The Road to Employee #3: The Interview

What was the interview like for the fine folks who went through it?

Talking Points

We’re big believers that one of most important things for a consultant is their ability to interact with customers. The type of work we do relies on communicating clearly with our customers, and we wanted to make sure that our interview process reflected that.

We also wanted to make sure we asked candidates what they thought about the job without outright saying “Hey, what would you think if we asked you to do this?”

Tell Me About You

When you’re a small company, there’s no escaping your co-workers… or your management. We asked the candidates a few questions to make sure that we were all on the same page.

The questions that we ask are no different than the questions that you’ll get asked on any other kind of job interview – What excites you? What do you dread? Knowing what motivates people is really important. If you dread looking at a new SQL Server every week, you’re not going to enjoy working with us.

There aren’t any right or wrong answers, there are just answers that told us more about the candidates. That’s why we also ask fun questions like “What was the last time you caused a production outage?” We’ve all broken things and sharing funny stories about the ways that we’ve broken production environments is always a good way to break the ice, both with candidates and when we’re working with clients.

What would you say… we do here?

We asked the candidates to tell us about us. Well, that’s not entirely fair. We first asked people why they wanted to work with us. There’s no right or wrong answer, but as an employer it’s helpful to know what motivates people. There are different ways to motivate different types of people; knowing why someone wants to join the team helps us understand how we can motivate an employee and keep them interested in the job. Hey, even the most exciting job can seem like a slog some days.

How would you feel if I told you that your job would include creating an 80 slide presentation every week? What if I added in that the recommendations would be custom for an individual client? How would that make you feel? Not everything we work on is a rocket science. Sure, we do our fair share of high end performance tuning, but a lot of what we do is design ways for our clients to solve their every day problems. We help clients understand and prioritize their solutions by creating presentations that summarize the key pain points and solutions to those problems.

If the thought of writing an 80 page presentation every week was something a candidate dreaded, we knew that we weren’t the right fit. Some people are passionate about digging into problems, building a plan, and then implementing the plan themselves. Other people like to teach.

What Didn’t We Ask?

What we didn’t do is ask candidates a lot of minutiae. While it’s important to know technical details about SQL Server, we know that you can look this information up online. With co-workers like Brent, Kendra, and Jes a smart answer is only a quick email away.

There’s nothing secret about our interview process. These are the kinds of questions that potential employees can expect to hear wherever they interview.

This is a rusty metal screen and is no substitute for a real tech screen.
This is a rusty metal screen and is no substitute for a real tech screen.

Was There A Technical Screen?

Oh yeah, we had a technical screen. After the first round of interviews, we discussed who should move on to the second round. Since we didn’t ask any of the candidates difficult technical questions in the first round of the process, we wanted a way to see how they worked under the usual types of pressure that we deal with.

We set up a pair of demo environments and invited Doug to take a look at them and tell us what was wrong. Once again, we weren’t looking for right or wrong answers; we wanted to see how Doug looked at each instance and get a feel for how he approached problems. In an amusing turn of events, one of our demo environments was accidentally corrupted and couldn’t even boot. We didn’t ask Doug to look at that because, let’s face it, when you find corruption you should just call Microsoft.

Throughout our process, there weren’t any wrong answers. We looked for people who were as excited about technology as we are, who share a passion for learning and growing, and who didn’t laugh when Brent broke his VM during the technical screen.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • 80 slide presentation every week? Ok, I’m no longer interested in working for you 🙂 Well, not until I brush up on my PowerPoint skills.

    • Hahaha, yeah. Our SQL Critical Care® service helps a company identify the precise root causes of their database pains, then trains them how to relieve those pains as quickly as possible. It’s a combination of consulting and training, and the training is customized to each company’s pain relief requirements. We built our own tools to make the training production easier, but it’s still pretty intense training every week.


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