11 Efficient SQL Server Job Search Tactics

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Candidates starting a job search often say "looking for a job is a job in and of itself" and it's a very true statement! You have to invest time and energy into your search, especially if you want to find a quality opportunity that aligns with your goals and target career path. If you apply some strategy to your overall job searching process, it can be less daunting and much more effective!


When you initiate a job search, have a plan! It starts with knowing the strengths, differentiators and competitive advantages you possess as a candidate. Next you need an understanding of the direction you want your career to go in. Then you need to provide any follow up materials that could act as effective "professional marketing leverage" (i.e. portfolio, reference letters, code samples, etc.) to a Manager post-interview for positions you're really interested in!

Here are our top 11 recommendations to be as effective and efficient as possible with your job search:

1. Understand Your Strengths

Understand your strengths, interests and motivators. Remember those unique skills, traits and experiences are your competitive advantages. It's important to first understand your strengths so you can leverage and communicate those when looking for your next opportunity.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when starting a job search:

  • What's motivating you to look for a new job?
  • What are your goals in terms of a position, company, manager, etc.?
  • Do you have a specific career path in mind?
  • What has made you happy or satisfied in previous companies?
  • What has made you unhappy or frustrated in previous companies?

2. Evaluate Trends

Evaluate trends in what employers are looking for that relate to your job, and increase your knowledge base around the ones which make sense to learn. There are so many great technical trends resources, such as Gartner and the Thoughtworks technology radar. You can also pick up on trends by evaluating what technologies, tools and versions are frequently mentioned in job descriptions. Even if you don't have the opportunity in your current role to gain knowledge with those trends, there are plenty of free training resources available online and through local technical communities. Even just showing that you researched a technology, or watched a short training video, can go a long way when applying for a new role. Keep in mind that some tools and technologies are more relevant to learn than others. As you evaluate trends, ask yourself if using that tool/technology/approach would be beneficial to adopt in your job? If a new trend, is it likely that the technology will be widely adopted, or is it only a fad? Will learning it help you in future roles you're targeting?

3. Prospect Companies

Prospecting is an effective way to start your job search process. Start drafting a list of all the companies in your area that utilize the technology you work with or want to work with. Look at job postings via LinkedIn, Indeed, job boards, user groups, etc., and start writing a list of the companies. Look at the sponsors of your local user group. It's likely that if they're a sponsor, they typically hire the types of members in that group. Once you have a list of companies you'd like to target, here are 3 ways to try to get your resume in front of the right people at those companies:

  • Ask the Recruiter(s) you're working with if they have relationships with any of those companies
  • Search LinkedIn to see if anyone in your network works at those companies, and send them a message to see if they can submit your resume internally
  • Find a corporate Recruiter or Talent Acquisition Manager at those companies and send them a message via LinkedIn expressing your interest in that company

4. High Quality

Ensure resume, portfolio, online social media channels, etc. are of high quality. Recent studies have found that the average person reviewing your resume will spend 8.25 seconds on it, so investing time reviewing and enhancing your resume will never be time wasted. Evaluate social media profiles, especially LinkedIn, and ensure they act as positive reference checks for you. Make sure there is nothing online that could potentially be damaging to your brand or anything that road-blocks your candidacy!

5. Master Your Marketing Pitch

You want to have concise summaries to provide Managers or Recruiters for the following questions:

  • Why are you in the job market?
  • What are you looking for?
  • Why are you interested in our company? In this position?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Tell me about yourself and/or your background.
  • Why are you qualified?
  • What are some traits or characteristics others use to describe you?

6. Make Yourself Findable

Make yourself findable to the right people. If you want to identify a range of opportunities, you want to talk to several relevant people. Therefore, take measures to help people find you. You can post your resume on job boards, in addition to leveraging LinkedIn and other platforms. You can change your LinkedIn tag line to let your network know you are seeking new opportunities. For example, you can change the tag line to something like "Database Developer (SQL Server, SSIS, SSRS) Seeking jobs in NYC!" If you're in MeetUp groups, preface that you're looking for jobs in your profile, especially if you've RSVP'd to attend an upcoming meeting.

7. Utilize Quality Resources

Per an earlier tip, there are some really quality resources you can leverage to identify job leads. You can sign up for job alerts, reach out to Recruiters you've worked with before, consult with your network, ask members and leaders of local user groups, evaluate the sponsors of your local user group and reach out to corporate recruiters at those companies, search via social media, etc.

8. Go The Referral Route

When you apply for a job, see if you know anyone else who's connected there, so they can make the referral. Managers value referrals, and most prioritize candidates who are referrals or come recommended by the Recruiters they have strong relationships with over other candidates! Therefore, if you're sent to a hiring Manager or Corporate Recruiter as a referral, it's highly probable that your resume will stick out among the other candidates. As referenced above, ask Recruiter(s) you're working with if they have a relationship with that Manager.

9. Apply Where You Fit

Apply for positions where you fit (the majority of) the requirements. There's no perfect science here, but our personal recommendation is to apply for jobs where you meet at least 80% of the requirements listed. Follow your best judgment or ask someone for advice when choosing to apply.

If you don't have any experience managing or leading teams and it's for a Team Lead role that references "proven leadership and management skills" as a requirement, it's probably best to move on to the next job posting! However, if it's a Database Developer role asking for SQL Server 2014 and you've completed some training and utilized it at home, but not professionally, take a chance and apply, but reference what you've done personally! If you get an interview request, invest the extra time to do some research on the skills or technologies you're lacking and take some relevant training.

10. List Relevant Qualifications

When applying, include a list of relevant qualifications. Always keep your audience in mind! It's helpful to be as clear as possible on why you're qualified and interested in the position you're applying for. Evaluate the requirements and any preferred qualifications, and write a quick list of bullet points reiterating your relevant skills and background. You can include that list in your application, or provide it to the Recruiter you're working with or the referral who may be forwarding your resume along!

11. Provide Extras

Provide extra professional marketing materials and deliverables. Especially when you interview for a job you're really excited about, ask yourself "what else do I have that I can send to the Manager or Recruiter to showcase my skills?" Here are some items you could submit with your resume:

  • Examples of your work which aren't proprietary
  • Other deliverables that are part of your portfolio
  • Awards
  • Publications
  • Letters of recommendation
  • LinkedIn recommendations
  • Technical assessments, such as ProveIt or Brainbench, that you scored highly on
  • Proactively providing any one of these items could be what gives you an advantage over other candidates!
Next Steps

Remember that it can be incredibly beneficial if you strategize your job search and flush out a plan. Here are some components which can be included in that plan:

  • Conduct professional SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to your skills and job search.
  • Re-visit career goals and outline.
  • Evaluate technology trends in the SQL Server space, and choose the top 1-3 skills that'd be beneficial for you to learn.
  • Invest time weekly to increase your knowledge around those 1-3 skills.
  • Conduct some quality assurance of your resume and online profiles.
  • Practice answers to common interviewing questions, and master your elevator pitches.
  • For every position you want to apply to, determine if you can go the referral route!
  • Increase involvement in a local SQL Server group.
  • Don't sell yourself short and use the 80:20 rule, i.e. apply for positions were you possess 80% of the requirements and then put together a plan for how you're going to explain, or get experience with, that other 20%.
  • For each application, especially when you know a Recruiter, Talent Acquisition Specialist or other non-technical party will be the first person reading it, include a bullet-pointed list of reasons why you're qualified.
  • Strategize your interview follow-up. Ask yourself "Is there anything else I could provide that will display my skills or experience?".

Do you have additional suggestions on how to lead an efficient, effective, and less stressful job search? Please share in the comments section!

About the author
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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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

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

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