Hiring the Best DBAs: From a DBA Perspective

A few more collected notes from my recent interviews:

Sell Them On Your Company Right Away

In your company’s reception area, have a few pieces of relatively up-to-date reading material about your industry, or even better, about your company in specific.  The company I ended up choosing, had a great marketing booklet describing the relationships between various branches of the company and their clients. That one brochure actually put me in a great frame of mind before walking into the interview, because it gave me a good, positive outlook on the company and how they treat their customers. Marketing material works just as well on prospective employees as it does on prospective customers.

What’s Your Motivation?

During the interview process, ask each candidate what motivates them. It’s a trick question: not only does it tell you about the employee, it tells you what they’re probably not getting in their current position. (I didn’t realize it was a trick question until long after I was done answering – and isn’t that the best gauge of a trick question?)

Do You Help Others?

Ask candidates if they contribute to any open-source projects. It’s a long shot – even in this relatively open-source-friendly age, us contributors are definitely in the very, very small minority – but if the candidate answers yes, you might have found a really big winner. Ask them to talk about what projects they contribute to, why they do it, and what they’ve learned while working on open source projects. There’s no right answer here, but just knowing that a candidate is that fired up about technology tells you something.

Who You Gonna Call?

Ask candidates, “When you face a very tough technical problem, are there any forums or discussion groups that you like to use?” Make exact notes of the sites they quote, and then go to those sites looking for their posts. I know, it sounds slimy, but this will tell you what kinds of questions they ask and what kinds of answers they give to others.

Get A People Person’s Opinion

If your company has salespeople, consider asking one of the people-savviest salespeople to interview the best candidates after they’ve already passed the technical part of the interview. In my humble experience, salespeople tend to be better judges of people than us technical people. The salespeople I’ve worked with could “read” a person in a matter of minutes and catch interesting things about a candidate’s personality that I’d never notice. Salespeople make a living out of judging people’s interest in a product, and they can do a great job of judging a candidates interest in your company.

Move Fast When You Find The Right Candidate

Agile companies, companies that make quick and accurate decisions, will grab the best employees. Slow, lumbering companies with tons of red tape will get the leftovers. Why? Because agile companies quickly decide whether or not they’ve got Mr. or Mrs. Right, and make that candidate an offer without waiting to go through all of the candidates in a metro area. I interviewed with a downtown Miami company who declared I was a great candidate, said they wanted me, but said they wanted to interview a few other people first. I liked their management style, liked their employees quite a bit, and enjoyed spending time with them. I even envisioned my shorter commute with glee. However, they took their sweet time and made me an offer almost a month later – at which time, I’d already taken an offer. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Slow, lumbering companies, on the other hand, will only get the employees that the agile companies passed over.

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