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How to find a SQL Server DBA Job


By:   |   Last Updated: 2011-10-25   |   Comments (13)   |   Related Tips: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | More > Professional Development Job Search

Problem

I am new to the SQL Server platform and want to break into the field.  I have been doing IT work for a while now and I am looking to focus my career on SQL Server.  Do you have any suggestions?  Where should I start?  What should I be prepared for during the interview process?

Solution

Congrats and welcome to the field.  It will probably be a long road, but one of the first decisions that needs to be made is exactly what you want to do.  You could work as a DBA, Developer, BI developer, BI Admin or a combination of some or all of these areas.  As a matter of fact, many people wear multiple hats at any one company.  In addition, people switch focuses during their careers for a variety of reasons so your decision does not need to be cast in stone.  Making the final decision is often difficult at the very beginning of the process, so it might be a better decision for some people to expose yourself to all of the options and then try to make a decision based on what you enjoy.

Learn about the SQL Server Industry

To gain insight into the field and different career paths you could learn in one or more of the following ways:

  • Talk to current SQL Server DBAs, Developers, BI Developers, etc. in your company or in your community to get a feel for the work schedule and daily tasks
    • You might be surprised, your current employer may be looking for SQL Server Professionals which might simplify the overall process
  • Attend community events such as user group meetings, SQL Saturday events, Code Camps or SQL PASS to learn about the different technologies and career aspects
  • Spend sometime at the book store or online researching the position on SQL Server web sites and the technical skills needed
  • Make an investment in formal training on SQL Server technologies from a variety of training providers

Build Your SQL Server Skills

Once you have a sense of your career choice, then begin to broaden and deepen your technical knowledge in preparation for the interview:

Prepare for a SQL Server Interview

When you have your technical skills inline, then get ready for the interview:

  • Prepare the following items:
    • Resume
    • Cover letter
    • References
  • Have a practice interview with someone you know who can provide constructive feedback to help during the actual interview
  • Start to distribute your resume on online and proactively submit your resume to organizations posting positions online, in the news paper, etc.
  • As far as the interview process is concerned, each company has their own process, but be prepared for the following at a minimum:
    • Phone interview
    • Technical interview
    • Managerial interview
    • Peer interview
    • Situational interview
    • Skills test
    • *** NOTE *** - Early in the process, be sure to ask some probing questions to find out about the process, attire, people you will be interviewing with, etc.
  • During the interview process be sure you do the following:
    • Make sure the company is somewhere you would be comfortable working
    • Make sure the work environment is constructive and can help your career grow as you make contributions to the organization
    • Make sure you will be comfortable working with the team and the management in the long term
  • Besides preparing answers for your technical questions, be sure you know your expectations of the following, because they may or may not coincide with the organization:
    • Salary, benefits, holidays, etc.
    • Work schedule
    • On call schedule
    • Training
  • If you are fortunate to get your first break as a SQL Server professional, take it in stride.  It might not be exactly what you want, but it just might be the break you need to start your career.  If not, continue to research companies, talk to people in your network and see what opportunities your current employer can offer you.
Next Steps
  • If you are interested in starting a new career, be sure to get your ducks in a row and keep the long term in mind.  Your first position may not be all that you imagined, but in time it might be exactly what you want.
  • No two career paths are the same for two people, so make sure your path is right for you.  Make sure you are comfortable with the career path and job decisions.


Last Updated: 2011-10-25


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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Since 2002, Jeremy Kadlec has delivered value to the global SQL Server community as an MSSQLTips.com co-founder and Edgewood Solutions SQL Server Consultant.

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Friday, October 23, 2015 - 9:51:46 AM - Eli Sastry Back To Top

im a web designer working from past one year, At present i want change my platform make DBA admin how should i begin and start and to be a DBA admin, Sir make some suggistions


Friday, October 11, 2013 - 7:44:02 PM - OCP Back To Top

To Sarah, I would suggest to consider getting a Windows sysadmin or a database developer job first; the former may be bring you to your goal faster and easier.  Again, why do you want to wear a pager?  :)

Best, dba.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 12:20:06 PM - Randy M Back To Top

To Sarah, I would suggest you concentrate your search on positions that require under 4 years of experience. They're more willing to take a chance on you. Search primarily in large Metro area's and larger companies - if they have a sizable IT staff their already going to have high level people and therefore need some "newbie's" to round out the team. If you haven't setup a server at home with two Instances of SQL, you should now. Then back it up (so you have a "base build")  and begin going through setting up each technology twice - replication, mirroring, SSRS, CMS, SSIS packages, Maintenance Plans etc.

The main idea behind this exercise is to gain exposure to each tech and it's nuances, then you'll be much better prepared to answer questions in interviews - as well as support it. I know it sounds like a long road, but for a determined individual it should only take 2 - 3 weeks of evenings. Next point, if you don't have a profile on Careerbuilder, stop everything and do it now. A number of recruiters I know say Careerbuilder's interface is catered to them, so they prefer it. Be sure to check mark "contracts" in your profile, a significant amount of companies will only do contract to hire. Also, contract jobs are much easier to get (and lose - LOL) so they should be your first target. Hope this helps.


Monday, June 24, 2013 - 12:39:42 PM - LN Back To Top

I been working as a DBA since 1996 and reliazed that most interviewer were so stupid because I have encounter the guys were asking me performance tuning but so focusing on Master DB.  In my opions, Companies should out sources as much as possible because they asking for too much on a person and don't want to pay that much.  I was searching for a job oversea and love to contribute my knowledge and experience than working for domestic companies.  Crazy people in this country....

If they don't give people a chance how the hell they can get experience...


Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 8:43:01 AM - jayron Soares Back To Top

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 7:18:38 AM - Sarah  -

I agree with Sarah, these requirements are completely out of perspective... this will to pot who cannot identify talents

 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 8:46:38 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top

Dominic, Sandra and Uwe,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

They are much appreciated.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec


Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 8:44:49 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top

Sarah,

Have you tried to get any feedback from the companies as to what you should improve?

Have you tried any practice interviews?

Have you tried some offline networking to see if a relationship with someone at the company could help?

HTH

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec


Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 8:38:25 AM - Jeremy Kadlec Back To Top

John B,

Based on my observations, they do help in some circumstances.  In some consulting companies or government contractors, they are beneficial to the company for specific contracts because they are bona fides to the customer.  In other environments they may not help as much, but could be a simple differentiator for you versus another candidate for a position. 

In my opinion, I think if you use a certification as a means to learn rather than just pass a test, I think they can help you learn about SQL Server.

Thank you,
Jeremy Kadlec


Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 12:37:08 PM - Uwe Ricken Back To Top

Hi,

I'm working with SQL Server since 1998 and - as the author described - it's a long road to become a professional dba. From my point of view it's important to certificate your knowledge. In my position as an employer there will be two major points I want to see in the CV...

- what certification
- how many experiences

Basically these two points form my decision to send an invitation to an interview.

If the certiication was not only a stupid "learn by heart" the following interview should not be a problem for the candidate!

Ans - as Sandra has writen - experience is a higher value than any certificates.

Good luck to all "new" dba ;)


Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 9:24:24 AM - Sandra A Mueller Back To Top

First -- Thank you for the splitting the BI field into two distinct areas!  There is an important distinction between areas of focus. 

My two cents on certifications: 

For businesses that are Microsoft Gold Partners -- they need so many MCITPs on staff.  So having that certification might tip the favor in your direction over an equally qualified candidate.  For you -- the certifications help you validate that you know what is expected.  Preparing for exams can round your skill set, filling in some gaps you may not have realized existed.  That said, a certification alone isn't going to get you a job.  Experience is still King!  Knowing the product still is key, not just knowing some test questions from practice exams.

Connections help you get jobs too -- being part of the community.  Check out the twitter hash tag #sqlPass!  I know of a young lady out there who after months of trying it alone she plugged into some opportunities and is now a full time DBA in Dallas.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 9:13:33 AM - Dominic Back To Top

I work in Recruitment, specifically in the SQL Server DBA market.

John B: I have found that there is less importance on Microsoft Certifications nowadays. When i first started in Recruitment all you'd hear was "we want an MCSE". This didn't meant that the candidate had hands on technical experience.

I think prospective employers are becoming more savvy. They now look for experience over Certs. Perhaps the Microsoft Certification isn't as valued as what it used to be? This isn't to say that you shouldn't try and gain the certifications as it's another string to your bow.

Sarah: Depends on feedback you've been getting. If the feedback is that there are other candidates with more experience then unfortunately there isn't a huge amount you can do about it (it's a catch 22 situation, you have no experience, but you need a job to get the experience). If the feedback is that the personality fit isn't right, then perhaps it's your interview techniques (this can be worked on, so don't worry!)

I would suggest one of two things. Either keep persevering with interviewing (it will happen for you sooner or later) OR ask companies directly for voluntary work experience. Some companies may need extra resources, but just don't have the budgets at the moment (and with the market being fairly volatile, there's no better time like the present).

As mentioned, I work specifically in the SQL Server DBA market and head up a recruitment team. Keen on hearing from anyone who has any questions or issues about finding a job in the SQL Server DBA arena.

Kind regards

Dominic

[email protected]

 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 7:18:38 AM - Sarah Back To Top

I have been on a lot of interviews, but no luck with getting offers.  I am new in the field, so not exactly sure what else I should be doing to get an offer.  It seems like everyone wants people with lots of experience.  Is that just the way things are now and if so how do you get the experience if you can't get a job.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 7:16:17 AM - John B Back To Top

How important are Microsoft certs?  I have changed careers and have read mixed things about certification programs.  Do you think there is a big benefit to having a SQL Server certification for landing a job?


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