Microsoft: Khakis and Brainteasers

The dress code isn't formal, but dealing with out-of-the-box questions is one key to a successful interview with the tech giant

For the past year, Anne Manhart has been an MBA staffing consultant for technology giant Microsoft (MSFT ) in the company's Redmond (Wash.) headquarters. Before taking on this role, she spent a year recruiting for Microsoft's marketing segment. Prior to joining the company in 2003, Manhart worked as a marketing director at Omnicom Group (OMC ), an advertising company in New York, where Microsoft was among her clients.

Manhart says that new MBA hires at Microsoft should have a great sense of what the customer wants in a product or service -- and work accordingly. She recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

For what positions are you hiring MBAs, and where do you recruit?

We generally hire into three main functional areas -- finance, marketing, strategy, and, increasingly, sales.

Although we do have target schools, we're open to hiring students from anywhere. We do the bulk of our recruiting at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, Harvard Business School, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and MIT Sloan School of Management.

How many hires do you make in a given year?

Last year we made 73 full-time MBA hires. We also brought on 42 interns, 35 of whom received full-time offers. About 20 of them accepted.

Interns complete a traditional 12-week summer schedule in the same functional areas as the full-time positions. They do real work on financial modeling and product development.

Is it getting more competitive on campus?

It's highly competitive out there. Last year we saw an increase in consulting and banking companies being back on campus. Our competition is varied because of the number of different industries we serve. Microsoft overall has around 300 different products that we manufacture and market, so the range of opportunities is as varied as our competition.

In the MSN search space, there's no question that Google (GOOG ) and Yahoo! (YHOO ) are strong competitors. We also compete with other technology companies, like Dell (DELL ), Intel (INTC ), Oracle (ORCL ), and IBM (IBM ).

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