What Microsoft Seeks In MBA Hires

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?

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