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Matt Whitfield avatar image
Matt Whitfield asked

Interview preparation

Ok, so I'm preparing for an interview. I am looking at the moment at just brushing up on basic knowledge, specifically around the core SQL engine area. I don't want to say that I have huge experience with SS(A/R/I)S, because I don't - and I don't think that pretending to have that experience would be either intelligent, sensible or moral. But, what I could do with is to find some good resources whereby I could brush up on my core SQL knowledge. I have, of course, searched already, and found a lot - but usually when I ask these questions you guys come up trumps and let me know about something that I hadn't found before... so... * What resources do you use when you want to revisit the basics and just refresh the knowledge that's lurking there? Incidentally, I did find one site called sqlquiz.com which looked like a bit of fun. Then I got to question one: >Which of the following is true? > >* TRUNCATE TABLE has to be used along with a WHERE clause >* TRUNCATE TABLE deletes table from a database >* TRUNCATE TABLE is identical to DELETE statement without WHERE clause and both remove all rows in a table. Hmm, that would be 'none of the above' then. :)
t-sqlinterview-questionsengine
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To be more serious for a moment (why?) I have had a job-interview-drinking-session before. Very odd. The agent said "meet your prospective boss in the bar at the Huddersfield Hilton at date/time". Two hours of general nattering later, offer was made. The guys I met just after I started expressed disappointment with the interview process - the interviewer neglected to ask about my curry & beer preferences!
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From what I know, Leeds has the nicest people I ever met. Few years ago while on vacation in Mexico I met a family from Leeds. Our sons became friends. In summer 2009 my son went out to Europe with 2 of his friends to celebrate their graduation from high school. At some point, one of the friends had to leave the group for few days to visit his relatives in Aberdeen, and my son contacted his friend from Leeds since they were already in UK. His friend insisted that they come over to Leeds and stay in his home and would not take no for an answer. He just told his dad who is a retired criminal detective (they retire early) that "his friends are coming to stay and he needs to pick them up at the bus station". My son told me later that they received a very warm welcome and had a really good time, specifically considering the real English breakfasts, and that his friend's dad took them out to the bar on quite a few occasions (they were already 18, so it is old enough to have some beer). I was really humbled and did not know how to thank them enough for their hospitality.
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If your willing to work in Leeds, then im sure the interview I would give will be more of a drinking nature...
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@JonLee - feel free to send details to me but I have to move 2 kids, a wife and 7 horses ... will have to be some package!
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Tim avatar image
Tim answered
The last interview I went on was as much about interpersonal skills as well as knowledge of SQL. My ability to work with difficult people, building business cases, holding my ground on a particular decision, forwarding thinking, analyzing return on investment, etc. I was asked many SQL related questions to prove I knew my trade, but then the interview changed courses to cover projects I had worked on in the past, challenges I faced and how I over came them, etc. Sean McCown of midnightdba's has several blogs about interviews he has done.
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That's encouraging. I know I can hold my own in terms of communication skills - definitely not a problem. But for instance last week I had a phone interview where I was asked to define ACID after being told 'nobody gets this right'. I did get it right, but I just thought 'this is getting towards the dusty end of my knowledge' - so I thought I would do a bit of revision :) Thanks
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ACID? Strewth, that's definitely a bit on the rusty side. I've not needed to know that since the last time I sat a DB theory exam!
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Yea - I hate those kind of interviews where the interviewer is trying to prove that they know more than anyone, and ask the most irrelevant, obscure and non-practical questions. Sure ACID is something you may have known about, but in doing your day-to-day tasks as a db admin/developer, does it really matter. One word - Google. What's the full syntax for CREATE DATABASE - no idea - I use a template. What command line switch is used by bcp to ignore left-handed squirrels, no idea - BOL!
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AMEN to that @KevRiley. Interviews that go down that path are horrible. Ask me enough relevant questions to my day to day job, leave the irrelevant or seldom used stuff out. If I have internet I can figure just about anything else out. What is scary is I have asked questions in interviews that should be pretty simple to answer, such as name three system databases, or what are the recovery models. You would be surprised how many DBA's couldn't answer those most simple questions. At that point we pretty much ended the interview. Typically I would let the person tell me about their day to day activities. If they mentioned database tuning, then I would have them explain how they tune a database. I would be looking to hear things about DMV's, execution plans, indexes, wait stats, etc. You get the idea.
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As someone who has been on both sides of the interview tables multiple times, I have frequently given and accepted "I would look that up" or as a valid answer to the esotoric stuff. With that said, I have more than once done technical interviews for people that claimed to be Senior DBAs that had no clue how to do even the basic. In one that sticks out still in my mind, I continued asking questions of the candidate and found out that most of his job was taking and restoring backups and running scripts written by his predecessor.
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Kev Riley avatar image
Kev Riley answered
Stanek's Pocket Consultant (for example [SQL 2008][1]) books have always been at my side when brushing up for an interview. They seem to cover just enough of a lot of areas without getting too in-depth. [1]: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Microsoft-Server-Administrator-27s-Consultant-Administrators/dp/073562738X/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_7
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i have heard about that book before - must take a look at it.
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I will bear that one in mind. Not sure I have time to get it though. Last minute preparation ftmfl. :/
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Alas, I've lent my SQL2000 one to a friend who needs that sort of help. Not got round to buying more recent editions, but I do recall it being very helpful.
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WilliamD avatar image
WilliamD answered
Matt - have you tried [this place][1] - the guy is a little quirky, but seems to know what he is talking about! Seriously though, have you tried the [question of the day from SSC][2]? They are not always brilliant, but can still surprise you from time to time. Otherwise, you know what you are talking about, as far as I can see. If the interviewer knows much, they can check out your qualities through your blog, company/products (atlantis that is) and your rep on here. I would be surprised to see you totally stumped, or a company expecting you to spew out passages from BOL at a moments notice (you'd be better off not there anyway IMO). Online refences are there for a purpose! Oh yeah... good luck at the interview. If you change your mind about Germany, give me a call - we need good people and are always on the lookout! [1]: http://www.atlantis-interactive.co.uk/blog/default.aspx [2]: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/Questions
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Thanks - kind words! :)
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Yes, I think "I am Matt Whitfield" might just constitute a valid answer to basic SQL questions in a technical interview... I agree with the question of the day though. It does provide a good way to stay grounded. I would also say reviewing and answering questions here provides good practice, but I suspect you already do enough of that.
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Grant Fritchey avatar image
Grant Fritchey answered
I don't review anything before an interview. Either I know enough or I don't. I generally just research the position and the company that I'm going for. If I were to study before-hand, I suspect it'd be in Itzik's book. I can't keep TSQL syntax, especially the funkier stuff, in my head to save my life.
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Glad to know I am not the only one that isn't a walking BOL.
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I'm sure not. You want to see preparation, let's talk about what I go through before I present.
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Thank you sir :)
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I adore Itzik's books, but at least the ones I have read are much more about getting into the esoterics than providing a refresher our grounding in the basics.
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ThomasRushton avatar image
ThomasRushton answered
I don't "mug up" on SQL-related odds and ends, unless I know that they have a particular requirement for something odd that I've not used for a while. And if that's the case, I explain at the interview that, yes, I have used this before, but not since I used it for X (company / project outline, what I did etc.). I maintain that if you can talk competently about your experiences, that you can answer their not-so-complex technical questions without blathering, and that you can get on with the rest of the team, that's more important than being able to remember the really obscure stuff that most normal people would have to look up. I also reckon that any interviewer should be preparing by googling your name - does a google on your name bring up this site and anywhere else where you help out the community? I feel slightly smug in that I've got a 100% success rate for interviews in the last 12 months - 4 out of 4 companies I have interviewed for have offered me the role. Now, if only I could improve the success rate for getting through to interview... :-/
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@WilliamD - ah, using the online alias gets this as the top hit for me - that's me sitting in the front - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characters_of_Father_Ted
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@WilliamD - yes apart from the crazy hair, drink issues, foul language and offensive personality we are nothing alike ;)
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@Fatherjack - excellent! haven't seen Father Ted in ages. Love your haircut and concentrated stare :)
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I found a long time ago that Timothy Wiseman is a distressingly common name. I do show up on the first page of a google search for that name, but so does an attorney and several other people that I have never heard of before. It was even worse in the Army, since there was an LTC Timothy Wiseman at the same time I was an LT.
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Hmm. Just tried "ego-surfing", and found that I'm not following my own advice here either. I used to get 3 out of the top 5 hits on google for my name - not any more! Oops.
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DaniSQL avatar image
DaniSQL answered
Matt, If I was a DBA of your caliber I would definitely refuse to get interviewed by anyone. Just give them reference to your work and to your well established friends in the community and chat a little over tea. What should happen is the reverse. Interview them and find out if it is the best place for you to work :-) Best of Luck anyways!!
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I dunno though. refusing an interview is a bit OTT. Don't forget, it is not just smarts that get you a job, you have to fit in too.
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I didn't take @DaniSQL's comment as literal as others here have. I am hoping that DaniSQL didn't intend that Matt should refuse to interview and tell a perspective employer to research his credentials and make him a blind offer. I took it more to imply that Matt is so qualified that he should be more focused on interviewing who he would like to work for, that someone as intelligent and skillful as Matt could get an offer from just about anyone and have his pick of which company and team he chose to work for. If this was implied as Matt literally should refuse to get interviewed then I disagree and stand with @WilliamD and @Fatherjack. To refuse to interview would be quite egotistical and arrogant.
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@TRAD: dont take it literally.....your first take was my point
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There has to be a way to at least +2 the answers like this.
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There is, I will add one.
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