SQL Server Job Search Q&A

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During our recent Job Search webcast (14 Concepts for a Modern Day Job Search), there were a number of questions that we didn’t have time to address, including: how to pass through an HR/non-technical screener, resume tips for older professionals, acquiring experience when your company isn’t working with new technology/features, finding cleared jobs, correcting negative feedback online, etiquette around leaving a job and privacy concerns. 


Here are the questions, and our thoughts on them. 


1. How do you get your resume through an HR screener? 

A challenge most job seekers experience at this point is that your application/resume has to first pass through an Applicant Tracking type system, and get ranked at the top of list of ‘Candidates to Review’ by that system.  It’s most likely reviewed by someone who’s not technical and then you have a conversation with that non-technical person, before it gets passed along to a Lead or the hiring Manager themselves. 

Therefore, our first recommendation is to use a resume builder and/or resume optimization tool to help ensure your resume is optimized for your skill set and effectively communicates your skills in a way that translates to non-technical individuals. 

Second, before your conversation with HR/Recruiter/Manager, review the job description and outline/bullet point your relevant experience, skills, technologies, certifications, etc.  Consider this your customized elevator pitch for your candidacy of that role. 

Third, practice your pitch to someone who isn’t very technical, and ask for feedback.  Did they understand what you were saying?  Are you clearly communicating that you’re a fit for that particular role? 

Fourth, include your customized qualification summary in your application/email, and then use this as your “elevator pitch” when you talk to the HR screener. 

Here’s an example email application for a Senior SQL Developer role requiring custom development, SQL Server 2014, and client interfacing:

I’m extremely interested in the Senior SQL Development opportunity you have available!  Here’s a quick summary of my related experience:

  • 10 years of database development with SQL Server
  • Worked with SQL Server 2008, 2008 R2, and 2014
  • Taken training with SQL Server 2016
  • Majority of experience, at least 70%, is doing custom database development
  • Extensive stakeholder engagement and client interfacing experience, including leading status meetings and participating in requirements gathering sessions

2. Do you have any resume recommendations for workers who are 55 and older? 

We provided some thoughts on this question during the webcast.  To summarize, focus the content of your resume around your most recent experience; perhaps the last 10-15 years.  Leave older positions off your resume, especially if they’re no longer relevant to your target career path.  If you’re really tenured, it could prove extremely beneficial to engage in the best practice we recommended around “Understand Tech Trends and Develop Skills” in those areas.  Then communicate your interest and initiative in learning new skills to prospective hiring Managers.  Lastly, recognize that you might just need to try multiple approaches during your job search to generate leads.  We’d also recommend increasing attendance at relevant user groups, organic networking, consult with user group leadership, talk to multiple recruiters and make an effort to meet them in person to highlight your qualifications, share interests, engage in “candidate risk management,” and ask them for their honest thoughts/feedback.  By “candidate risk management,” we mean identifying what potential red flags surround you as a candidate, and having a mitigation strategy for overcoming. 

Skills Development

1. Not all companies give you a platform to work on new features you wish. How do you acquire experience in those areas? 

Whenever we hear something like this, our first question back is have you been clear and assertive in communicating your interest to your boss in learning x, y and/or z and, if so, have you stayed on top of it?  For example, if there’s a new framework you want to get exposure with, express interest to your boss in person initially, and then follow up on it every 6-8 weeks, asking questions such as “Do you know if anyone else in the organization is using this?  Is there a chance for us to consider using it?  Do we have plans to create a sandbox environment?  Do you see any opportunity for me to work with that here?  Any chance to do beta testing on new tools/frameworks/features in general for our team?” 

If there’s a very slim chance of using those new features at work, you can invest time and energy in outside projects and initiatives. 

  • First, invest time weekly/monthly taking online training/tutorials through reputable providers. 
  • Second, research local/regional conferences and sign up to attend 1-2 a year if possible. 
  • Third, identify local hackathons, and sign up. 
  • Fourth, try to identify an informal mentor who has experience with the tools/technologies you’re interested in and pick their brain. If you’re not sure how to find one, try speaking up at the next user group meeting and saying “Hi!  I’m ___, and I’m a mid-level Developer really looking to expand my knowledge base with ____.  Does anyone here have that knowledge and an interest in chatting with me after the meeting about it?  Or, any recommendations on other resources for learning and getting experience with those tools/technologies?”
  • Fifth, start building a pet project/application with the features you wish to learn/get experience with.   Lastly, search around on an online community like GitHub to see if there are open projects you could contribute to using some of the new features you further want to learn.

Finding Cleared Jobs

1. What suggestions do you have for cleared professionals? 

Neither of us has extensive experience recruiting on cleared jobs, but we talked to the Recruiting Manager of our 22-member Government Services recruiting team, to get her suggestions of best job searching resources for cleared professionals. 

Here’s her list of the top 8 resources:

  1. Clearance Jobs
  2. Dice
  3. Indeed
  4. Cleared Connections
  5. Heroes to Hire
  6. Job Fairs for Cleared Professionals
  7. Transition Assistance Online
  8. LinkedIn

Also, we work with Clearance Jobs a bit, and really like all of the advice they share via their blog!  Check out their blog (https://news.clearancejobs.com/), and specifically, the job search career advice section (https://news.clearancejobs.com/category/job-search/). 

Online Reputation Management

1. How do you correct something negative online? 

This is a tough one to address without knowing more details, such as the specific negative content/feedback, which platform it’s posted on, if it’s actually about you vs. someone else with your same name, etc.

Here are our initial thoughts/recommendations without having more information though.  After a thorough “online audit” of yourself, actively engage in intentional branding and online reputation management. 

  • Which social media platforms are you on? 
  • Do you have your own website? 
  • Are you a member of communities like GitHub or Stack Overflow where you have your own profile? 
  • How strong are your profiles? 
  • Create a checklist of actions for improving your online reputation. 
  • Spend 30-60+ minutes enhancing your LinkedIn profile, and then make it a goal to post something weekly (via published post or just to your regular feed), to show LinkedIn you’re “current,” which will help optimize your profile. 
  • Consider creating your own website/blog and then optimize it, so that site will show up on the first page of results, along with your LinkedIn profile, when someone searches for you. 

Job Searching

1. Are there privacy concerns you need to watch out for to not offend your current employer when job searching and leaving a job? 

In terms of privacy concerns about your work, and not offending or compromising anything with your employer, remember to keep anything proprietary confidential.  If you created something for the organization or a client of that organization, you can’t leverage that elsewhere, unless you get written approval.  Also, as you’re putting in your notice and closing out your last few weeks, it’d be helpful for your employer, and great for you personally and professionally, to do the ‘Put Yourself In Their Shoes’ exercise to determine what you can do to close out big items/projects and set your backfill up for success.  From the perspective of your manager, team and any clients you support, ask yourself:

  • What are the main things I could finish up before I leave that would be the most helpful? 
  • What could I do, and put together, that would be beneficial for my successor? Is there any documentation I should put together, advice/lessons learned I could share, other information that’d be helpful to provide?
  • Have I offered to review the job description?  Or help interview potential candidates for my backfill?

If your replacement comes in while you’re still there, proactively offer to train them, and do the best job you can so they have the knowledge to hit the ground running!  Also, ask your Manager “what else I can do to help ensure they’re set up for success?”  Doing these little things, in conjunction with providing adequate notice, can ensure you leave on a positive note and will also ensure you have a strong reference to provide at the company in the future!

2. When you are a junior or mid-level DBA, how do you find a job? 

We wrote an article last year outlining our top 10 resource suggestions when searching for a job.  Here’s the link to that article, which is still very much relevant for all levels of professionals.  For junior-mid level, the one additional resource we’d add is to consult with your school’s career service department and Comp Sci Professors if you recently graduated or are currently in school.  Does your school/college have a job board?  Do they have any other resources/tools for Alumni?  What recommendations do your Professors have?

3. How can you post code on GitHub when it is owned by the company? 

Etiquette is, and legally, you can’t share anything created by or for your company via an online forum.  If you have questions, go to your lead/manager and get their approval, and then also get written approval from HR/Legal.   

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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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