When Microsoft wants to you hire you, it drops a "love bomb" on you, according to a person we spoke with who Microsoft wooed.
Microsoft wanted our source— let's call him Tony — to join its entertainment and devices division.
Tony ultimately turned Microsoft down, opting to start his own consultancy. But he says if he wasn't starting his own thing, he was ready to take the job in "a heartbeat."
Here's how the whole thing went down.
He lives four hours from Microsoft's campus and planned on driving there. Microsoft said, "Do you want a rental car to drive?" He said, "Sure."
Unlike other companies that have recruited him (and forced him into compact cars), Microsoft let Tony pick his rental car. He went with a " mid-sized SUV, since my wife doesn't let me have one."
Tony drove to Redmond, arriving the night before his interview. Microsoft gave him a $150 per diem, which he used to take a friend out for dinner.
The next morning he drove to the Microsoft campus. He met with a person from HR who "coached" him on how to deal with his interviews. His HR coach told him what would what questions to expect, and who he would be meeting during his a eight-hour day of interviewing.
Having read stories on the web about how some tech companies (cough, Google, cough) sometimes ask silly interview questions like "Why is a manhole round?," Tony asked his HR coach if he would have to answer a question like that.
She said no. In fact, she said, "If anyone asks you that question feel free to get up and walk out and come to my office. But they won't."
She was right, the questions Tony faced were all very intelligent and specific. He received questions like, "What's wrong with Microsoft? If a system goes down, how do you fix it? How would you design Windows Mobile?" The interviewers asked him to explain problems he solved at his job.
After each round of questioning, which lasted about an hour, he moved onto a new interviewer. He says each interviewer is a "gate-keeper." As you go along, you move your way up the org chart.
So, the first questioner is lower level. If you make it to the end of the day, you're talking with a higher level person.
If you flunk an interview, you don't move onto the next interviewer. If you fail, the interviewer comes back and says, "Ah, well, the guy you are supposed to meet with is in a meeting. He's key to the interview, so we're going to send you home and have you come back another time."
At that point, a rejected interviewee gets the gist of what happened.
Tony says he made it to the end of the day.
Between interviews, he was shuttled around Microsoft's campus. Tony said he'd walk out of a building and a person would be waiting with a sign like at an airport, ready to drive him to the next interview.
One tricky thing: Microsoft interviews you while you're eating lunch. Tony had a cheeseburger. He says the interviewers want to see how you handle yourself during a lunch meeting. They want to see your decorum.
One of Tony's friends failed during a lunch interview. His friend was interviewing in Asia. While eating lunch, he slipped something he shouldn't have said about a project his company was working on.
Microsoft promptly ended the interview. The interviewee received a rejection letter a week later that said, we take NDAs very seriously, so we are rejecting you.
There's a reason Microsoft takes NDAs seriously, even with interviewees.
During Tony's interview, which was last fall, Microsoft let him see an early version of its unreleased operating system, Windows Phone 7.
Before seeing it, Tony emptied his pockets into a little locker outside the lab where Microsoft kept the phones which ran Windows Phone 7. He then walked through a metal detector. After that, he saw the new mobile OS, which left him quite impressed.
Speaking of mobile phones, he says Microsoft recruiters said he could use whatever smartphone he wanted. He'd even be allowed to use a Mac at work. One interviewer told him, "We're not going to buy it for you, but if you want to bring your own Mac in, that's fine. You might get ribbed, made fun of, but it's not going to damage your career."
When Tony's interview was finished he drove out of the campus, down Microsoft Way, the road that feeds into the campus. He saw a Bentley dealer, as well as an Aston Martin dealer on the way out.
When he returned home, he knew he wasn't going to take the job. Microsoft made one more push, inviting him back, taking him on a tour of Seattle and Redmond. He decided it wasn't for him.
One reason this was a tough call for Tony was that Microsoft's health benefits are incredible. He says, "You know when Obama talks about the Cadillac health plans? He's talking about this. If you are sick, you call a doctor, and a doctor comes to your house. The doctors make house calls! And there's no co-pay, no monthly premiums, nothing."
But, he adds later, "You should know, they don't light up the world with their salaries. For my role it had a base salary of $175,000. They were offering $165,000." With stock and other things, the salary rose, but doing his own thing was going to pay him more.
Though he turned Microsoft down, Tony says the interviewing process was incredible. He recommends anyone applying for a job at Microsoft, or being recruited, to do the interview.
"When I came back, I talked to a friend at IBM. He asked how it went. I told him, "They love bombed me.""