What I Look For When I’m Hiring Database Professionals

Matan, Guy, and I recording the podcast
Matan, Guy, and I recording the podcast

On today’s episode of the SQL Server Radio podcast, I talk with Guy Glantser and Matan Yungman about what we look for when we’re hiring.

In the broadest sense, don’t think junior or senior:

  • I’m hiring someone for what they already know, or
  • I’m hiring someone for their capability to learn

(In reality, it’s usually a blend of both, but just think big picture for now.)

If I’m hiring you for what you already know, then I’ve got a list of skills, and I want to see your proficiency in those skills. If one of those skills includes communication, then I’m going to judge you based on how you communicate your mastery of the other skills. For example, I might be looking at your blog posts, presentations, or webcasts about the topics you’re great at.

If I’m hiring your excellent learning skills, then I want to see what you’ve been interested in learning in the past, and how you’ve gone about learning those topics. It doesn’t have to be technical, either – maybe you were interested in perfecting an Eggs Benedict recipe. Show me what resources you used, your preferred style of learning, what lessons you picked up along the way, and how you would recommend that I learn that same thing as fast as possible.

To hear more about my philosophies on that, and hear how Guy and Matan approach hiring for their own companies, check out the half-hour SQLServerRadio podcast.

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16 Comments. Leave new

  • Stephen Mangiameli
    May 12, 2016 9:30 am

    Brent, I love this philosophy! I’ve relied on this philosophy to advance my career. I’ve been hired by companies wanting what I know and been miserable because there was little potential to advance skills or position, within the company. But I’ve also had companies “take a chance” on me based on my potential for learning and I was happiest and grew the most at these companies.

    I still think it would be super cool to work with Brent Ozar Unlimited, and based on this blog, I won’t be so hesitant to apply the next time there is an opening.

    Thanks for all you do for the community!

  • So does this mean you may be hiring soon?

  • Does unashamed arse-kissing in blog posts help at all? 😉

  • I tend to hire people for what I do not know, since I am kind of shallow and limited (aka “a.k.a. “specialized”). I usually find a friend that I trust, and asked them. Do you know anybody who is good at “Foobar-Tran” and will work with me? Much of this is like picking a doctor or dentist; you are never quite sure what you got until the pain either stops or starts or you die 🙁

    There is an old Internet humor piece that is a “letter of recommendation” which consist of Mr. A asking for it, getting it from his friend Mr. B and then saying I do not think he is as good as you say he is. Mr. B then says “read every other line” and you find out he regards the candidate as a dangerous more

  • Super good episode. Must listen. Great to see the masters express my same feelings on SQL Server for Linux!

  • I’ve always been more interested in hiring somebody who is walking now but who has the potential to run, as opposed to somebody that’s already jogging but feels that’s as good as they ever need to get. Wanting somebody to “hit the ground running” can be dangerous if you end up with someone that doesn’t feel the need to learn and thinks they were hired for their specific skillset – at the end of the day, I’m hiring problem-solvers and the skillset is more of a demonstration than the actual goal. Takes a bit longer to ramp people up sometimes, but I’ve been much happier with the results.

  • So does that mean you don’t hire people that don’t blog/present/webcast?

  • Do you feel that there might be some kind of end to this space?

    You advise people to build a brand, a blog, buy a domain, speak at community events, etc. But couldn’t they – in reality – be limited by the fact that you have done it already?

    How many people is there room for in this small, niche space?

    I completely commend you for you for efforts to engage people in the community space. Don’t you ever think, [selfishly, realistically, commercially]… I’ve done this all already .. good luck y’all but I’ve already done it better than y’all? Be honest. Why would you want someone to come along and do what you do, but not as well? No need.

    • Thomas – that’s SUCH a great question, and I’ll turn it around and ask: who was doing it before I was?

      I wasn’t the first in this space, and I won’t be the last. I have faith that other folks will do it better than I’m doing it now, and they’ll do it differently. The SQL Server industry has room for a lot of different people who do different things. (For example, I don’t do anything with replication, advanced T-SQL, analytics, etc.)

      Plus, just like anybody else, sooner or later I wanna retire. I can’t do this forever!

  • Jonathan Shields
    May 30, 2016 5:28 pm

    A massive massive problem with IT recruitment is an emphasis on “3 years experience on version x”. What will happen to that hire when version y arrives? Will the recruiter trust them to implement version y because you remembered to hire someone who can learn and who is keen to develop themselves and their organisation?

    Sadly the stock answer is “no…I’ll recruit someone with experience in version y..this isn’t a training ground”.

    What some people don’t realise is that any form of real, challenging work is a training ground to some extent . No two challenges are alike. Hire as such for potential as for what someone can already do.

    Your post suggests you are thinking along the right lines.


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