Working at Microsoft: Where do I start?

Anyone who sees the 1990s as some sort of magical time when people dressed like Nlossom or Kurt Cobain and listened to Pearl Jam, Ini Kamoze and The Spice girls needs a wake-up call. It was the decade where Facebook was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, and there was hardly any virtual life. Nowadays we cannot live without oxygen, food, water and Wi-Fi.

We KnappeKoppen (HandsomeHeads 😉 Jasper en Hannah see that companies nowadays are craving for technological savvy people. For future job opportunities it’s therefore almost essential to gain some sort of affection with the bites, bits and pieces related to the digital area. Luckily for you we met Stef Hoeke who gave us the opportunity to Skype interview Joanna Holewik and to have coffee with Marjolijn Geluk  (all) from Microsoft to tell us everything about the recruitment process at the corporation who invented the Altair 8800, the first personal computer!

In line with Marshall McLuhan it’s believed that (digital) media affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. We also believe that compared to the 90s a lot has changed, which is not a negative thing. We adapt to it and need to become more aware of technology if we want to survive in today’s and tomorrow’s working world. Therefore tips and tricks from Joanna can be found below, where the content is really the message!


And we’re off! Joanna who are you?
I am Joanna and 31 years old. I started working at Microsoft just a year ago as a university recruiter responsible for finding top talented students and recent graduates to join Microsoft in The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Denmark.

How did you apply for your job at Microsoft?
I was looking for my next step in career and next big challenge. My friend shared with me the news that Microsoft was hiring. I immediately decided to apply and an interview later I was offered the position to join the fabulous European University Recruitment team.

Was it a problem you didn’t have a lot of experience with technology at that time?
It was challenging to start with, especially working with all the acronyms but everyone has been very supportive and helpful and I quickly felt like at home here. It’s important to be curious and not be afraid of asking questions.

Microsoft has a huge name as a corporation!  Is it just a software company?
Microsoft is definitely much more than just a software company. Here in the Netherlands we are mainly a sales and marketing sub. We also have a number of openings for Data Scientists and Technical Consultants.

What are you looking for in talents and possible Microsoft game changers?
We are looking for people who are passionate about technology, ambitious, curious, those who want to make an impact. We are open to applications from candidates with various backgrounds. Should you study economics, neuroscience, physics, IT or psychology and many more, we want to hear from you. Here is the list of qualities we look for and these are much more important than your degree:

  1. Your interest in technology
  2. Your ability to innovate
  3. How well you think creatively
  4. How you adapt to changing requirements
  5. Your problem-solving approach
  6. Your analytical thinking skills

Let’s dive really into it! How do you recruit the best people in the Netherlands?
We do many different things! From building close relationships with universities, student societies, attending career fairs, talent days, presentations, lunches at universities to hosting students at our office during in-house days. Finally, organizing our annual Mixed Minds Business Course for those who want to experience real life business case scenarios.


We were just wondering, Apple is gaining more attention in the consumer field. I guess all of our friends have at least one Apple product. However, for graduates, they are less visible. Why is your approach different?
We believe it’s very important to be approachable and close to students and build strong relationships with universities and supporting them with developing their students. Our business depends on continuous innovation and getting the right talent is therefore key in the process. It’s about being pro-active.

In the Netherlands I think that some graduates may think a job at Microsoft is not within their reach. That’s something we definitely want to change.

Are the Dutch graduates different than others?
Having the opportunity to work in my role as a University Recruiter at Microsoft across the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Portugal gives me the chance to see the differences between cultures. Dutch students are very proactive. They keep themselves busy working in many different student societies and being involved in a number of extracurricular activities. We highly value how proactive they are. If you wonder whether you are good enough to work for Microsoft as you don’t have much professional work experience yet’, don’t worry! The most important thing is that you are curious, willing to learn and motivated. It helps to have done different activities besides your study and university. We are looking for candidates who can present something more than just their degree result, e.g. their personality, social skills, confidence, enthusiasm and passion.  Dutch students are doing that very well! That’s one of the reasons I really enjoy working with these students.

Well we’re all very enthusiastic. Let’s say we want to apply. How does the application process look like?
Oh boy, let’s go! For people who have just graduated from college, we have our special MACH (Microsoft Academic and College Hires) program, which is a customized learning program designed for our newest university hires in various job families including Marketing, Sales, Services and Consultancy.  We have quite an interactive application process. It all starts with your online application you can submit via our career website. For all the departments (Marketing, Sales, etc.), the application process starts the same. It is possible that we ask you if you are willing to work at another department than you first applied for, when we think it might be a better fit for you.

Next step is to do an online test. The test is in English and it only takes approx. 20 minutes of your time and there are 16 questions, which were designed by a group of psychologists. The test is not timed and is designed to learn more about you and your strengths; passion for technology and Microsoft, how you deal with change, build relationships with others, etc.

Thereafter is a video interview, an online pre-recorded interview. You sit at home (quite comfy), and you will get 8 different questions. You have 30 seconds to think about your answer and you then given two minutes to record each answer. The questions are again strengths based.

Thereafter, there is a human interaction as well. So if they, with success, completed the online test and video interview we meet face to face via Skype.

Finally, you are invited to Assessment Centre in our Microsoft office. There is an assessment day, with group exercises, presentations and interviews with managers. After that, we offer you a job and you can start with our special MACH program!

Wow, that’s quite a lot! What if the students fail the online test?
We look at each application holistically and the test is just one of the indicators we use to help us select the top candidates. Once you complete the test we review your CV and motivational section in your application form and taking this all into consideration we make the decision if we should put your application forward.

What would you recommend someone who wants to successfully complete the application process?
Ensure you take your time and remember to put effort in your application. So do some research and really take a close look at yourself and think thoroughly why you want to work for Microsoft! Why do you want to work in a global organisation? We are looking for candidates with passion and ambition. If you are a passionate gamer, just show it to us. We really like people with international experience so if you studied or worked abroad or maybe travelled, show it to us.

Second, I always recommend ‘Come as you are’. Here at Microsoft we embrace and celebrate our differences because we see them for what they are. Come be part of our talented community joined by a passion for technology, a dedication to our customers and a shared set of core values. We work hard to make Microsoft a home for everyone – a place of acceptance, where differences are encouraged and respected.

To sum up, I think that an applicant who shows his or her passion, ambition, the willingness to work hard and the one who knows what he or she wants from Microsoft, definitely has some advantage.


What does a day in the office look like?
Here at Microsoft you get a lot of freedom and autonomy when it comes to structuring your day. Each day is different. I travel a lot with work, visit universities, attend Assessment Centres but when I am in the office I review applications, catch up with managers, respond to candidate queries and have lunch with my team. I sometimes work from home too and lots of people do. Personally I like working early, so I can also leave early avoiding the busy traffic. That works best for me. I try not to bring work home, but sometimes I have to when it’s really busy. But it’s really up to you how you plan your days!

Let’s go back to the Microsoft Academy, The MACH.
MACH stands for the Microsoft Academic and  College Hires, which is a customized learning program designed for our newest university hires in various job families including Marketing, Sales, Services and Consultancy.  It’s a very international program and available in more than 60 countries. The number of MACH employees is growing every year and in the Netherlands we hire around 24 talents this year. The new MACHS all start in September and they form a small community together. Each trainee will be assigned to a MACH buddy that started a year before. They are happy to guide you through the business and it’s quite comforting, because you will have somebody you can ask all the questions you have like a mentor who can guide you through the year and career.

From day one you will also be joining a team, your team is very important, and you will get national and international training in the first two years of your time at Microsoft. You will also meet the other MACHS trainees from the other countries. During these events you really see and understand how to work in our company operating on a global scale. The MACH event in the USA is really cool. It’s a giant event and massive conference where you will meet the CEO and all the other leaders of our company. It’s highly motivational to meet all your colleagues, because Satya Nadella is your colleague!

The two years at Microsoft is the start of your career and really a chance to think about yourself and what you want in life. For example, we have people from the Netherlands who moved to our office in the USA. It all depends on what you want to do. We have people who started as interns, became MACHs and then moved to another country to work there. If you are truly looking for an international career, you want to work at Microsoft.


Our visit
Last but least, we, Handsome Heads, were given the chance to visit the Microsoft office in the Netherlands. And to be honest, we were blown away! Microsoft was one of the first companies to build an office completely designed and optimized for the ‘new way of working’. At the office, there is not one employee (including the CEO) who has his own office! Instead of that, the building is divided in different, well-designed spaces (see pictures), where you can either work with a small team, a big group or quietly on your own (or you can relax while playing a game on the Xbox). Also, the employees are not expected to come to the office when it’s not necessary. In other words: working at Microsoft means a lot of freedom, as long as you get your work done! It is safe to state Microsoft has once again become a very innovative company, with a challenging working environment.

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