Hiring at Microsoft

It’s Bill Gates’ birthday week, and I thought that was worth a few posts about how Microsoft hires the employees that have taken them to their current market capitalization.

In this post, I’m simply going to look at their online recruiting page, working from the United States selection on the home page.

Starting with the Life at Microsoft page, the first thing I notice is the pictures don’t look like stock photos.  Admittedly, this company is big enough that they can run their own photo sharing site.  I’ll bet that those are real employees.  The shadows (not studio lighting), the hair, the sticky on the wall–this is a real place.  In other words, if you can take pictures of your office, use them.  Agreed, it might not be a bad idea to clear off your desk first.  (I have a roll-top for just this reason.)  Let prospective employees see what they’re getting (into).

Microsoft recruiting site home page

Life at Microsoft page

Note the mission and value statement in the sidebar. It’s a good idea to put your mission statement in a sidebar on the “Jobs” page, even if you already have it somewhere else on your website.

The Life at Microsoft menu option offers three choices: Diversity and Inclusion, Benefits (read it and weep), and Career Development.  For many new businesses, “diversity” can be covered in the mission statement, and “benefits” are still a dream.  You may want to be thinking about what “career development” looks like in your business, though.  Better employees will be asking, if not during their interview, then soon thereafter.

Career Development at Your Company

Let’s look at three paragraphs from this site and what they might look like in your business:

Defined roles. Each of our jobs has clear requirements for success but lots of room to push boundaries and grow.

This is a “job description.” At the Fortune 500, entire teams of HR employees are engaged to write sets of job descriptions, with clear paths both sideways and upwards, through both managerial (supervising others) and technical (increasing specializing) directions. You get to do it yourself. The closer you can get to “clear requirements for success,” the better for both you and your employee. You may have to change your requirements once you hire someone who can give you feedback about what that looks like from the worker’s point of view.  However, you’re well ahead if you’ve even thought about “what success in your job” looks like before you hire an employee.

Career path options. You don’t have to be a manager to move up. Both individual contributor and management careers progress all the way through senior levels—we highly value both.

In some ways, this distinction is a bit like the transition you may have made yourself, from working IN your business as a provider, to working ON your business as an owner, manager, and marketer. Businesses in some fields don’t have to worry about offering both promotion paths to employees, but almost anyone in a technical field will face this challenge before very long at all.

What you will be most likely to see is promoting a good worker to a first-time managerial or supervisory role, and finding out the worker is

  • unhappy and / or
  • not good at being a manager

If you are aware of the difference between managerial and specialist progression, you can take action quickly and not lose a good worker who does not want to be a manager.  (A friend was promoted into a supervisor’s job, rather against his preferences.  He solve the problem by giving everyone he supervised “excellent” reviews.  As this was a municipal job with major employee protections, the ratings couldn’t be changed.  He was reassigned, as he had requested.)

Movement across professions. We define desired results and consistently apply them for all professions available in our business groups. This makes it easy for you to learn about each profession and identify and develop the skills you’ll need if you want to make a change.

In big business, “movement across professions” means, “We encourage our scientists to learn how the business side operates,” and “Our head of marketing spent two years running a factory.”  When your business is you, your admin, a full-commission sales person, and part-time help in the warehouse, this concept may be alien.  That’s OK.  As your business grows, you will have the opportunity to decide if you want to encourage cross-fertilization.  Not all companies believe it to be a good thing.

That’s enough for this post.  More tomorrow.