I have always heard that SDE interviews are much harder to crack than SDET. Is it really true? I have also heard that if candidate doesnt do well in SDE interview he is also sometimes offered SDET position. How much truth is there into these talks? I would highly appreciate if someone would put good resources and guidelines for how to prepare for Microsoft interviews..which books to read, which notes, online programming questions websites, etc. Give as much info as possible.

Thanks in advance to everyone for your valuable help and contribution.

closed as off-topic by user40980, GlenH7, Ampt, gnat, BЈовић Jun 17 '14 at 8:09

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    Voting to close. This is a question about passing an interview at one particular company. – Steven Evers Dec 30 '10 at 21:42
  • Gven what that company is, I think it's valid enough to apply to just more than the OP. – Wayne Molina Jun 13 '14 at 11:42

Unfortunately, those are both myths. SDEs and SDETs get the same starting salary, so it would be silly to have a lower bar for one of the positions. You'll have to code at the whiteboard in both interviews and show that you can deconstruct complex problems.

Depending on the group, the SDE loop may have more emphasis on algorithms, and on the SDET side, you'll find more emphasis on systems thinking - but the emphasis can vary slightly from group to group.

To prepare, study algorithms and implementation examples, but more importantly practice solving random programming problems on paper (or on a whiteboard if you have one). Be able to think out loud while you code (the answer is often not as important as the thought process). Also have examples to share on how you learn, communication, and dealing with conflict.

For an SDET interview, you can read my book (more importantly, the book will help you evaluate if you want to be an SDET. On the dev side, you can goo...bing "Microsoft Interview Questions" and probably get some good practice material - but skip the "why are manhole covers round" type questions, as those are rarely used anymore.


I think the only scenario where a person would go in to MS to interview for an SDE position and come out with an SDET offer would be if someone early in their career (an intern or fresh out of college, basically) showed a lot of testing aptitude, and repeatedly displayed evidence of "the tester mindset" during an interview. It would have to be early enough in their career that they could possibly just not know about testing - so internships, or maybe first job out of college. I heard of a few cases where this happened from students at the University of Washington, which is right in Microsoft's backyard, so internships there were common. It wasn't common. The testing aptitude would have to be recognized early enough in the loop that the rest of the interview could be modified to a "test" loop.

In theory, it could happen the other direction as well (SDET interview getting an SDE offer). However, I don't think I ever heard of that - possibly because the SDET role was relatively unknown, and a person with a great "tester's mind" was more likely to be interviewing for an SDE role without realizing this other area where they might excell, than a great "dev mind" interviewing for an SDET role without realizing their SDE potential.

Keep in mind that I graduated over 5 years ago, so I don't know if even this scenario happens anymore. At the time, the SDET role at Microsoft was pretty mysterious, and most people didn't really know about automated testing when they were in college. I think that's changed a lot since then.

I've interviewed for about 6 SDET positions at Microsoft, and a couple SDE positions. The SDET role interviews were NOT easier. The coding questions are usually about the same, although slightly less sophisticated answers might be accepted provided the person shows a clear bias towards quality (e.g., thinks of and handles interesting bugs; tests their answer well when they are done coding; etc.). Any leeway on the coding is more than made up for by the need to have an ability to critically think about quality and testing.

Having said that, I do think an SDET career is easier to attain and move up in simply because good SDETs who are in the career for life aren't that common. The "SDET who really wants to be an SDE" stereotype is not without a foundation. Demonstrating a real (and honest) passion for testing will make you stand out, whereas devs with a real passion for development are relatively common. This might not last; SDET roles are becoming more popular lately, as more companies hire for that role and as the field becomes better understood. Right now, I think SDET is a real career sweet-spot, and not just at Microsoft. Just make sure you actually enjoy testing. If you're really a pure dev at heart, you might find it difficult and dull.

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