Questions to ask During a DBA Job Interview

Today’s blog entry is for DBAs. The questions here apply to any DBA job, regardless of whether the DBMS to be managed is DB2 or Oracle or SQL Server or any other DBMS.

As a DBA, it is almost inevitable that you will change jobs several times during your career. When making a job change, you will obviously consider requirements such as salary, bonus, benefits, frequency of reviews, and amount of vacation time. However, you also should consider how the company treats their DBAs. Different organizations place different value on the DBA job. It is imperative to your career development that you scout for progressive organizations that understand the complexity and ongoing learning requirements for the position. Here are some useful questions to ask:

Does the company offer regular training for its DBAs to learn new DBMS features and functionality?

As a DBA you need to be well-versed on the latest and greatest features of the DBMSs you manage. And, on average, there will be a new version to contend with every 18 to 24 months. It is possible to learn the basics by reading the WHAT’S NEW manual and skimming through the voluminous, additional manuals, but some formal training is warranted to get the most out of any new version of any DBMS.

What about training for related technologies such as programming, networking, e-business, transaction management, message queueing, and the like? How about for nascent technologies that can impact the DBA’s job (such as cloud computing)?

DBAs are also called upon to administer more than just databases these days. A top notch employer will allow its DBAs to be trained in new technologies… as well as time for independent learning through reading books and articles.

Does the company allow DBAs to regularly attend local user groups? What about annual user groups at remote locations?

User groups are essential for networking with others who perform the same, or similar, job duties. By attending local user group meetings you can not only get inexpensive training through watching the presentations, but you can also learn exchange ideas with your peers.

Are there backup DBAs, or will you be the only one on call 24/7?

Nobody wants to be the only DBA on call, every night, all the time, on weekends, holidays, etc. And if there is no backup what happens if you take a vacation? Is it really a vacation if you have to carry a company cell phone everywhere you go?

Are there data administration and system administration organizations, or are the DBAs expected to perform all of these duties, too?

DBA is a full-time job but some organizations expect the DBA staff to handle data administration and system administration duties, too. Depending on the volume of work this might not be a deal breaker, but be cautious.

Does the DBA group view its relationship with application development groups as a partnership? Or is the relationship more antagonistic?

A partnership is essential in order to produce optimally performing database applications. And if you do not have applications that perform well, then the DBA job will be burdensome.

Are DBAs included in design reviews, budgeting discussions, and other high-level IT committees and functions?

The more involved the DBA team is in the overall IT strategy the better prepared the company’s databases will be to support the required work… and the easier your job will be as a DBA.

The more YES answers you get to these questions, the more progressive the DBA environment is. Be sure to ask these questions during your interview. It will show that you have experience and that you care about your career.

Be sure to research the answers later, too. Ask around about the company to those who used to work there and anyone you know (remember those user groups) that currently works there. Sometimes the answers given by the workers will not exactly match those given by the interviewer.

Keep in mind, too, that these are not the ONLY questions you need to ask.

And good luck with you DBA career!

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About craig@craigsmullins.com

I'm a strategist, researcher, and consultant with nearly three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development.
This entry was posted in DBA. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Questions to ask During a DBA Job Interview

  1. Gabriella says:

    Enjoyed looking through this, very good stuff, thank you.

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