From Applications to Assessment Centres - Gaming Interns
by Stefana Simion
Software Development Engineer – Soho Studios
Coventry University – BSc Games Technology
I’m Stef and I work as a Software Development Engineer in Soho Studios; I’m also the technical lead for the BYF blog so feel free to blame me for any bugs :). My role is quite self-explanatory: programming. Same as everyone else, before applying here, I was given a load of advice from my professors at uni, my parents, my friends, my cat – everyone. After I joined Microsoft, I got a better understanding of what it is they actually look for in an intern, so here’s my two cents.
It may seem like stating the obvious, but the first step is to actually apply – no matter if you think you’re ready or not, if you have a shiny portfolio full of employer eye-candy or just a CV. As an intern, you’ve got nothing to lose at this stage, so just apply. The process starts with the online application, a series of questions where you are meant to show why you’re a good fit for the company, why you’re interesting and why you are interested. This is important, because it’s the first opportunity you have to show your passion and why you chose this stream. Do your homework and know what Microsoft is doing at the moment so you know what you would like to work on and possibly how you could improve it – be it a website, email client, an XBOX app or games, therewill surely something you’re excited about in Microsoft.
As you know, this is essentially the most technical focused of the roles. Thus, after the online application, there will be a series of tests: the usual psychometric (bing it) and statistical tests. My advice here is to do as many practice tests as you can beforehand – you will be givenone opportunity for this – and don’t try to cheat when you run out of time. Solve as many questions as you can, carefully and correctly. These tests are rather a measure of how you solve problems in a stressful situation, than how many you can solve.
For the next phase, the one-way recorded interviewyou will have to record yourself answering certain questions. The questions are of the type “What would you do if..”. This is where you really have to know yourself: why you want to work for Microsoft, what your skills are and what you are good at, what you’re passionate about and why. Simple, right? The catch is you’re only told each question 30 seconds before you have to answer it. Don’t panic! listen to the question carefully, formulate an answer in your head, you can even write down a few key bullet points so you don’t forget – it’s amazing how many things you can do in 30 seconds. Then answer naturally and calmly, don’t just read the notes – you’ve got this! If the answer isn’t 3 minutes long it’s ok! You will have an opportunity to do a mock run off this assessment, so use it!
There will also be a technical interview over the phone or Skype. They will ask about yourself – from the CV or portfolio – then some simple, basic programming questions. Again, don’t panic if you don’t know. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t remember or can’t answer one of the questions correctly. Have a notepad and pen nearby for this one as well, again the key is to prepare.
This is the final and perhaps most important part. Broken up into an aptitude interview and a programming whiteboard exercise. Theformer consists of asking the same kind of questions as the recorded interview, only live and more like a conversation than a speech.
The whiteboard test is the real deal – you will have to write code on the board, without a compiler or IntelliSense. This can seem straight forward at first, but I recommend practicing beforehand. The language is not important but the concepts are – you will be asked normal programming interview style questions that you should be able to solve on the board. Don’t worry so much about the syntax, if you forget a semicolon, it’s fine, the code doesn’t actually have to compile. Walk the interviewer through your thought process – explain what you’re thinking about as you write it. Explain what you’re doing and why. Again, if you get something wrong, it’s not the end of the world, we make mistakes every day – what’s important is how you recover, how you find the problem and fix it. Take your time and don’t rush it!
Above all, don’t forget to be passionate, there is a reason why you applied for the role, show them that you love it. The process is very long but important experience as most employers have the same kind of interview setup.
Good luck and I’m looking forward to seeing you around the studio in June!
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