Lessons From Interviewing

After taking a little time off between jobs, I recently got back into job searching. I hadn’t looked for a job in 8 years, so I had a lot to learn about finding a job in the 2010’s. I just wanted to share some observations and lessons learned in my process.

1) One mistake I made job searching was not checking my contacts for people that already worked at companies I was applying to. After interviewing at one place, a LinkedIn search revealed that the leader of my local SQL Server User’s group worked at the same place. Luckily, I ended up getting that job, but knowing someone already established there may have helped my effort.
2) Job boards and forum postings didn’t get me anywhere. The only things that got me interviews were personal referrals and recruiters. The job I landed I found out about from a recruiter that approached me on LinkedIn. I didn’t try applying for jobs through LinkedIn, but recruiters definitely find you on there.
3) I went out in the Winter and updated my Microsoft SQL Server certification, which I was really proud of attaining. However, no one I applied to or interviewed with even mentioned the fact that I had a MCSE. Of course, it could have helped me to get an interview without me knowing, but it seems like it would have been mentioned.
4) But the one thing that every single company I approached mentioned was my blog.
5) I was really concerned about the technical interviews. I made sure to study up for those, finding blog posts with interview questions and answers. Here are some resources I used:
Brent Ozar
SQL Server Central Interview Questions
SQL Server Central SQL Developer Questions and Answers
Scary DBA

I also checked out a video by Kendra Little on the Brent Ozar site:
DBA Job Interview Question Answer Kit. I found it helpful, although the $30 fee is a little steep for 90 minutes of content.
John Sonmez also has a video on Pluralsight:
Developer Job Interviews
This is a general video for developers, although there is plenty of good advice here. It includes a brush up on some computer science basics for interview questions, as well as other tips.

I also put together some cram sheets to help refresh my memory before an interview, one on Database and BI, and another on developer and .Net facts.

6) So while it was good to refresh my memory on database and development facts, those didn’t come into play much in the actual interviews. When I was asked questions in phone screens, they tended to not dig too deeply. For example:
a. What is the difference between a clustered and a non-clustered index / How many clustered indexes are allowed on a table?
b. What is a CTE? (This was a popular question)
c. What is the difference between an inner and an outer join?
For the company that ended up hiring me, they gave me a schema with two tables and some sample data and asked me to write certain queries against that schema. This was sent to me via email, I returned the SQL queries, and then a lot of the phone screen was going over the queries, discussing the choices I made and how things could be improved. This seemed like a much better way of screening, to have the interviewee perform tasks they would actually be doing as part of the job.

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One Response to Lessons From Interviewing

  1. […] a Previous Post ‘Lessons From Interviewing’ I listed a few interview questions that I had been asked in phone screens. I’ve gone back and […]

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