•  Microsoft employees are incredibly generous, donating significantly more time and money to philanthropy/charity than the average professional

Again, these are just a few random things I’ve heard in passing from folks who have worked at Microsoft at some point — I can’t vouch for their accuracy or whether they apply equally to all job roles, across all departments.

Now it’s your turn: what can YOU share about working or getting hired at Microsoft, if you’ve had some experience with the organization?