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Survive A SQL Server DBA Technical Interview


Survive A SQL Server DBA Technical Interview

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Simon Facer
Simon Facer
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We are interviewing for a senior level DBA right now, and (same as other comments) its amazing how many people can write up a storm on their resume / cv, or provide loads of anecdotal tales, yet still cant answer technical questions.

There's one thing for me that will almost always cut the interview short though - not showing respect for the interview. Dont talk down to the interviewer, you may be (in your opinion) a DBG (Database God), but if you cant be bothered to explain yourself to me, I get to cut the interview short and say "Thanks, but no thanks"; and, please, dress appropriately, if you cant even be bothered to put on a pair of trousers / pants and a nice shirt dont be bothered to show up either.



jeffrey yao
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Phil, I think your comment is very valuable here. Yes, I totally agree that a data warehouse DBA should have some different perspective / knowledge in terms of managing VLDBs, plus knowledge about ETL, reporting service, data modelling and ....





Phil Morris (10/12/2007)
There is another type of DBA which may or may not fit within the definition of 'Hybrid' DBA, but stands apart from the first two in terms of the requirements.







The 'Data Warehouse' DBA is required to not only forget or re-learn some of the basic principles of the other types, but also to learn quite a few new ones; for example how to deal with very large data volumes, advanced optimisation, partitioning for performance etc.







I often find the more 'traditional' DBA will not recognise these differences, and some will even argue about techniques etc. becasue they go against their established knowledge - however as Business Intelligence systems become a norm in the modern enterprise, DBA's are be called on more and more often to manage and improve on such databases.







It is worth finding out if you're about to attend an interview if the company has a data warehouse, or intends to build/buy one, as the job role may expand to include the need to fulfill this role.




Robert Davis
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Loner (10/12/2007)
Does all DBA jobs have technical interview? My previous company just had the manager interviewed the DBA and the manager was not technical.




No, but they should. If you were interviewing someone to fill a nursing position, you'd ask medical questions, wouldn't you?



I was helping to interview someone to cover a weekend support position, and we simply needed someone with enough SQL knowledge that if a job stopped (such as replication) he could restart it. Anything more than that, his job was to call someone else.



So here was the question I asked the 3 people that interviewed for the position: "If you're the only one around and a web developer is working on the weekend, and he asks you to give him permissions to run SQL Profiler in production so that he can trap an error hitting the live website, what is your response?"



The answer I liked best was by the first interviewer, "I don't know what SQL Profiler does or what impact it would have on production, so no, I won't. You'll need to talk to the dba about that when he's here."


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Loner
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Not just the Data Warehouse DBA, even ETL developer, data warehouse developer is totally different from traditional DBA and developer.
Phil Morris-454316
Phil Morris-454316
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Loner (10/12/2007)
Not just the Data Warehouse DBA, even ETL developer, data warehouse developer is totally different from traditional DBA and developer.


Yes I'd agree - however development in Business Intelligence projects (DWH, BI, ETL etc.) benefits hugely from iterative approaches and RAD style techniques that are preety much proven in 'traditional' development technologies. There are different challenges to adopting these techniques and it's a work in progress with many practitioners (our company being one of them) as to how to adopt iterative and agile approaches.

(apology for going off-topic and thread hi-jacking!) Wink
GilaMonster
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In my company, the first interview is technical. After that there's a technical test, then the HR-type interview.

Seems to work quite well. So few people get through the first interview.

I will strongly agree on two points made here - back up your claims and don't look down on the interviewer.

We had one guy, claimed to be a SQL expert, lots of experience in optimisation (which is what we were looking for). When he came to the technical interview, he was highly arrogant. Once we started the questioning it got worse.

He couldn't describe the differences between a clustered and nonclustered index. Didn't know profiler. Couldn't describe to me how to get an execution plan, let alone read one. Went off on long tangents describing some system he'd written (in ASP) some years back

Most of his answers were a couple seconds of mumbling followed by "well, you know."

We didn't invite him back.

Gail Shaw
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Clive Strong
Clive Strong
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One of the simplest bits of advice I could give to anyone going for an interview.

If you don't know the answer to a question, tell the interviewer. There is little point in trying to answer somethnig with a load of ramblings if you don't know the answer. I only started my job a few months back but there were silly questions which I could not answer during the interview - ones which I knew but stuttered on.

The key was that I didn't make myself look foolish with a silly answer and that the rest of my technical knowledge came through during the interview process.

The interviewer will respect the fact that interviews can be a nervy place to be and also they know you don't know every single detail about SQL Server.

Just because you don't answer 1 or 2 questions doesn't mean you won't get the job. Demonstrating a sound alround knowledge and a willingness to improve in every area of the job (including the ones you know very well) will get you looked upon favourably.
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