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What Microsoft Seeks In MBA Hires



Saturday 8 December 2018, by Jeff Schmitt

Team Fuqua at Microsoft

A few years ago, it was fashionable to bash Microsoft. Critics claimed that Google and Apple had raced ahead of them. The company’s stumbles in wearable tech, smartphones, and streaming music were the stuff of business cases. As the digital age pivoted past Windows and Office, the comparisons between Microsoft and IBM only intensified.

Last month, the Redmond air rippled with the sound of champagne corks popping off. At market close, Microsoft had reached a market cap of $851.36, dethroning Apple as the most valuable company in the world – by a $4 billion dollar margin, no less. It was a comeback for the ages. Over the past five years, Microsoft had pulled the ultimate hat-trick: it had overhauled its business model, regained its dominance, and tripled share value. In the process, the company has transformed itself into the leader of burgeoning fields like cloud-based computing, artificial intelligence, gaming, and cybersecurity.

YOUR MAIN JOB: MAKE OTHER PEOPLE COOL

Call it what you will: Microsoft has been reborn and regained its mojo thanks to its long and risky journey back. With 130,000 employees – not to mention 700 million devices running Windows 10 – Microsoft offers exposure to groundbreaking fields and access to the resources and scale to make a lasting impact.

Microsoft’s core mission is to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” That requires a special kind of MBA – a mix of humility and creativity – says Diego Rejtman, general manager for Microsoft Global University Recruiting, in a November interview with P&Q.

Diego Rejtman, General Manager for Microsoft Global University Recruiting

“At Microsoft, It is not about you being cool, but it’s about you making others cool.”

That means being “customer-obsessed” – a popular term in the Microsoft lexicon. Here, teams are focused on better understanding how customers live and work to make them more successful. In fact, Rejtman notes, Microsoft’s lucrative cloud services business is geared so the company only makes money when customers are using it. That has been part of the transformation ignited by CEO Satya Nadella, whose goal is to digitally transform the world.

AN $850 BILLION DOLLAR STARTUP

Part of that is taking a broad view of who a customer can be, explains Sarah Eytinge, MBA University recruiter at Microsoft. “We don’t want to be a company that just supplied technology solutions to the Fortune 500 companies. We didn’t want to just create a device that only the wealthy could afford. Every person or organization on the planet is someone we want to be helping and empowering.”

To do this, Microsoft has returned to its 1975 roots. The company has increasingly embraced the startup mentality, encouraging experimenting and learning like no other. “We have a lot of teams in an innovative culture trying new things and failing fast,” Eytinge observes. “They have the benefit of working for a large company like Microsoft so we have the resources to make those investments and take those risks. For those MBAs who are interested in entrepreneurship, they are surprised by what they have access to – they thought it was just a big company.”

That isn’t the only benefit of an entrepreneurial culture, adds Rejtman. “Many MBAs are also surprised by how much empowerment they receive so early on. I have people who tell me, ‘I just closed a $30 million dollar contract and I’m only six months into the company.’ As soon as you get in, you can have an impact.”

MORE INTERESTED IN WHERE MBAs ARE GOING THAN WHERE THEY’VE BEEN

What types of MBAs excel at Microsoft? In her interview with P&Q, Eytinge clicks off standard fare such as the ability to operate in ambiguous terrain or wielding influence without possessing formal authority. While each business function maintains baseline expectations, Eytinge is careful to note that experience isn’t held against MBA candidates.

Microsoft Interns

“There are peer companies that will only consider candidates for certain roles if they have done them before in the past,” she points out. “We think that is a very short-sighted way of evaluating candidates because most MBA candidates are using the degree use to job change, transform, or make big leaps in their careers.”

Rejtman agrees, noting that he is far more interested in where candidates are going than where they’ve been. That’s why he considers learning to be the top indicator for cultural fit and long-term success at Microsoft.

“When I look for candidates, the #1 thing I look for is, Is this a person who likes to learn? Is this a person who learned how to learn? Is this a curious person? There is a really high value placed on curiosity and wanting to learn all the time at Microsoft. Learning comes from getting outside your comfort zone and taking risks. These things are supported and valued at Microsoft.”

SECRET TO SUCCESS: BE ECLECTIC

“Eclecticism”—in Rejtman’s words – is another virtue that Microsoft prizes. He describes Microsoft as a “platform for us to pursue our passions.” For him, this authenticity, coupled with diverse backgrounds, enables Microsoft team members to deploy innovative solutions while finding joy in their work.

“We value eclectic people – people who learn from a wide range of sources. We have this idea of bringing all of yourself to work, which is something our CEO talks about all the time. Come as you are and do what you love. It is this idea of bringing all of our aspects to work. I came to Microsoft as an engineer and then I moved to HR. I have a different perspective that’s valued.”

What roles are MBA playing at Microsoft? What skills do they see as necessary for the future? What unique benefits does Microsoft offer MBAs? What advice do they offer to prospective MBA candidates? Find the answers to these questions – and many more – in P&Q’s exclusive interview with Diego Rejtman and Sarah Eytinge.

P&Q: What are some of the roles that MBAs play in your organization?

Sarah: We hire MBAs into a variety of functions, in areas like marketing, operations, program management, finance, sales, and even some roles in our engineering organization. There are many different profiles for which we are seeking talent to drive our business and promote good technology.

Although we hire for different functions, each function looks for specific qualities that show MBA students will make an impact. These would include individuals who can work through ambiguity; strong communicators who can simplify complex ideas; the ability to influence without formal authority; and great collaborators. It doesn’t matter where they land or the function where they work. These are the qualities of MBA talent. They are strong leaders and that’s why we bring them to Microsoft.

Microsoft interns at orientation

One example, to dive a little deeper, is sales. Now, sales can be a dirty word for MBA students. At Microsoft, it is a highly consultative role and extremely important to how we’re positioned to help our customer. The sales function at Microsoft is actually our largest demand of MBA talent. Because they’re helping their customers digitally transform, we need individuals who can be trusted advisors. They must come in with a deep understanding of the Microsoft system and then deliver results to customers seeking Microsoft’s assistance with products and services to influence their business.

Diego: Microsoft is going through a transformation. We have a new CEO in Satya Nadella. Part of that transformation is that Microsoft used to sell a packaged product in the past with Office and Windows. We would sell licenses to make money. Whether the customer was using it or not was not the main concern. It was more transactional with sales. We have this new mission, which is to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” As a result, the sales organization within Microsoft went through a big transformation. Our whole sales model changed. We see the world as digitally transforming. Microsoft, as a platform, is committing to help customers digitally transform. What we sell now is different. When we sell a cloud service, the contracts are such that Microsoft only makes money if the customers are using it – and the customers are only using it if they are successful.

How this translates is that we really need smart people, like MBAs, who will go and get close to customers. We call it “customer obsession” – really figuring out how to make the customer successful. We are putting so much responsibility and empowerment on the sales force. That’s why this is such a great position. I come from an engineering background, but what I’ve seen from our MBAs is they take a lot of pride and meaning in their work. They are helping customers transform their business. They don’t feel they are selling to make some money, but instead digitally transforming the world. The sales role is really elevated at Microsoft.

Microsoft employees’ trek to Universal Studios

Sarah: We need the MBA talent to represent Microsoft in front of these large Fortune 500 companies. Our MBAs go to enterprise sales; they’re not dialing for dollars. They are really being transformational consultants with these customers. We need people who are smart and think outside the box. At the end of the day, they are serving as a consultant.

We also hire a lot of MBAs into marketing. We have product marketers who work closely with our product managers to develop the up-and-coming products. We have channel marketing managers who make sure our products are appropriately distributed through our channels. We also have marketing communication managers who ensure the messaging behind our products resonate with customers. We have marketing managers who sit in our U.S. subsidiaries who work very closely with our partners and customers to ensure that the feedback we get on our products and services gets back to the engineers who are making them. I call it the marketing spectrum of where they could end up in the companies. When we talk about the roles that MBAs play at Microsoft, it can be any type of function – but they represent qualities that we discussed earlier: working through ambiguity, simplifying complex problems, being collaborative, strong communication, and influencing without authority.

P&Q: Describe the Microsoft Culture. What distinguishes it?

Diego: The Microsoft culture is very strong. I would like to call out three things:

First, it would be this idea of valuing learning. When I look for candidates, the #1 thing I look for is, Is this a person who likes to learn? Is this a person who learned how to learn? Is this a curious person? There is a really high value placed on curiosity and wanting to learn all the time at Microsoft. Learning comes from getting outside your comfort zone and taking risks. These things are supported and valued at Microsoft. That is why I am really glad to be here. I feel like I have all the support I need to continue learning.

Xbox is one of the brands owned by Microsoft.

Number two, which is similar to learning, is a word I fell in love with, which is ‘eclecticism.’ We value eclectic people – people who learn from a wide range of sources. We have this idea of bringing all of yourself to work, which is something our CEO talks about all the time. Come as you are and do what you love. It is this idea of bringing all of our aspects to work. I came to Microsoft as an engineer and then I moved to HR. I have a different perspective that’s valued and I love music and incorporate that into my work as well.

The third one would be a variety of experiences. Microsoft is very big. We have a wide range of products, teams and businesses. As employees, we are encouraged to try different things. Every 2-3 years, we’re encouraged to move to a new role or business. It is through these different experiences that we become more complete human beings and professionals and bring new ideas to the different areas.

Sarah: I’ll add that our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. When that mission was drafted by the senior management team, I know Satya was really adamant about having the phrase “on the planet” in it. We don’t want to be a company that just supplied technology solutions to the Fortune 500 companies. We didn’t want to just create a device that only the wealthy could afford. Every person or organization on the planet is someone we want to be helping and empowering. When we think about bringing that into our culture, we want to make sure our workforce of 120,000 people worldwide is reflective of the planet. That diverse mindset and perspective really resonates with our overall culture.

I do love to call out that most companies are talking about diversity these days. It is very rare that they are not addressing it when they are talking to candidates. We are also shifting the conversation to inclusion and what inclusion means. You can be as diverse of an organization or entity as you want, but if people don’t feel included in the process, then all of those efforts are for naught. When it comes to that eclecticism and the variety of experiences, we want to bring everyone to the table and feel that this is the place where they can bring their best self and make a difference.

P&Q: When it comes to Microsoft, what are some of the biggest myths that MBA candidates may have about your organization (and your industry)?

Diego: One thing that I want to know is that even though Microsoft is a tech company, only half of the candidates we hire from universities are for engineering-type positions. The other half are for the other business functions: sales, marketing, finance, legal, human resources – people who are not engineers or scientists.

Sarah: One thing I like to lead with when I am engaging with candidates is showing them that we are not your parent’s Microsoft. Our company has completely transformed in the last five years and a lot of that can be attributed to Satya Nadella. We’ve completely changed up our culture and the way we’re aligned in terms of earnings and product development – even with what we’re delivering to our customers has completely changed. I do bring that lens that, ‘We’re not what you think we are.’ We are a new and invigorated company.

Sarah Eytinge, MBA University Recruiter at Microsoft

Although we are a company of 120,000 employees worldwide, we still have that startup mentality. That surprises a lot of people. We have a lot of teams in an innovative culture trying new things and failing fast. They have the benefit of working for a large company like Microsoft so we have the resources to make those investments and take those risks. For those MBAs who are interested in entrepreneurship, they are surprised by what they have access to – they thought it was just a big company.

Diego: Many MBAs are also surprised by how much empowerment they receive so early on. I have people who tell me, ‘I just closed a $30 million dollar contract and I’m only six months into the company.’ As soon as you get in, you can have an impact.

Sarah: We always have Satya talk to our summer interns. This came up as a question from an intern last summer: “Why aren’t we creating a connected car?” Satya’s response to that was, ‘We’re not creating a car because there are other people who make cars. We’re creating the products and services that go into that car to help drive that technology. We’re helping our tech peers do more because of our products and services. Again, that is a different lens to look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. People are thinking of this competitive world. With large acquisitions like Linkedin and Github, we’re trying to level the playing field.

Diego: We don’t hide the fact that 20 years ago Microsoft had the antitrust issue. It was a very different world. The acquisitions are a great example of our new direction. With the acquisition of Github, which is open source; Minecraft, a game which is community-led; and Linkedin, which has a mission of matching people with opportunity, Microsoft has come a long way in living the mission to empower others.

A decade ago, Microsoft was not supportive of open source because of the worldview the company held. Now, it is a 180 degree change. Microsoft has become a champion for open source. That’s one example of how the culture has changed.

P&Q: What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not know?

Sarah: I think this relates to the previous question. You don’t need experience in a function to be considered as a strong candidate at Microsoft. There are peer companies that will only consider candidates for certain roles if they have done them before in the past. We think that is a very short-sighted way of evaluating candidates because most MBA candidates are using the degree use to job change, transform, or make big leaps in their careers. If you have marketing experience and you’re applying for a marketing role, that’s great. However, it’s not the baseline requirement. That’s a myth I want to debunk. We’re looking for all different types of things – it’s that diversity of thought and background experiences that could contribute to our product development.

Microsoft employees letting loose after work.

Diego: We’re not as interested as much in where the candidate has been, but where they are going.

Sarah: I would recommend that candidates put things like your community involvement on their resume – giving back, making a difference, influencing for impact. We want to see what clubs you’ve joined and what leadership roles you’ve taken on. A lot of people apply, for example, to a certain function like finance, but they’ve given no indication that they’re looking to strengthen that finance lens through their MBA program. They haven’t joined the finance society or investment club or served as the treasurer of a club. So tie everything together. If you want to pursue a path, we want to see that you’re doing a lot of things to pursue that path.

Diego: This idea of learning is critical. When I look at resumes, what I am trying to figure out is if this person is using every possible opportunity or experience they have to learn. We like to say that an employee works for Microsoft, but Microsoft also works for that employee. Microsoft is a platform for us to pursue our passions. Back to candidates, I often wonder, Did these people use the different platforms they had – their previous job or internship – to learn and pursue their passion? That is an indicator of whether they are going to keep doing that or not.

Another thing I really want to know is this: Does this person see him or herself as a finished product or as a work-in-progress? We want people at Microsoft who are a work-in-progress, who will continue learning. What I want to know is, Did this person stop learning or are they just beginning to learn?

Microsoft interns building camaraderie on a sailboat cruise.

P&Q: What kinds of skills does Microsoft anticipate needing in the coming years that the company may not possess now?

Sarah: I mention this earlier and it’s a good point to reiterate. We are a huge company, but in so many ways we operate like a startup, so it has that entrepreneurial spirit and vision. Even with the entrepreneurial education that students are getting in their MBA programs, I do see this as a skill that will be increasingly important as we work to innovate fast – this idea of failing fast: trying something, failing, learning from it, and growing. This entrepreneurial mindset, this growth mindset, is something that we are going to need more as we continue to innovate and move forward.

Diego: I’d also like to add this idea of empathy. It is an amazing skill because we have this mission to empower the whole world. We can only do this if we understand the world, if we walk a mile in everybody’s shoes. Empathetic leadership is something that is really needed. I remember when we were working on the Xbox One, we had more than a thousand people working on it. We needed collaborative skills – all the soft skills like communication – or what is known as emotional intelligence EQ. More and more, artificial intelligence and machines are able to do the other stuff, but the human empathy is something we need as much as we can get.

P&Q: What advice would you give to students who have their hearts set on working for you? How can they enhance their job prospects?

Diego: I really want people to show me who they are. It is funny because they can talk to me about their GPA, but I want to know who they are and what their mission is in life. What is their career going to be about? When people talk to me about their deepest passions, all of their expertise comes out.

Booth MBA Satya Nadella is Microsoft’s CEO

Sarah: Being genuine and authentic is something we want in the process. When it comes to the tactic – how to get on our radar – the first thing is to engage with us. Find the recruiters on our website (www.Microsoft.com/university). Or, connect with them via LinkedIn. Showcase your curiosity. Do the research and reach out to people. We don’t expect you to know everything about Microsoft – you don’t need to be a know-it-all. People who’ve been here 20 years are still learning. Show you’ve invested in the leg work.

Diego: Everything is out there. If you go to the internet, you can find articles on everything Microsoft stands for and is doing. My question is, Are these candidates curious enough to read these materials and form an opinion on it? Many times, they don’t. When I engage in conversations with them and introduce new concepts, I’m wondering, Are they incorporating this new content? I’m trying to figure out if they are learners. So I’ll throw out a new concept to see if it comes back later in the conversation? Do they stick with their monologue – their pitch – or are they dancing with me? Are they having this conversation with me where they are learning?

Sarah: MBAs can be so prepared, buttoned up and (to a fault) scripted that it comes off as disingenuous. We want to see you be your authentic self. In every interview you have at Microsoft, something that is going to be asked is, “Why Microsoft?” People will talk about how they remember their first computer when they were five years old. They have this beautiful story woven in – and we love storytelling – but it has come to the point where it’s not genuine because we’ve heard that story. We want, ‘What about Microsoft makes you passionate about exploring our space?’

Diego: Microsoft will be a platform to achieve what they want. How are they going to use this platform at their disposal?

P&Q: Recruiting can be a two-way street. What has Microsoft done to make itself more appealing to MBA candidates?

Sarah: In terms of what we’ve been doing with MBA recruiting specifically, we’ve created an MBA Business Innovation Challenge. We’ve gone to various campuses to pitch a question that is stemmed from a real problem that our teams at Microsoft are facing. In other words, ‘Here is a problem that Microsoft is facing; help us find a solution.’ It’s a product development “hack”, if you will. What that has done is help students see that these are some pretty cool challenges that Microsoft has been a part of. We did an IoT (Internet of Things) Business Innovation Challenge two years ago. Last year, it was a critical marketing question: How do we encourage legacy customers to migrate over to Windows 10? That is a big issue that our marketing team is dealing with. So we pose a question to students and ask them to put on their thinking caps and help with that. That has been a way we engage with candidates and help them see that those are some of the interesting things you would do if you worked there.

We have over 2,500 interns in Redmond, Washington during the summer time. Around the world, we have 4,000. In Redmond, what we’ve done in the MBA space is we’ve created our own MBA intern experience. Microsoft is the best, hands-down, compared to any other MBA internship program in the world. What we’ve done is give a focused narrative to our MBA interns, with special events and networking opportunities. We bring in senior leaders like Brad Smith, our president and chief legal officer, and Amy Hood, our CFO. They dedicate their time to engage with these MBAs and show them what it is like to be a leader at Microsoft. MBAs are top of mind to them. So this creates a community of talent among the 125 MBA interns we host every summer.

Another thing Microsoft does that has people excited is our annual hackathon in the summer, which coincides with the summer internship. It is the largest hackathon in the world and it allows people, again, to come in and dedicate their talent, thoughts, and energy towards a project that they are passionate about. There have been some great results from the hackathon. We just released a new Xbox Controller. Three or four years ago, a team of interns, including a few of our MBA interns, looked at how we could make the Xbox more accessible to military veterans who’ve lost limbs. These are real tactical problems that people can solve. That ability to really lean in and be innovative, even if it is outside the day-to-day job, makes Microsoft appealing.

Microsoft sailboat cruise

Diego: In terms of tactical engagement – how we demonstrate to students how Microsoft is appealing – I go back to Microsoft as a platform where you can have a meaningful career. Most of our MBA candidates have multiple offers.The money is more-or-less the same. What you can do at Microsoft – because of our mission of empowerment and our view of Microsoft as a platform for you as an employee – you can have a career full of meaning. Money is not enough. You need meaning and a professional legacy. At Microsoft, that is something that is very real.

P&Q: If an MBA was weighing an offer from Microsoft and another firm, what would give you the edge?

Diego: I have a lot of respect for these other companies. They are all great places to work. All of these are companies that people join at will. What I would say is, come to Microsoft if the mission speaks to you. If you like to learn and empowering the world and others speaks to you, then you are the right person to come to Microsoft. Look at the Microsoft mission, what we stand for, and our culture. If you want to come in and not just be a consumer of that culture but be a producer, you should join us to go empower others. I don’t want them to buy something they may not want. We want people to stay here. Our values speak to a lot of people, Gen-X, Millennials, and Generation Z too. At Microsoft, It is not about you being cool, but it’s about you making others cool. And that’s cool! Only come if you want to be part of this mission.

Sarah: What would give us an edge is our culture. It’s our best asset. I believe MBA stude nts get excited not only about joining a place where they are aligned with the mission, but they believe in the products and are in an environment that supports their career development and personal growth.

Sometimes, MBAs get the tunnel vision of, ‘I need to do this role’ or this job title. Don’t get me wrong: the actual role is really important. Sometimes, a candidate will turn us down because another firm will provide a role that more specifically matches their post-MBA goals. Knowing that MBAs change jobs early and regularly, it is more about finding a company that fits with your own mission and culture. We are seeing that MBAs at Microsoft are, within a year, changing roles and teams. They can hop, skip, and jump around. That’s not unique to Microsoft, but I would caution MBAs not to choose a company for that first perfect role. They end up being a little disappointed in the process. I do urge MBA candidates to find a company that matches their mission.

Diego: I would urge students to think about, Do you believe in the direction in the company is going? It is a long career.

Picture time for Microsoft interns.

P&Q: Could you give us an overview of your MBA recruiting, interview, and onboarding process? What are the steps that students should expect? How can they make a good impression and stay on your radar?

Sarah: We’re actually moving away from on campus engagement. That’s not to say we’re not going to campus, but we’re looking for other ways to be more inclusive and make sure everyone has a fair shot at learning about Microsoft and engaging with us. We’re going to be doing more virtual presentations. We’ve also specified that all candidates must apply through the Microsoft.com/university website. We still do a little bit of on campus recruiting, but more of what we’re going to be doing is digital engagement and digital connections to connect with prospective candidates.

I encourage students to go to the Microsoft website and learn about our mission. Read employee profiles and the jobs blog, which is a great way to learn about the different job functions. So do your research and start engaging with the recruiting team early on.

Process-wise, applications are reviewed by recruiters. Those candidates who stick out, based on the qualities we discussed earlier, would be invited to a first round screen. That is typically done with a representative of the function to which they are applying. If they are interviewing for marketing, for example, they will meet with a marketing professional. We will be assessing them for the general competencies we are seeking. As we mentioned, prior experience is not required and the interview will cover how you think about and have done things and will include a lot of behavioral questions.

That feedback is then returned to us, where we evaluate the application and the feedback from the interviewer. In the MBA space, we are matching candidates to specific opportunities, so we really want to make sure we are learning all that we can about the candidates. That way, if we bring them back for a final round interview, they are people who are excited about the work and the team will be excited because they showcase the skills necessary to be successful.

Maria Sharapova in an HBS classroom with Microsoft’s Simran Sachar

After the first round screen, there is the final round interview, which typically takes place in our headquarters in Redmond, Washington – and sometimes a local office depending where the role is.

Diego: I would make sure they have created a Linkedin profile. So many recruiters across the industry are searching on Linkedin. I’m not saying that because Linkedin is part of Microsoft. It just that it has become a global recruiting tool.

Sarah: With search engine optimization, the best way to get on our radar is having what we are going to be looking for in a particular role. Using technology to your advantage, technology for good, is definitely important.

I also think seeing that charisma and passion that’s unique to them is really paramount. Even in a cover letter, I can sense it. Making those connections between their skills and coursework and what Microsoft is doing is also important. One of the challenges for a company like Microsoft is our size, scale, and scope. MBAs might say, ‘I did that in a company of 100 people.’ You have a skill set, but we want you to be able to connect that to how can you scale that. When you have billions of people on the planet, it’s no longer a 1,000 people in the audience – it’s the global population.

We also want to see people be humble – and part of that is asking questions. Ask questions of the interviewer throughout or to seek clarity. Don’t be that know-it-all and come in with the conviction that I know what I’m saying and this is my stance. Listen to what is being said, digest it, and then come up with a position.

Diego: Just like learning and curiosity, I think communication is so important. If the candidate is articulating how they’re going about solving a problem – even if they get the answer wrong or don’t come to a solution that we’re looking for – they become someone who’s interesting to work with if they communicate the thought process and rationale. This idea that an interested person becomes an interesting person is very strong at interviews at Microsoft. We want to know how interested this candidate is. If we throw a problem at them in an interview, how interested are they? Do they stop at the first answer or do they go on to another possible answer.

We don’t ask any deep questions. There is nothing in the process where we are trying to trick you or anything like that. It is a very straightforward process.

Sarah: That makes us unique compared to our peers. We don’t care how many tennis balls you can fit into a 747. For us, it is, how can we increase the sales of Xboxes in a certain region?

Diego: We want to know how a candidate will approach the problem. I like to bring in a real problem that we’re facing as a test to see if this is someone I’d want to work with on this problem. So stay open. Stay curious. Communicate.

P&Q: Give me an example of an MBA student who really impressed you in the recruiting process. What did he or she do that really got your attention and why was it so fitting with Microsoft’s mission and culture?

Sarah: Our process is pretty intimate in that we get to know them more and better.

Diego Rejtman and Sarah Eytinge

There was one who asked thoughtful questions. This individual had another offer and was comparing them. It goes back to that entrepreneurial spirit we have. We would go back-and-forth and he would talk to different people and come back with thoughtful questions about how he could make this-or-that part of my role at Microsoft. We came to an unofficial agreement that part of his job would be that he could take on these additional assignments and would have permission to use part of his work day to go to “The Garage,” which is a hub of innovation here. He accepted the offer and it is so fun to see this employee be successful at Microsoft. Within a year of starting in a marketing role, he joined the Microsoft Ventures team (the company’s own internal investment firm), which is a very highly sought-after team within the Microsoft ecosystem…particularly for MBAs.

He was able to do this by doing the same things he was doing in the interview process: connecting with people and positioning himself for success. People know him and are excited by him. That constant curiosity pays off.

Diego: I’ll give you another example that happened last week with a Masters student in engineering. The candidate was waiting in our lobby. We have this beautiful Surface Studio computer in the lobby and the Paint software was open. This candidate, in addition to being an engineer, is an artist. With her fingers, she made an amazing portrait and left it there in the lobby. I actually went out of my way to learn who she was. We ended up having a conversation on the nature of art and science. We now have a replica of her drawing on our lobby wall. This is one example of someone who is eclectic and not afraid to show us her passion.

Diego Rejtman and Sarah Eytinge

P&Q: What types of onboarding, training and ongoing support do you provide to incoming MBAs?

Sarah: There are two levels of support for our MBA hires. The first comes with the team they join. The hiring manager assigns a mentor, usually auxiliary to the team, so they continue to learn and build out their skill sets. There is a lot of on-the-job tactical training involved. Some larger teams and organizations have additional onboarding programs to help get their hires up to speed in the requirements of the role.

We also have our new Microsoft ASPIRE experience. It has been created to empower our university hires to accelerate their impact, engage with a vibrant community, and thrive in business life. It is a two-year onboarding program that is complimentary to the onboarding that their own team does. It is a way to help educate these new hires to the greater Microsoft ecosystem and our strategy and mission. It also fosters connections with individuals throughout the company. The last element is to help prepare them for their next step at Microsoft.

Year 1 involves different sessions on how to manage your manager and effective communications. What does it mean to be customer obsessed in your world? After the first year, all Microsoft ASPIRE experience hires are invited to our Global Sales and Marketing Conference in Las Vegas called Microsoft Ready, which is a huge celebration of Microsoft.

Year 2 really focuses on discovering career possibilities, with sessions on high performance mindset and leadership and there’s a capstone summary to it. A lot of candidates will be familiar with the Microsoft MACH (Microsoft Academy of College Hires) Experience – This is a rebrand, a reimagined MACH experience. It incorporated a lot of the feedback on MACH and really enlarged it to a more holistic view to onboard candidates.

Diego: This is a program overlayed on top of their day jobs. It is a program just for MBAs. This is an investment that Microsoft made on them. It gives them a real advantage.

P&Q: What are your expectations for entry level MBAs? What are your most successful new hires doing to hit the ground running and quickly add value?

Sarah: It is incredibly important that we want people to come in, roll up their sleeves, ask lots of questions, and be curious – and we believe this is going to lead to future success. We don’t expect you to know it all. We want you to come in and find out who you need to connect with or who you might need to influence. We’re a very large company. We’re a flat company and that creates this matrix environment that you need to navigate through. So people who might come in who are more entitled – ‘This is my role and this is what I am supposed to do’ – and are very structured and uncomfortable with ambiguity are going to really struggle here.

Microsoft Chairman John Thompson at a March 7 campus talk at MIT Sloan

Diego: At Microsoft, we have three leadership principles that we subscribe to. The first one is called Create Clarity, taking actions to create clarity in situations. The second is Generate Energy, people who find ways to create positive energy. The third is Deliver Success, the ways we get the job done.

Something particular to MBAs is that there are really two parts of the job. One is to do the job they were hired for. The second part is, at some point, I expect them to take ownership. What does this job mean to you? How will you expand the scope? How will you make it more of your own? The people here who are the happiest are the ones who first master their job and then re-define it.

P&Q: For you personally, what has been so exciting for you to work at Microsoft?

Sarah: Professionally, I’m hiring talent that is going to transform Microsoft. What I tell candidates is that I’m not just excited about that first job I’m hiring you into, but it’s that second or third or fourth job – that long, fruitful career you can have at Microsoft – that excites me. There are so many different ways you can take your career here and so many different ways that you can learn and grow. It’s incredibly exciting for MBAs to come in here. You can start in finance. In three years, you might be excited about the marketing piece and how customers think and you want to transition there. For me, it’s the transitioning military vet who was working in an operations role and has just taken a highly analytical role as a business planner – which is part of our marketing team and involves the planning out the future monetization of products. I’m excited too for the non-profit professional who went to business school who came into the marketing profession and is now a senior technical program manager. She is leading engineers because she learned the skills needed to be on the technical engineering side.

I just love the career path that I provide to candidates. That’s why I love what I do and get really excited about it. It makes it a happy Monday when I come in. How do I find joy at Microsoft? It is definitely the people, knowing you are working with amazing minds with amazing passions. You are never going to be the smartest person in the room. That’s OK because you are going to learn so much from them. I’m sitting next to Diego. He is a trained engineer. He was highly influential in launching Xbox One and Microsoft products together. Throughout the company, it’s amazing what different mindsets and backgrounds are brought together. That’s inspirational. I love that we’re not this standard career path where you work two years – promotion – two years – promotion – straight up and narrow. It really is design your own career and choose your own adventure. Because of that, you get to engage with so many interesting people.

Diego: I love hearing about the impact we have on candidates. I call the recruiters on the team “dream makers” because they’re helping students reach their dream jobs.

I have my guitar here. Let me dedicate some notes for you…That was a live performance from me to you. I am embracing this idea of coming as you are and doing what you love using Microsoft as a platform. My story is that I was born in Argentina and came to America; Microsoft sponsored my immigration to the U.S. I got to work on amazing engineering products including creating the Xbox One with a thousand other colleagues. Then, when I got into my 40s and wanted other students to have the opportunity that I had at Microsoft, the company supported me not only to move into human resources but to lead a whole function of 140 recruiters globally. I don’t have the formal HR education. I am a living example of this mindset that it doesn’t matter so much where the person has been. It matters more where they are going. The reason I played the guitar is because I am a Latino with music running strong in my family. I am now incorporating music into my job. I sing to the MBA candidates in the lobby as they get ready to interview.

I’m not saying Microsoft is easy. Each one of us is creating the Microsoft culture every day. When I chose to play my guitar in an interview with you, I am creating the Microsoft culture. We are all responsible for creating the culture that we want. There is so much freedom and empowerment for employees to own this culture at Microsoft.

DON’T MISS: WHAT AMAZON SEEKS IN MBA HIRES

The post What Microsoft Seeks In MBA Hires appeared first on Poets&Quants.


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