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Interview Coaching for SQL Server Professionals Questions and Answers


By:   |   Last Updated: 2014-08-14   |   Comments (3)   |   Related Tips: More > Professional Development Interviewing

Problem

We hosted a presentation on “Interview Coaching for SQL Server Professionals” on July 29 we received several great questions we didn’t have time to answer, so we wanted to take an opportunity to answer your questions via a tip. Below are all the questions that were submitted, and our answers. If you missed the webcast, you can view it in the archives.

Solution

We’ve categorized the questions we received during our interviewing webcast, and provided our responses below.

Besides a company’s website, where can you go to find information about them?

  • Remember, your knowledge about a company can be a good differentiator for you, especially when you consider that so many candidates fail to “do their homework” about a company prior to an interview. In addition to their website, you can check out their social media platforms, such as their pages on Facebook and/or LinkedIn. This is actually a tactic we’d highly recommend, since companies typically use their social media channels to communicate recent news and awards! If you’re on Twitter, you can certainly follow them and see what they’ve been tweeting about recently. You can read their most recent financial report, and do a Google search to see if anything else comes up. You also have resources like Glassdoor, but that site can sometimes just be a place employees go to vent. However, if you see a trend in concerns (multiple people voicing the same concern), it might be worth addressing during the interview process.

Should you send a thank you note after the interview is complete? Is this a good practice?

  • Absolutely! Sending a follow up thank you, either via email or mail, is 100% a best practice! Also, make sure you do more than just show appreciation for the interviewer’s time in this follow up. Take the time to reiterate your interest in the position. Even better, reference something you learned during the interview when demonstrating your interest. For example, you can include something along the lines of “I was really excited to learn that you’ll be upgrading to SQL Server 2014 and utilizing SQL Server Data Tools. I’ve been doing some training on SQL Server 2014 and I used SSDT in my current role.” You can also offer to provide samples of your work, references, or other materials that can help demonstrate your competencies in the follow up note.

The thank you note, should it be digital or hand written snail mail, or both?

  • Our thoughts are that the method of delivery doesn’t matter as much as the content within the message. If you know the Manager is going to be making a decision quickly, you might want to send it via email so that it arrives in their mailbox real-time. It would be unfortunate if you sent a really nice note in the mail, only to have the Manager see it after they’ve made their decision! In addition to sending a follow up note, feel free to send the interviewer an ‘Invitation to Connect’ on LinkedIn. We also recommend customizing that invitation.

How does one handle the situation when an interviewer clearly doesn't have the correct answer to the question?

  • This is a tough one, especially since you never want to question an interviewer. That could spoil the interview really quickly. If they do have an answer or an approach you disagree with, you can say something along the lines of “we used an alternate approach at my organization,” and then get into the details. Either way, try to avoid telling an interviewer they’re wrong.

Are Summary or Branding statements OK these days in a resume?

  • We touched on this topic a good bit in our Resumes webcast, if you’d like to listen to it. But, yes, absolutely! One of the best practices we highlighted during that session was adding a tag line, which is essentially a 3-5 second “elevator pitch” / branding statement! An example is below.

And to follow up along those lines... how about listing your Core Competencies right after a Summary or Branding statement?

  • Yes, this is a good best practice! You want your key competencies and technologies to be visible immediately to the resume reviewer. Also, make sure they’re listed in a manner which is reader-friendly, such as in tabular form. We also like it when candidates “categorize” their technologies.

What do you do when you are completely nervous for an interview?

  • There are several tactics you can do here. Working out is actually really helpful; it’ll burn up some of that nervous energy for you! I used to get really nervous before conducting interviews, and running or kickboxing always helped put me at ease. Second, making sure you write down all the reasons you’re a fit for the job can help. Another strategy is to just completely get your mind off the interview. I’ve recommended that candidates call a friend or significant other right before the interview to see how they’re doing and share some things they’re excited about. It might sound cheesy, but asking someone “What are you excited about right now?” and then hearing their responses can give you an endorphin rush and improve your overall mood.

Can you ask why the last person left?

  • You can certainly ask this, but it might be better to start with “Why is this opportunity open?” or “Is this a new position for your group, or is it replacing someone?”If the Manager doesn’t end up answering your question, you could ask something along the lines of “Is the individual who I’m replacing still with the organization?”

What if you only have 50% of the skills? Don't even apply?

  • It’s always worth it to apply! One of our Founders constantly preaches “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!” That saying always comes to mind when I think about whether or not I should pursue something. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Nothing too bad! If you do have only 50% of the skills, just ensure you’re really communicating the relevant experience you do have, and any ‘Project Highlights’ or ‘Career Highlights’ that might pertain as well. You could also include your game plan for picking up the remainder of the experience in your Cover Letter.
Next Steps

The next time you start interviewing, keep in mind some of our major suggestions, which include:

  1. Re-read your resume to familiarize yourself with past responsibilities, accomplishments, ‘Lessons Learned,’ projects, etc. and brush up on any experience (including technologies) where you feel like you might need it.
  2. Research the company, and prepare some questions to learn more as well as communicate that you’ve done your research.
  3. Have an understanding of what your major motivators are, in terms of the job itself and the company, and develop a line of questioning that will help you get a gauge of whether this will be a good opportunity for you.
  4. Prepare your 30 second ‘Elevator Pitch’ to answer the question of “Tell me about yourself” and then practice, practice, and practice it again.
  5. Research any of the requirements or technologies in the position you’re not familiar with. Developing even an introductory knowledge base on that skill/technology, as well as identifying resources that could further aid you should you know it, can definitely help you “outshine” other candidates.
  6. Ensure you’re communicating your interest in the opportunity. As we said on the webcast, never assume your attendance at an interview is demonstrating your interest.
  7. Ask questions that give you a better picture of the priorities of the position. 'The Who,' which is a reputable book for hiring quality candidates, suggests asking "what do you want this person to come in and accomplish over the next 1 month? 3 months? 6 months?"

Do you have more questions related to Interviewing? Then post as a ‘Comment,’ and we’ll be happy to write a future tip to address them.



About the author
Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice.


Last Updated: 2014-08-14


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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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Friday, August 15, 2014 - 11:40:23 AM - Erica Woods Back To Top

Kris & Suresh - Cate and I are glad you enjoyed the article!

Kris - It's kind of tough to give a lot of specific suggestions without knowing more about your friends situation.  However, a couple recommendations that immediately come to mind include:

  1. ensuring his elevator pitch relates to the specific position he's applying for
  2. communicating his accomplishments that would be relevant for the position he's interviewing for (i.e. thinking through "what are some projects and achievements I have related to what this job opening is referencing?")
  3. asking at the end of the interview "are there any questions or concerns about my background which I can address for you?"
  4. summarizing his interest and qualifications at the end of the interview (i.e. "I'm very excited about this opportunity because... and I think my experience with ... will be able to provide value to the ... projects this role would be focused on!")
  5. proactively offering samples of his work at the end of the interview, and/or in a follow up "thank you" email
  6. ensuring he has a quality LinkedIn profile (with recommendations that re-enforce his competencies!) and sending the hiring Manager/s customized 'Invitations to Connect'

Again, it's a bit challenging to give more specific suggestions without knowing the skill set, type of companies (and size of companies) he's interviewing with, if he's working with Staffing Agencies vs. Corporate Recruiters, etc...  However, if your friend would like to send me a message, I'd be happy to have a follow up conversation to discuss more!


Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 1:53:12 PM - Suresh Back To Top

Good tips for both Candidate and interviewers... I enjoyed it... Thanks


Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 9:14:33 AM - Kris Back To Top

I enjoyed reading this article. I have a question, one of my friend is seraching for job for the past six months, he gets an interview and he feels he did well but he was never selected, what would be your suggestion?

Appreciate your advice.


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