For Managers Only - 10 Tips for an Effective SQL Server Interview Process

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Identifying quality talent is tough as it is. It can also be a challenge to adequately assess a candidate’s skills and qualifications during the interview process. In addition to evaluating a candidate’s technical competencies, how do you ensure they’ll be a culture fit for your team and environment? What are some steps you can take to ensure you have an effective interview process that will determine if the candidate is a fit both technically and with the team?


Focusing time and energy before and during the interview process can help you find individuals that will be valuable, contributing and cohesive team members. Here are our top 10 suggestions for hiring managers to ensure you have an effective interview process:

1 - Set expectations before and during the interview: When scheduling someone for an interview, give clear expectations of what the interview will entail, along with an accurate glimpse into the job expectations (i.e. main priorities) and responsibilities. Helping candidates get set up for success prior to an interview will lead to a more productive conversation during the interview.

2 - Build rapport on the front end: From our experience, we’ve found that some really great candidates didn’t perform their best because nerves got in the way. So when the interview starts, try to put the interviewee at ease. Thanking them for coming and engaging in small talk for just a couple minutes will really go a long way to help candidates relax.

3 - Ask open-ended questions: We recommend this tactic to get an idea of strengths and weaknesses related to the position. You want to avoid asking closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ as well as leading questions, which might bias their answer. For example, instead of asking “Have you worked in an environment that supported multiple instance of SQL Server,” you can say “Can you tell me about the environments you’ve supported, including size and versions?” Another example is instead of asking “Have you done custom database development?” ask “Can you highlight your experience and background with custom database development?” Asking open-ended questions is a great way to have a more fruitful conversation during an interview, while reducing bias in their answers.

4 - Ask scenario-based questions: This is a great way to evaluate a candidate’s thought process. You can ask more of the “How” and “Why” questions vs. the “What” questions to determine their deeper understanding of technology. An example is “A client is expressing frustration about the speed of their database. Walk me through the process you’d take to determine any issue(s), and 1-2 possible solutions.”

5 - Gauge initiative: Ask questions to determine how proactive and how strong of an initiative a person has. One of our favorite interview go-to questions is “Tell me about a responsibility you had in your last role that wasn’t part of your job description?”

6 - Assess what skills the candidate possesses vs. what they could learn: It’s unrealistic to think there is a candidate out there with 100% of the skills and requirements needed for every job opening you’ll have, but finding someone with the majority of the skills that’s willing and excited to learn can be a winning situation for both you and that individual.

7 - Outline your technology roadmap: Communicating the technical vision of your group will help candidates determine if they’re going to be a long-term fit with your organization. Do their goals match up with that of the company? Providing this information can also help increase the interest level the candidate has in your position.

8 - Assess interpersonal skills: Think through your culture and what traits and characteristics your team possesses. Then ask questions that will tell you if the interviewee will be a team / culture fit. For example, “Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along or with someone that had a different point of view? How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome of your relationship?” Speaking with references is another great way to really determine how strong these skills are.

9 - Identify team players: In addition to assessing a candidate’s personality and communication style, hiring managers are typically seeking individuals that work well in a team environment. A few of our favorite questions to gauge a candidate’s team aptitude are “What kind of team do you want to be a part of?” and “How do you think individual team members can create a collaborative team environment?”

10 - Validate skills: Ensure your interviewing process has a measure or two that confirms the candidate has the skills they say they have. There are several ways to validate their skill set, including doing a verbal reference check with previous Managers, asking for a work sample or having the candidate provide code samples as part of the interview.

Next Steps

Making the determination as to whether a candidate will be both a good technical and team fit can be a struggle. However, identifying which traits are important for the role and for the culture, and then framing questions around those traits to ask candidates, is a great start to ensure you’re selecting candidates who are a right fit for the organization, your group, and for that particular role!

Here are 4 immediate action items you can take before starting the interview process for your next opening:

  • Sit down with key members of your group and map out what personality traits and characteristics are important for your group.
  • For each opening you have, map out the priorities and “success factors” needed for the candidate to hit the ground running and make an impact in the role. Think through “what do I really need this individual to come in and accomplish over the next 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc….”
  • Based on the traits and skills you’re looking for; put some thought into a line of questioning prior to interviewing any candidates. Focus on open-ended and scenario-based questions that will gauge whether their technical competencies align with what you need, and which will determine if they’ll be a good culture fit.
  • Determine how you’ll validate their skills, whether that’s through reference checks, having an onsite technical assessment/sample they complete, requesting sample deliverables, etc….

Do you have any additional suggestions for how you can improve the interview experience/process, both for yourself as a hiring manager and for the candidate? Please share them in the comments section!

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

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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.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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