These are perhaps the three most popular questions asked in every job interview — and now we know how Bill Gates would answer them.
The Microsoft co-founder shared how he would answer pretty standard job questions regarding salary demands, pros and cons, and more, were he being interviewed today. In an interview with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Gates was asked to pretend he was applying for a junior software engineer role at Microsoft in today’s climate.
The interview, which was conducted through a video-chat platform, is part of Curry’s new YouTube series called “State of Inspiration,” where Curry and Gates spoke about “secondary problems” due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re sitting in your next job interview — whether in-person or via Zoom — Gates’ responses provide a clue into separating yourself from your resume.
‘Why should we hire you?’
This question is usually asked, but not always. While there isn’t a set-in-stone answer for approaching the “why should we hire you” question, recruiters tend to like hearing candidates talk about their own personal development as well as company development. It’s where a candidate can show enthusiasm in their outside accomplishments, but it’s important to be mindful of not coming off as too showy and overly confident.
In the past, recruiters have told Ladders that answers like “This is my dream job” to engagement in demeanor are good indicators that a candidate is answering a question well.
Here’s Gates’ response:
“You should look at the codes that I’ve written. I write software programs way beyond any classes that I’ve taken. I think I’ve gotten better over time, so take a look at how ambitious I’ve been there.
I do think I can work well with people. I might criticize their code a little harshly, but overall, I like to be on a team. I like ambitious goals. I like thinking through how we can anticipate the future.
Software is cool and I want to be involved.”
A quick summary: Gates shows confidence in his ability in coding and shows how he’s progressed over time. He exhibits the ability of working with others while remaining competitive. He is forward-thinking and wants to be part of the project.
Strengths and weaknesses
This area allows the candidate to talk about themselves in ways that are beneficial and detrimental. It takes a bit of bravery to lay your faults out on the table, but our experts said there’s a few approaches one can take when asked about traits, both good and bad.
For the greatest weakness, candidates can show honesty, relevancy, and a personal story that can end the question on a positive note. It’s important to be honest because it can show self-awareness, which is something employers want to see.
This is how Curry phrased the question to Gates: “How do you define your strengths and weaknesses and how would incorporate them into a team?”
Here’s Gates’ response:
“Well I’m not somebody who knows a lot about marketing. I wouldn’t enjoy being a salesman.
For a position where you’re actually creating the products and thinking through what those features should be, I’m fascinated by that.
I followed the history of the industry, read about the mistakes that have been made. So product definition, product creation, very strong.
If you have a team that understands the customers, the sales, the marketing, I’m not going to bring that, but I would enjoy working with them.”
A quick summary: Gates lay it all out. He’s here to develop products, not to be a salesman. He’s clear with where his passion is and explains that he[‘s able to work with others, but that’s not where he will thrive.
Let’s talk about the money — or don’t.
Salary negotiation can be stressful. It’s important to avoid discussing numbers until an offer has been extended. Recruiters will try to pry this number from you — which you can deflect — but persistence may come into play so there should be a number in mind when they ask.
But Gates value something a little different: stock options.
“I hope the option package is good. I’m able to take risk and I think the company has a great future, so I prefer to get stock options even more than cash compensation.
I hear some other companies are paying a lot, but treat me fairly and emphasize the options.”
A quick summary: Gates shows belief in the company and it interested in company equity. That may not be for everyone since financial situations differ, but it all depends on whether money is more important now or potential greater gains in the future.
Equity is usually offered when companies are start-ups. Here’s how one expert described the decision between equity versus salary:
“A lot of people would say no … but on the flip side, if you’ve got a young professional willing to take a lot of risks and doesn’t have much financial pressure, they might be willing to forgo steady salary or a pay raise because they don’t have the financial pressure. Maybe they are a believer in the company. Nobody has a crystal ball, but I think most people rather have cash in their hand rather than stock certificates with the hope that the company someday goes somewhere.”