DBA Candidates: Ask For A List of Servers

When interviewing for a database administrator position, ask the manager for a list of database servers, the applications that rely on them, and who to contact when the server goes down.

(The manager may express concern about the secure nature of the list, and that’s fair – I would say the same thing.  If they don’t want to hand over the list, then just ask them to put their hands on it and answer the rest of the questions for you.)

Count the number of servers.  How many servers are missing contact names?  Ask if the contact names are up-to-date.  What’s the SLA for each server, and is it product, development or DR?

If there’s no document and the managers act as if creating something like this would require a Herculean amount of effort, then be aware that the new DBA will have no idea what she’s managing, what the expectations are for the job, or who to call when things break.
Ask if this list can be created by existing staff members before the start date.  Managers might say that this list sounds like a good thing for the DBA to create when she starts, but the DBA won’t have the contacts, resources or knowledge to build the list.  Danger!  Danger!  Secretarial work lies ahead!

An out-of-date list isn’t surprising if there hasn’t been much DBA turnover for a while.

A nonexistent list isn’t surprising either – but it’s a warning sign for the future DBA.

More DBA Career Articles

  • Moving from Help Desk to DBA – a reader asked how to do it, and I gave a few ways to get started.
  • Development DBA or Production DBA? – job duties are different for these two DBA roles.  Developers become one kind of DBA, and network administrators or sysadmins become a different kind.  I explain why.
  • Recommended Books for DBAs – the books that should be on your shopping list.
  • Ask for a List of Servers – DBA candidates need to ask as many questions as they answer during the interview.
  • Are you a Junior or Senior DBA? – Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but I explain how to gauge DBA experience by the size of databases you’ve worked with.
  • So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star – Part 1 and Part 2 – wanna know what it takes to have “SQL Server Expert” on your business card?  I explain.
  • Becoming a DBA – my list of articles about database administration as a career.
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