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Interview question :critical issue faced by dba


Interview question :critical issue faced by dba

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Grant Fritchey
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No offense at all. I just wanted to be clear. I did assume that you didn't mean to literally make stuff up.

As to interviewing, it's subjective. There just isn't a "this guy passes this test, we'll hire him" kind of approach to it. I actually don't care about your literal SQL knowledge when hiring, depending on what we're hiring for. But I do want to know if you're going to fit with the team. I do want to know how you deal with adversity, how you learn, what your plans & goals around expanding your knowledge are. That stuff is the most important. We can teach SQL Server to the right person. But you can't always teach teamwork, self-motivation and the rest.

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Grant Fritchey (7/3/2014)
...what we did wrong, what we did right, what was changed in the process. Maybe you needed more drill down along those lines.


It is a good idea to include the good and bad in those kinds of stories. While doing that, try to remember not to disrespect the place where the story took place.

A lot of the point to relaying a story where a problem occurred and you fixed it is to see a) how you fixed it, b) your attitude (are you arrogant about it), c) what you learned, and d) how did the "team" work together to resolve it.

That last one is a bit catchy. There may have been only one person, but the perspective employer may be an over the top team oriented shop (think agile).



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SQLRNNR (7/3/2014)

A lot of the point to relaying a story where a problem occurred and you fixed it is to see a) how you fixed it, b) your attitude (are you arrogant about it), c) what you learned, and d) how did the "team" work together to resolve it.

That last one is a bit catchy. There may have been only one person, but the perspective employer may be an over the top team oriented shop (think agile).

The opposite situation can also be tricky, i.e. where you work as a team and not as a one-person band. I attended one interview where the interviewer stopped me and asked me why I kept starting answers with 'we'. In my experience when things go wrong and you are part of a DBA team, the team works to resolve the issue rather than leaving it all to one person. Mind you, at that same interview, the interviewer bristled when I suggested that the liberal use of NOLOCK in an OLTP database was not necessarily a good idea. Think I touched a nerve....luckily I didn't get the job! ;-)

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Grant Fritchey
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Lempster (7/3/2014)
SQLRNNR (7/3/2014)

A lot of the point to relaying a story where a problem occurred and you fixed it is to see a) how you fixed it, b) your attitude (are you arrogant about it), c) what you learned, and d) how did the "team" work together to resolve it.

That last one is a bit catchy. There may have been only one person, but the perspective employer may be an over the top team oriented shop (think agile).

The opposite situation can also be tricky, i.e. where you work as a team and not as a one-person band. I attended one interview where the interviewer stopped me and asked me why I kept starting answers with 'we'. In my experience when things go wrong and you are part of a DBA team, the team works to resolve the issue rather than leaving it all to one person. Mind you, at that same interview, the interviewer bristled when I suggested that the liberal use of NOLOCK in an OLTP database was not necessarily a good idea. Think I touched a nerve....luckily I didn't get the job! ;-)

Regards
Lempster


Yeah, I've almost always been part of a team and I've had to explain that in interviews. But, that's fine too. It shows you can do teamwork and then when you explain your individual contributions to the team, you look even better. Plus understanding what others do, recognizing that you can take advantage of the strengths of others, etc. I've never found it to be a bad thing to say "we" a lot. At least not so far.

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Author of: SQL Server Query Performance Tuning and SQL Server Execution Plans
Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software
Lynn Pettis
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I was asked a similar question in an interview. The problem I used was a time out issue on our Finance system after upgrading from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005. I showed what I had done to try and solve the problem but also tried to show how I worked with the application team to solve the problem and how the problem was finally solved. The solution was to index a table that had no index. Identifying the index became a team effort as the SQL tools alone didn't find it.

Showed the interviewer my process from a SQL Server side, and that I was team player working with the app team as well to finally solve the problem.

From what you said, I am impressed.

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vsamantha35 (7/3/2014)
Hi Experts,

I need some guidance on this.

Recently I have attended a job interview for sql server database administration and was asked to speak about one of the critical issue you have faced as a dba. I have explained of one of the issue I had faced in my environment. I spoke of database was suspect and I was able to recover from backups and I have explained the root cause of the issue stating that it was disk issue which caused the problem and told that we replaced the disk and we are able to restore the tlog backups + taillog backup and I was able to bring the database online.

I don't know why the interviewer wasn't impressed with the answer.

I want to know from exceptional dba's, normally when they ask such questions, what kind of answers or scenarios are they looking for ?

Appreciate your inputs.




I agree with what much of the folks have said on this thread. I'll add that it may have been a good indication that you probably didn't want to work at such a place after all. Interviewers who aren't impressed with something but don't ask followup questions during the interview to find out more tend to be idea-checkvalves not interested in the ways other people do things. At the very least, they should have asked more about what "we" meant and what your actual participation was.

For this particular problem, the interviewer was probably looking for a more esoteric answer about how the system automatically switched over to the clustered mirror, etc, yadda-yadda, and couldn't make himself understand that not everyone has such things and that you did a great job of recovering the database.

As for getting feedback from such an interview, forget about it and don't let it bug you. In most cases, it's just not going to happen unless you and the interviewer have a prior agreement that such post-interview dialog will occur. Just send them a card saying thanks for the time they spent on the interview and setup for the next interview... at a different company. ;-)

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Being honest...I read the initial post and thought....ho hum...had a database problem and restored from the backup. Okay....that's good to know, but the interviewer said CRITICAL.

Restoring from a backup is something some places do daily. We are constantly restoring databases from prod to qa or dev (or qa to dev), or to our training server.

Now, were you on a time limit? Had you done some other checks to see if you could recover the suspect database without using a backup?

So, I can see the interviewer not being fully impressed. Now, if you had drives crash and need to be replaced, then reload SQL Server and recover your databases on a production server AND do it all in 4 hours. That might be impressive.

If you had trouble with a database server and your "pointy haired boss" told you he was an expert on clusters...and before you could stop him he deleted the Q drive (quorum drive with all the cluster stuff). Then you, with sysadmins, rebuilt the entire cluster and all databases in 3 days...that might be impressive.

But most DBAs can restore a database from backup in their sleep.

Bottom line...you told the interviewer something that was critical to you, but you didn't show what was critical about doing a basic database restore.

-SQLBill



Lynn Pettis
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I don't know, looks like there was a drive failure on a production database, needed to replace a drive, restore the database to a point in time, using a tail log backup that they were able to take on failed database. Only thing that was missing from the narrative was how long they had to get the database back up and operational with minimal loss of data.

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I hate questions like that. Anyone that has interviewed for more than a couple of times can easily make something "glorious" up and get away with the lie because there's no way for the interviewer to verify a plausible but totally fictional story.

The other problem with such a question is that if you really are a good DBA, then you should not have had any "critical" problems to begin with. ;-)

Shifting gears a bit... Considering how many people beg for urgent help on this and other forums because someone dropped a table and they don't have any backups, I'd have to say that the number of "DBAs" that have never done a restore (or backup, for that matter) far outweighs those that have.

--Jeff Moden

RBAR is pronounced ree-bar and is a Modenism for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column.
If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. -- Red Adair

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Grant Fritchey
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Jeff Moden (7/7/2014)
I hate questions like that. Anyone that has interviewed for more than a couple of times can easily make something "glorious" up and get away with the lie because there's no way for the interviewer to verify a plausible but totally fictional story.


I don't completely agree. I like to ask open-ended questions. I want to see people think through things in front of me and then explain to me what they're thinking through. Now, I don't think this question is sufficiently open-ended, but it's moving in the right direction.


The other problem with such a question is that if you really are a good DBA, then you should not have had any "critical" problems to begin with. ;-)


Then I suck.


Shifting gears a bit... Considering how many people beg for urgent help on this and other forums because someone dropped a table and they don't have any backups, I'd have to say that the number of "DBAs" that have never done a restore (or backup, for that matter) far outweighs those that have.


DING DING DING! We have a winner on the internet today. Absolutely. I think it's a horror that there are so many databases out there with zero ability to recover from the slightest problem, let alone something catastrophic.

----------------------------------------------------
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
Theodore Roosevelt

The Scary DBA
Author of: SQL Server Query Performance Tuning and SQL Server Execution Plans
Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software
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