Microsoft reveals what the ultimate resume red flag is

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Microsoft logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's head of global talent acquisition, Lauren Gardner, spoke to CNBC Make It regarding what she and her company look for in potential employees.
  • She emphasized the importance of being a learner and being able to illustrate that in a resume.
  • She also noted that applicants who illustrate they've pigeon-holed themselves don't look the best in an application stack.

Microsoft wants one thing above all else in its employees: A willingness to learn.

At least, that's the takeaway from CNBC Make It's recent chat with Microsoft's head of global talent acquisition, Lauren Gardner. She outlined what both herself and Redmond as a whole look for in prospective employees. It turns out that the key to impressing the home of Windows 11 is having a learner mindset. If you show a history of volunteering for new responsibilities, attempting to diversify your skills, and always being eager to work with new people, you'll look good.

"We're looking for folks that are motivated to constantly learn and grow," Gardner said. "We're not looking for know-it-alls, we're looking for learn-it-alls."

In other words, if your resume illustrates that you like treading water, you're in bad shape. Doing the same role for an extended period of time with no growth in responsibilities or activities won't bode well when folks like Gardner assess your potential. She noted that words such as "growth" and "learning" (really hit that nail on the head) help you stand out, so consider a liberal sprinkling of those terms in your cover letter and CV.

Gardner also spoke to the value of having an "interests" section on your resume. She pointed out that Microsoft is looking to hire people, not cogs for a machine, and that means you need to have life experiences and passions that make your insights come from a unique place. Make sure your interests show you'll be a solid cultural fit with the company.

While Gardner primarily spoke about what she looks for in a prospective Microsoft employee, her tips apply to a wide range of organizations, especially those with similar cultural philosophies.

Robert Carnevale

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to

  • I just finished 3 rounds of interviews with Microsoft of time wasted.
    Interviewed for a developer position and thought things were going great.
    All my technical interviews went well, answered all the coding questions and problems with no issues.
    Then after the 3rd interview, I get a call from the recruiter saying all they heard was "Pass". It sure would have been nice for them to have enough respect to give me a little bit more feedback than that.
    Especially after wasting close to 4 hours of my time. But all the teams at Microsoft are very disjointed and siloed from what my recruiter told me so maybe it explains some things.
  • Sorry to hear about that experience--hopefully you land somewhere solid regardless. After all, a good skill set (almost) always finds a home.
  • Thank you!
    And I did get an offer today from another company.
    All Azure cloud-based work so I am pretty pumped about it.
  • Awesome! I'm interested in doing similar Azure work. If you don't mind telling us, where are you now working?
  • Another quick comment. I've seen that companies today favor not telling the candidate why they weren't chosen for a position. I'm not sure why this is so, but it certainly is so. I've interviewed, then if I get a negative response, it's almost always along the lines of, "we've decided to no longer consider you for the position". And I hear the same thing from others applying for, but not getting the job. Just remember that it might not be you. The position may have closed. Budgetary considerations may have changed. Things you've no control over, may have happened. Hopefully, you can learn why, but don't beat yourself up if you don't get the job and all the recruiter does is say, "sorry, too bad, so sad".
  • Trouble is, you can’t hire all trailblazers. Sometimes you just need round pegs in round holes who are cogs and dependable.
    After lots of fancy Contract PMs disappear when budgets contract. Those cogs that remain keep the operation afloat.
    I always look for longevity when reviewing CVs. A sign of stability, loyalty. Not every hire needs to be a potential CEO. I note she was in sales in 2007, which fits her lens of “push”.
    MS has changed from a company who hired technical people to help customers move onto their products (support was always hard work). Now they are all bright shiny post grad licence sales targeted droids. Much more faceless. That’s progress I guess.
  • I really appreciate knowing this and will add my desire to learn to my resume. I love to learn and pay for an annual subscription (due this month, BTW) on Pluralsight. I'm going to modify my resume to emphasize that. The weird thing is I don't understand why someone, especially if they're a software developer like myself, don't want to learn more. However, I have firsthand experience working with lots of developers who don't care to learn anything new. I work for a large state government department that employs 60 developers. Almost all of them are very satisfied using only the skills they brought with them to the job when they joined 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Consequently, the software we write is based upon old technology. Really old technology. It's what the developers are used to writing and their resentment towards people like me who wish to at least use current technology is very adamant, almost to the point of hatred. For example, we don't use DevOps at all. I suggested that we should try it, using the tool suite we already have in-house, to improve the quality of the software we deliver, delivering software more frequently, etc. They were all extremely against it, but verbally agreed to try it. They didn't use it at all. Then after a month of never having tried it, they declared it a failure, so they smugly went back to their old ways of project management which after decades of use they're comfortable with. This has reminded me of that old saying, "You can't soar with the eagles when you're surrounded with turkeys." BTW, I don't disparage them personally. It's just that they are comfortable not learning anything new and are threatened by someone like myself who likes to learn new things and techniques. A corollary of this is there aren't opportunities at work for me to volunteer doing something different or new, because different and new isn't done where I work.