Monthly Archives: May 2012

Interviewing AX Candidates – Questions (Part 2)

 The following is Part II in a two-part post borrowed from our Dynamics AX in the Field blog and was written by Eric Newell, a Project Manager here at Microsoft:

Please read part 1 first to see what we’re looking for in candidates. Here’s a list of some questions that I ask candidates who are interested in

Question Intent
Tell me a little about yourself Get a background on the candidate – always interesting to see where this simple question takes them – I’ve had 15 second and 20 minute answers
Tell me about your background on Dynamics AX When did they start with AX; what roles have they served in?
What interests you about this role? This is important because I don’t want them to say “I want to work for Microsoft”. I’m not interested in someone who wants to get into Microsoft; I want someone who wants to be good at the Premier Field Engineering role
Where do you see your career taking you in the next 5 years? What are their aspirations – this gets to the “Desire to Get Better” attribute
What do you think you are good at? What do you wish you were better at? How are you working to improve it? This question takes a while to answer, but I want him to assess his strengths and talk about how he learns new things, and what’s on his current “to do” list for new learning
Driving value and becoming a trusted advisor are key elements of this role. What are some ways you’d ensure that you drive value to your customers and build relationships such that you were a trusted advisor for each of your customers? This gets to the trustworthy attribute I’m trying to understand
Who is the most senior and/or challenging audience that you have ever faced? What did you speak about? How did you prepare for it? What was the outcome? This gets to the confidence attribute. If I get the sense he’s backed away from those opportunities, I see a lack of confidence. I also want them to talk about the different way you present to a senior audience as opposed to a project team member.
Tell me what you think a job well done looks like for your customers. What metrics (objective measures) do you use to evaluate how you performed on a task or with a customer? Most interviewees stumble on the question about “metrics” but I want him to articulate what a good job looks like in his eyes. Hopefully this answer includes something about how the customer is better off.
SCENARIO QUESTIONS
You were scheduled to be on-site with a customer tomorrow and they called and postponed for another date two months out. You have nothing you have to work on tomorrow for any other customer; what do you do? Here I’m looking for his priority list – is he going to study a new area, is he going to reach out to the rest of the team to see if they need help (best answer) or is he going to contact the rest of his customers to see if they need anything (another good answer).
A customer calls you at 4:30 on Friday to indicate their test upgrade failed and they are planning to go live the following weekend? You have another customer onsite visit scheduled for the following week. What do you do? Some interviewees may think I’m asking them to work the weekend here; instead I’m trying to see if they are willing to trust their teammates to pick them up by either helping with this customer or their other customer. I also want them to call the customer to articulate the plan that will put this customer in good shape for their upcoming upgrade
A customer runs into a situation where the functionality that they receive through AX is not what they expected. This piece of functionality is key for the customer and they aren’t happy that the product was designed in this manner. You realize that this is important to the customer, but the chances of the product being changed to accommodate this request are extremely small. In your opinion, what’s the best way to handle this? Here I’m trying to see how quickly they go to “make customizations”. I want them to communicate the truth to the customer and exhaust other options before moving to creating the customization
TECHNICAL QUESTIONS
Performance: What is the difference between a clustered and non-clustered index in SQL? The way he answers this tells a lot – I actually don’t want the “I just read this out of a textbook answer” either – some illustration of them actually thinking through when to do which is the best answer
Development: What are some of the common methods to override or add in reports and why would you override or add them? I will ask first if he has any development background, and if the answer is no, we won’t subject him to this question, but it’s a great way to separate the talkers from the knowledgeable ones. [P.S. I don’t know the answer to this question, but I keep the answer in my interview notes so I can tell if they hit on any of the key topics]
Application: Talk through the different costing methods in Dynamics AX There have been changes through recent versions of AX, so I’m looking for their ability to go into depth about each of these methods – what are the pros and cons of each
Troubleshooting: Your customer contacts you to report an error they get in the AX app: “Message: Error executing code, DialogField object not initialized”. Walk me through the steps you’d take to troubleshoot this issue I want to see if he’s seen such an error before and then his thought process for the steps to troubleshoot. We are going to have to do this when customers call, so I want him to show an understanding the mindset of troubleshooting

Those are not the only questions in the question bank, but these are the keys ones we ask and why we ask them. No one gets them all right; it’s all about the confidence he displays; showing that he wants to get better and his honest approach to answering the questions.

* Throughout this article I use “he” for the interview candidate, but that’s just for grammar purposes. My high school French teacher used to say that men are superior grammatically and women are superior in every other way.

 

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Interviewing AX Candidates – What I Look For (Part 1)

The following was borrowed from our Dynamics AX in the Field blog and was written by Eric Newell, a Project Manager here at Microsoft:

As I mentioned in the post about tamping someone up on AX, I look for candidates who have expertise in AX Performance, AX Application (at least one particular module) or AX development.  Because of this, we have to bring in the right people on the team and ask the right questions to determine if our candidate is the right fit.

Ultimately, I’m looking for the following qualities in a candidate (outside of technical capabilities)

  • Confidence – this is one quality that can be seen pretty quickly in the interview – does the candidate project themselves in a professional manner?  When we ask technical questions in the interview, the candidate has to be able to state the answer with confidence and conviction; if they can’t, I’m not interested.  Our customers demand that we can answer their questions, and saying “I think that configuration setting is right” is worse than saying “I don’t know”.  One former colleague at work is so sure of himself when he answers questions, that he convinces people of his answer every team – he’s right 99% of the time, but even in that 1% he’s able to convince people to follow his lead.  We purposely test for this case in the interviews as well; despite our intention to try to find experts across development, application or technology, we ask every candidate our “advanced” questions across each area.  We don’t do this to try to make them look bad; we do this to see how they react when they don’t know the answer to a question.  I can’t tell you how many people have guessed at the answer to the question “What is the difference between a clustered and non-clustered index in SQL”, but if we ask you that question, and you don’t know, just say “I don’t know”.  Please.  The best answer is “I don’t know, but I will look it up and get back to you by the end of the day” or “I don’t know, but I have a colleague who’s an expert at this and I’ll ask him and get back to you by tomorrow”.  If they can answer the technical questions in their wheelhouse and the other questions like that, they pass the test.
  • Desire to Get Better – you can call this willingness to learn, work ethic, etc., but when it comes down to it, I’m interested in the person who wants to continually get better at what he knows and how he does his job.  If he wants to get better, I don’t have to worry about him putting in enough hours.  If he wants to get better, I don’t have to worry about how he’ll react to a new release.  If he wants to get better, I know he’ll be interested in taking constructive criticism as an opportunity to get better.  I try to get a window into this in the interview by asking the candidate “What do you hope to learn in the next months and years”?  During the interview, I want to find that spark of interest of the area of their biggest passion, so I can see what’s going to drive them to continue to learn and get better.  I also don’t want someone to walk into a job interview and be over-confident.  If he comes in saying he knows this stuff and knows he’ll do a great job, that’s not an indication of a desire to get better.  Is this person going to be able to take constructive criticism if they have it all worked out.  These folks also aren’t going to fit into the team dynamic very well.
  • Trustworthy – in the job as a Dedicated Support Engineer, we position ourselves as a “trusted advisor” to the customer.  Our job is to work in the best interest of the customer long-term, even if that means telling them things they don’t want to hear.  We ask questions in the interview process to understand the candidate’s past experience in this area.  It’s not yet a fool-proof system, but I don’t want to hear about “I did this for the customer” and “I did that”, I want to hear how he worked with the customer to make the customer more successful in the end.  I have no tolerance with people who I can’t trust to do what’s right for the team and the business.  If he wants to find ways to get the “most” out of his expense reports or find ways to make personal gain out of business, I don’t care how good he is at Dynamics AX, I’d rather just start over with a new person.  I haven’t had experience with this in the past – fortunately – and I don’t have a question on the interview list to catch this, but it’s something to watch out for

Teamwork is another big part of the interview, so I thought about listing that as another bullet, but I think if the person has each of the three qualities above, he will be a good team fit.  He will understand his teammates sometimes know better that he, so he’ll be willing to reach out for help.  He will be trustworthy so the rest of the team can depend on him.  He will have confidence so the other team members can put him onsite at their customer without being concerned about how he’ll represent the team.

Part 2 will cover the typical interview questions we ask – again, we’re looking for technical experts who can serve as trusted advisors to customers, so our questions will be aimed at that end.

Would you like to be considered for a job like this at Microsoft? Check out our current openings.

 

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