The DBA Interview

Posted: December 24, 2014 in Basic Necessities

It’s Christmas eve so I thought it appropriate to deviate a bit from Oracle stuff.

It’s wonderful to log in and manage the vast world of technology that is known as the Oracle Database. There’s only one catch. It’s not near as fun if you are not getting paid. You need a job. If you are like me, it it much less hassle to work for someone else. I have known some great consultants and DBA entrepreneurs but if this does not describe you, you are going to have to pass a job interview in order to get paid to manage our favorite database system.

The Phone Screen or Recruiter Interview

This can be performed by the staffing agency or recruiter. This function is sometimes done by the hiring manager so it is prudent to be prepared. The recruiter may meet you for coffee but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a social visit. There is a good chance this is an elimination round. Be prepared to talk about your resume and work history. If it is done in person, dress appropriately. Even if you don’t get a good first impression, there is no harm moving on to the technical interview. I have met recruiters that were less than stellar but ended up interviewing for a great company.

If this is your first time meeting the hiring manager, it will likely be a phone screen. I have been hired over the phone several times so always be ready to close the deal!  In my experience, the phone interview is mostly a social interview. The manager is trying to see if you will be a good fit on his or her team. This is where your strategy comes into play. Try to gauge their personality and leadership style. If the manager is extremely excited about this opportunity, get excited! If they have a sense of humor, laugh and smile a lot. If they are serious and business oriented, follow their cues and match their level of seriousness.  Don’t be afraid to ask professional questions about the job description. It will show you have done your homework and are interested in the position.  I am by no means an Oracle expert but I can say that I have never landed a job based on my technical skills. It has been my social skills every single time. You wouldn’t be there if they didn’t believe you already possessed the technical skills to do the job.

Again, be prepared to defend your resume. Don’t oversell your work experience. It won’t work unless you can state an example for every line in your resume. Your social skills are paramount to passing the first round of cuts and moving on to the technical interview.

The Technical Interview

Count on the technical expert to pore over your resume and look to prove you are who you say you are. This person will likely be a technical lead or a Senior DBA of some flavor or another. Fight fire with fire. It is your responsibility to pore over every detail of the job description well before you walk on stage.  Make sure you not only have an answer for every line of your resume but do the same with the job description. You may need to tailor your resume a bit to match the job description.

If there is a line in the job description that does not describe you, don’t add it to your resume. Instead, pull up the Oracle documentation about the subject. If you don’t know the answer, Oracle documentation will. There are also some great blogs out there that can help you. Be prepared. I always walk into every interview with the same attitude. This is my job to win or lose. They really want to hire you. Don’t give them a reason not to.

I have failed the technical interview before and still received an offer. Some technical interviews are designed to trip you up so don’t let them see you sweat. Just answer the best you can and move on to the next question. The interviewer may be trying to assess the level of expertise you have to see where you will fit in. Are you a senior, mid-level, or junior DBA? This will be especially true in a large shop with a team of DBA’s. It’s okay to say, “I have never worked with that technology.” In my current job, I am working with an Exadata RAC system. I have never worked with Exadata before. The interviewer asked me if I had ever worked with Exadata. After I said no, he answered with, “That’s okay. I haven’t interviewed anyone who has.” Had I lied, he may have come back with a round of questions to prove I had the experience.

Follow up

I still believe in thank you notes. You may not have time to use the postal system. They will likely make a hiring decision in the next couple of days. I believe it is acceptable to send a thank you note through email. If you don’t have the hiring manager’s email address, send it to the recruiter, thanking him or her for the opportunity to interview for the position. Politely ask if they would forward the email to the hiring manager. This should be done within an hour or two of the interview.

I am an Oracle DBA, not because of my ingrained talent or vast experience. I am an Oracle DBA because of the people that have helped me get here and because I take the time to work on my people skills. My mother worked herself into senior leadership in an investment firm without a college degree or advanced certifications because she learned people skills and worked extremely hard. The certifications came later and at the company’s expense. Don’t be one of those people who has mad skills and education but can’t land the job because of your reclusive personality. Leave that persona to the software engineers (just kidding).

As always, thanks for reading. Good luck with your interview! Please post your personal experience in interviews. Your words of advice can help all of us…

Merry Christmas!

Take care,

Jason

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