A week ago, Microsoft announced its first companywide layoff, letting go 1,400 people as part of a plan to cut up to 5,000 jobs in the next 18 months. But the company made clear it would continue hiring, perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 people, in strategically important areas. And judging by its U.S. online jobs site, it intends to. A search of the site for positions in Washington state brought back 72 openings posted since Jan. 22, the day the layoffs were announced.
“The company’s strategic direction remains unchanged, so you can expect to see Microsoft continue to hire in most of the areas it has been investing in, areas such as online services, search and cloud computing, to name a few,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said via e-mail.
Indeed, of the 72 Washington jobs posted since the layoff announcement, at least 11 were related to search. Reading through the listings and job descriptions revealed a few insights into Microsoft’s current hiring priorities.
The spokeswoman said “the number of open positions will continue to vary based on business need, as it always does. … [the open jobs] are a combination of new positions open and natural attrition.” Microsoft has said its normal attrition rate is about 8 percent, meaning even if the company holds hiring flat or even reduces its total staff of about 96,000 worldwide in the next 18 months, there will continue to be a significant number of openings.
One posting for a program manager in the Windows Live Search Relevance team said the company was looking for “the cream of the crop inside and outside of Microsoft … to go head to head with some of the best competition this company has ever seen.”
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer singled out Internet search last week as one of the areas the company would continue to add staff.
Other openings posted in the past week have Microsoft’s top competitors squarely in their sights. “[H]elp Microsoft beat Google,” reads a posting for a product manager on the Media Auctions Product Marketing Team, which works with the company’s adCenter online ads platform.
Windows Live and MSN are also hiring locally, with at least a dozen openings out of the 72 posted in the past week. One posting described a “newly formed” MSN/Virtual Earth Core Platform team that will “define how developers, media producers, and businesses create, deploy, manage, and monetize one of the largest online networks on the planet.”
(The job posting also had some interesting usage stats about MSN and Virtual Earth: “over 600 internally developed sites serving 284M unique users/month and 15.5B pageviews/month. Those sites consume hundreds of applications/services, run over 400,000 feed ingestion jobs each day, and are served globally to 44 markets via 6 datacenters. Virtual Earth powers over 3000 enterprise customers and the Live Maps, Local Search, and 3D products.”)
Another want ad for a software development engineer outlined “a brand new MSN website focusing on local people, activities, and businesses. … By combining the best of local content destinations (like City Guides and Weather) with the power of local search, we are embarking on a cutting-edge project to revolutionize the way people consume local content.”
The company’s Live Labs is also hiring, including the Seadragon team that helped bring Photosynth to market.
The Entertainment and Devices Division — which was rumored to have been hit hard by the layoffs — has posted at least 11 openings in Washington since last Thursday. Microsoft Game Studios is looking for a lead designer to “help develop a new experience in the Halo universe.” The division has also posted at least four openings for user experience or interaction designers, including one to work in the company’s Pioneer Studios in downtown Seattle’s Pioneer Square.
Advertising is also a major acquirer of new talent, judging by the listings I reviewed, with a mobile advertising group in particular looking for marketers. One of these postings lays out the opportunity for the company in the mobile advertising space: “Due to the infancy of the mobile advertising market, Microsoft has to provide advertisers with end to end marketing solutions, including landing pages, creative approach, new ideas and recommendations.”