The Complete Guide to Acing Your Microsoft Software Engineer Interview in 2023

Microsoft coding interviews are really challenging. The questions are difficult, specific to Microsoft, and cover a wide range of topics.

The good news is that the right preparation can make a big difference. We looked at 250 software engineer interview questions that Microsoft job candidates sent us to find out what kinds of questions were asked most often. Below, weve provided a curated list of real example questions, including free solutions.

There are also study tips and links to the best resources so that you can plan your study better and improve your chances of getting that Microsoft software engineer job.

Getting an interview with Microsoft as a software engineer is a huge accomplishment. One of the biggest and most well-known tech companies in the world is Microsoft. However, the interview process is notoriously difficult. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to do well in your meeting with Microsoft about software engineering.

Overview of the Microsoft Software Engineer Interview Process

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect:

  • Initial phone screen with a recruiter (45 minutes)
  • Technical phone interview or online assessments (90 minutes)
  • Onsite loop with 4-5 one-hour interviews covering coding, system design, object-oriented design, and behavioral questions
  • Lunch interview during onsite loop
  • Final “As Appropriate” interview with a senior leader

The onsite loop and technical interviews will make up the meat of the process This is where you’ll be assessed on your technical and problem solving abilities

Most Frequently Asked Microsoft Software Engineer Interview Questions

Here are some of the most common questions asked during Microsoft software engineer interviews:

Coding Questions

  • String manipulation – reversing strings, parsing strings, etc.
  • Array manipulation – sorting arrays, searching arrays, etc.
  • Linked lists – reversing linked lists, detecting cycles, etc.
  • Trees – traversal, insertion, deletion, etc.
  • Graphs – traversal, shortest paths, etc.
  • Dynamic programming – Fibonacci, coin change, etc.
  • Bit manipulation – get/set bits, bit masks, etc.

Coding questions test how well you understand the basics of computer science and how well you can write code that solves problems. For example, learn how to sort, search, recursion, breadth-first search, depth-first search, binary trees, and other common data structures and algorithms.

System Design Questions

  • Design a URL shortening service like Bitly
  • Design a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft
  • Design a messaging service like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger
  • Design a photo sharing service like Instagram
  • Design a distributed file storage system like Dropbox

System design questions are mainly asked during senior software engineer interviews. You’ll need knowledge of scalability, reliability, caching, databases, network topology, API design, object-oriented design, and other architectural principles.

Object-Oriented Design Questions

  • Design an ATM
  • Design a parking lot
  • Design a chess game
  • Design a deck of cards
  • Design a restaurant

OO design questions test your ability to design real-world objects and systems using key OO principles like abstraction, encapsulation, inheritance and polymorphism.

Behavioral Questions

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work at Microsoft?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a challenging project you worked on
  • Tell me about a time you failed and what you learned
  • Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker

Behavioral questions evaluate your interpersonal skills, motivation, and ability to learn from experience. Prepare stories from past internships, projects, leadership experiences, and teamwork.

8 Tips to Crush Your Microsoft Software Engineering Interview

Follow these tips to master the Microsoft interview gauntlet:

1. Study computer science fundamentals

Review core CS topics like data structures, algorithms, databases, operating systems, and networking. Know time/space complexities for algorithms.

2. Practice coding interview questions

Use sites like LeetCode and Grokking the Coding Interview to practice coding interview questions. Complete at least 50-100 problems.

3. Understand system design principles

Study system design architectures, object-oriented design principles, scaling techniques, and designing for reliability.

4. Prepare stories for behavioral questions

Have 5-10 stories about projects, leadership, conflict resolution, and overcoming challenges ready to go.

5. Communicate your thinking clearly

Verbalize your approach, explain your code, and ask clarifying questions. Show your communication skills.

6. Talk through examples

Use concrete examples to illustrate abstract concepts. Analogies can help simplify complex ideas.

7. Practice mock interviews

Do at least 5 mock interviews with friends or services like to practice verbalizing solutions in real time.

8. Rest and recharge before onsite interviews

Get a good night’s sleep beforehand. Eat a nutritious meal. Arrive refreshed, focused, and ready to tackle anything.


Preparing for a Microsoft software engineering interview takes dedication and hard work. You’ll need to deeply understand computer science and software engineering principles, master coding interview questions, and polish your communication abilities. But with the right preparation strategy, you can absolutely crush your Microsoft interview and land your dream job. The reward will make the effort worthwhile. Best of luck in your preparations and interview!

microsoft software engineer interview questions

2 What exactly is Microsoft looking for

At the end of each interview your interviewer will grade your performance using a standardized feedback form. Here is some of the information thats contained in the form.

Interviewers will file the notes they took during the interview. Usually, this includes the questions they asked, a summary of your answers, and any other thoughts they had (e.g. g. communicated ABC well, weak knowledge of XYZ, etc).

Your interviewer will then grade you on different competencies. For each skill they are interested in, they will be trying to figure out if you meet the needs. That is, you must show that you are at least as good as or better than the average current Microsoft SDE at the level you’re applying for (e.g. g. Senior SDE).

The exact list of competencies Microsoft looks for varies depending on groups, roles, and levels. But here are some of the main ones that are usually discussed by Microsoft recruiters:

  • Passion for technology
  • Problem solving
  • Analytical ability
  • Creativity
  • Etc.

Each interviewer will give a hiring recommendation at the end of the interview. The different options are along the lines of: “Strong hire”, “Hire”, “No hire”, “Strong no hire”.

The feedback forms are accessible by all the interviewers in your loop. And each interviewer can suggest a follow-up topic for your next interview. In the case of the first coding question, if you didn’t check for edge cases, your interviewer may bring that up with you and your next interviewer to see if you will take their advice to heart.

1 What interviews to expect

Now, lets drill down further into the different stages of your software development engineer interview process with Microsoft. Here are the steps:

  • Resume screen
  • HR Recruiter email or call
  • First round: phone screen, on-campus or online test
  • Second round: onsite, four interviews

First, recruiters will look at your resume and assess if your experience matches the open position. So many applicants fail to make it past this stage that it is the toughest part of the process.

So take extra care to tailor your engineering resume to the specific position youre applying to.

If you want professional feedback, talk to our team of former FAANG recruiters. They will tell you what accomplishments to highlight (or ignore), how to improve your bullet points, and more.

Next, an HR recruiter will call you to talk about your interests and figure out which group or team would be best for you. This conversation will also help the recruiter decide if you have any chance of getting the job. You should be prepared to explain your background and why you’re a good fit for Microsoft.

If things go well with the recruiter, then youll move on to the next step of the process. What happens at this stage varies depending on what team and role youre applying for.

But if you’re an experienced worker, you can usually expect a phone interview. If you’re a recent graduate, you may have an on-campus interview, or in some cases, you may have an online test instead of an interview. Well review each format below.

Technical phone screens

This step is called the “phone screen”, but it can also sometimes happen over video using Skype. Each interview will last 45 to 60 minutes. When you talk to a coworker or possible boss, they’ll ask you a mix of tough and easy questions.

For the technical part of the interview, you can expect standard questions about data structures and algorithms that you’ll have to answer in a web-based text editor where everyone can work together. There won’t be syntax highlighting or autocomplete in the text editor, so you’ll need to get used to not having those tools while you’re preparing for the interview. As an additional note, youre very unlikely to be asked system design questions during your phone screen.

“Tell me about yourself,” “Why Microsoft?” or “What’s your favorite Microsoft product? And why?” are some of the behavioral questions you might be asked. In our experience, Microsoft interviewers spend more time on these questions than Facebook or Google interviewers. So, its worth making sure youre ready for common behavioral questions (more on that later).

On-campus interview

If youre a student then youll usually have an on-campus interview instead of a phone screen. Some questions will be about behavior and some will be about technology. You’ll have to answer them on a whiteboard. In some cases, youll also have more than one interview on campus.

Online coding assessment

Microsoft also sometimes uses online coding tests before passing a candidate through to the onsite interviews. The company uses a variety of tests, but the most common one is a three-question test which you need to solve in 60 to 90 minutes and is administered by Codility.

The questions are typical data structure and algorithm questions for which you need to submit a solution in an online editor. Leetcode maintains a helpful thread of the types of questions that have recently been asked in the test.

That’s the first round. The next step is to spend a whole day at one of Microsoft’s offices and do four interviews there. These interviews will last about an hour and a half and will be one-on-one with a staff member, the hiring manager, and sometimes a senior executive from the team you want to work for.

Question types

Three or four of your interviews will include coding questions (i. e. data structure and algorithm questions) which youll need to solve on a whiteboard. The other one or two interviews will cover system design questions. Youll be asked behavioral questions in all your interviews.

All candidates are expected to do extremely well in coding and behavioral questions. If youre relatively junior (e. g. SDE II or below) you might not be asked system design questions. And if you do then the bar will be lower than for mid-level or senior engineers (e. g. Senior SDE or above).

The “as appropriate”, AA or ASAPP interview

Finally, your last interview will be with a senior executive from Microsoft (e. g. your hiring manager or possibly their boss). The “as appropriate,” AA, or ASAPP interview is another name for this one. You will only be asked to do it if your first three interviews go better. You won’t get an AA interview or an offer if you don’t do well on the first three.

AA interviewers have two roles. The first one is to ensure that theres no blind spot in your assessment. For example, if the first three interviewers have found that you meet the technical requirements but aren’t sure if you’ll fit in with the company’s culture, the AA interview will mostly be about behavioral questions. The second thing an AA interviewer does is “sell” the company to you if you did well in the first several interviews. Microsoft wants to make sure you’ll take them up on their offer if they make one.

What the Microsoft Interview is like — with sample questions

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