MVP Series: Top 5 Interview Questions for a SQL Server DBA

For the next couple months we are thrilled to have special guest authors from the Canadian MVP Award Program contributing posts around their favourite tips, tricks & features of SQL 2014.  For the next few weeks, we will be posting a different article from one of our Canadian SQL Server MVPs each week.  We hope you enjoy them, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks to Richard Baumet for this week's article!

Being in the industry for almost 14 years now I have had to opportunity to interview quite a few applicants for the DBA position. Usually when you see the piece of paper all you can extract is grammar, education, and experience.   So may be embellished and some may be out right off the mark and usually it is in the interview that we try to see if they actually do know their stuff or are not who they say they are.  Now for those applying all I can say is this, tell the truth but be confident, if you don’t know then you do not know but tell me how you would figure it out.  Back to be an interviewer, my range of questions will be on the content of the resume and those that match the position and the duties expected, after all with every organization the definition of a DBA can be different.  After that I usually have a list of questions where there can be different answers to it and how you answer it will tell my how well you know the product.

 1.       What is your favorite, or most excited about, feature in either the most current version of SQL Server or the latest?

This is without a doubt my favorite question because it will tell me a lot about an applicant.  Do they keep up with what is out there or what is coming or are they still stuck in a SQL Server 2000 world.   It is also an opportunity for the applicant to show me some passion in what they do, a passionate people who like what they do excel at their jobs no matter the experience level.  It also shows be a behavior of keeping up to date and well informed, and perhaps leads to a discussion as to how to use it in a situation to solve a problem.  This leads into my next question if we have not already discussed it.

 2.       How do you keep yourself up-to-date with the face-paced world of technology and in particular SQL Server?

This goes hand in hand with the first question but here we are looking for ways that they connect with information that is out there.  Who are their heroes, who do they list to for advice?  What is a trusted source on information?  Are they involved in the user group?   Normally when I hire I’m looking for someone that looks as this as a career path, not a job, so I want to make sure that person is investing in themselves for their career before I invest in them.

3. Situational:  User emails to complain that their query is running really slow, and if you can check the SQL Server for a problem.  You check and CPU and RAM seem ok, what are some of the next steps you would do to solve the problem.

This open ended situation allows for me to get insight at what level of troubleshooting skills they have.   Are they the only one running this query that has the issue?  Is there any blocking?  Perhaps and Wait stats associated?  Ask for a copy of the query, etc.   It can go many ways because of the lack of information which will give insight of how well they are at digging for more and how well they know the product itself.

 4.       You have 3 servers in Vancouver, 2 in Toronto and no servers in Hong Kong.  Vancouver is the primary site, Toronto is a DR site and Hong Kong is a site that needs data for reporting.  We have licensing for SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition what are some of the High Availability and Disaster Recovery solutions that can be done with the existing infrastructure and what would you like to add to that infrastructure so that users have a better experience with the data?

This question finds out how much they know about infrastructure and the technology that uses it and the limitations it has but also what the latest version of SQL Server has to offer to overcome a lot of those obstacles.  Part of the job will be planning for the future and working with other teams to scale up or out and know what can be done could save a lot of time and money on implementation.  They applicant may have more question than answers which is fine

5.       What do you like most about being a DBA?

Need an open ended question that can be answered many ways but gives insight into what they think a DBA should be and why the like doing the role.   This can also be insight into personality traits such as control or helpful, or maybe a little of both.

I’m sure that these questions will give better insight into a valuable employee rather than someone just reciting the book, that’s what certification is for!

Richard Baumet has been a SQL Server DBA since 2001 for companies like Phillips, Hager & North Investment Management Ltd, and  RBC Global Asset Management Ltd. His roles have allowed him to become an expert in SQL Server Infrastructure dealing with High Availability, Scalability, and Disaster Recovery solutions.  Richard currently resides in Vancouver and he is the co-founder of the Vancouver PASS Chapter. 


Comments (1)
  1. sholak says:

    SQL server interview questions

    You can get real interview sql server questions on forums which help me lot in clearing interviews. refer site
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