T-SQL Tuesday #008: Tips for Giving a Good Interview for the New DBA
Welcome to another exciting episode of T-SQL Tuesday. I’m Robert L Davis (blog|@SQLSoldier), and I’m not just your host for T-SQL Tuesday this month, I’m also a client .. err, I mean I’m also a participant. Thanks to Adam Machanic (blog|@AdamMachanic) for giving me this opportunity to host!! Our topic for this month is Gettin’ Schooled. This month’s topic is all about learning and teaching. This morning I had an opportunity to help someone learn, and I’m going to write about that opportunity.
Last week I wrote a series about Certification for SQL University that would have been ideal for today’s topic. Alas, that was last week, and T-SQL Tuesday is always on the 2nd Tuesday of the month (this week). I had decided to not to include a post of my own for this topic simply due to time constraints, but someone asked me via Twitter for tips on how to do a good interview for your first interview for a technical job (Jr. DBA position in this case). After sending an email with some tips, I thought it would fit in perfect with this month’s topic, so I’m including a post after all.
My Tips Sent Via Email
Here are a few tips that should help you out, I think. I’ve always thought of myself as a good interviewee and have been on the other side of the interview table many times as well. Good luck!!
- Be calm. The worst that could happen is that you don’t get the job. So the worst case scenario is you walk out exactly the same way you walk in. They can’t take anything away from you, they can only give stuff to you. It’s win or break even. So there is no reason to be nervous.
- Always look at them when they are talking to you. Never shuffle through your papers or notes unless they ask you for something that you need to find. Don’t read the funny posters on the wall, meeting notes on the whiteboard from an earlier meeting, or look at the pictures on the wall.
- Give short, complete answers. If they ask questions, they want complete answers, but they want it short too. For example, if they ask if you have a college degree, good answers would be, “Yes, I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from MIT,” or “No, I have not completed my degree yet.” Bad answers would be to tell them what fraternity you were in or what sports you competed in or to tell them how your father came down sick and you had to drop out to go back and help with the farm. If they truly want to know about that stuff, they will ask a follow up question.
- Be honest about what you know. If you don’t know the answer, don’t try to guess at it unless they specifically say to take a guess. If you guess wrong, you will lose credibility and the interviewer may think you were simply guessing correctly for the answers you got right. For example, if they ask a question about how to troubleshoot an issue, and you know there is a DMV that you can check but you don’t remember the name, say so. Say that you know that there is relevant information in a DMV and that you don’t remember the name of the DMV but can find it in Books Online.
- If you don’t know the answer to a technical question, don’t just say that you don’t know. Try to include comments on how you would try to find out the answer. In my opinion, knowing how to find answers is just as important as already knowing the answer. If I feel I have a good rapport with the interviewer, I may throw in a joke, something like, “If you loan me a copy of Books Online, I can tell you.”
- If there are common DBA tasks that you only know how to do using the GUI, look up the commands in Books Online so you have a basic understanding of how to do it with T-SQL. You don’t need to memorize the full syntax, but you should at the very least know the base commands such as BACKUP DATABASE <DB NAME> TO DISK, RESTORE DATABASE <DB NAME> FROM DISK, etc.
- If there were answers you didn’t know, make a mental note of the questions. After the interview, find out the answers in case there is a 2nd interview. You will look really good if you didn’t know the answer the first time and you did the 2nd time. In these cases, if I’m in the 2nd interview, I like to ask at least one of the questions that the person didn’t know the first time to see if they are the type of person who is fine with not knowing the answer or if they are the type that when faced with something that they don’t know is motivated to find it out.
- Take multiple printed copies of your resume with you. And stapled into separate groups if more than 1 page. It would be best to have these in some sort of binder. If there are multiple interviewers, it’s almost guaranteed that at least 1 of them got pulled in to the interview at the last minute and doesn’t have a copy of it. They will usually make a comment about not having a copy or will try to look over at someone else’s copy. Simply pull one out and slide it over to them without saying anything. They will appreciate it and you will look prepared and professional.
- Think up at least 2 questions you can ask them if/when they give you the opportunity to do so. Questions I like to keep in mind just in case nothing else comes to mind during the interview are: “What is the company’s policy on paying for training for employees?” or “What would a typical day be like?” or “Are there good opportunities for upward mobility within the company?” This lets them know that you are looking for a career and not just job for today. Be sure not to ask any question that they already answered. For example, if they tell you about their training benefits, don’t ask the question about training.