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5 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Database Administrator

By: Ed Fox


No matter where your skills lie in the technical world, hiring the “tech guy,” specifically the one running the show when it comes to all the information your business relies on, can be a hard job. So getting a little help hiring your first, or your next, Database Administrator, otherwise known as a DBA, may be just what you are looking for. The following is a list of 5 things to keep in mind when hiring a DBA.

1. What type of DBA do you need?
Do you already have a database set up, or have you simply written down a list of things you wish your database would do? Have you picked the RDBMS you need? Do you even know what that means (Relational Database Management System)? Do you have a large company and a lot to do with your data, or are you small and unsure where your data is going? Deciding on the type of DBA you need is the first step.
There are two different types of DBAs: Production and development. A development DBA knows all about the creation of the database. They may be the one you want at the beginning. They know how to turn your dreams into a reality and work with the programmers (or, in the case of a small business, are usually the one with all the programming experience) to set up and maintain the database you want.
A production DBA usually steps in after the database has been created. They know the ins and outs of running the server and keeping everything smooth. They treat the DBA as a technical tool. They know how to service, backup, restore, and manage the server in ways a development DBA may not.
2. Who really has the knowledge you are looking for?
The next thing you’ll need to begin looking for is the candidate whose experience matches your needs. You may need to ask yourself some questions: What database is your company using? Is your database already set up to do the tasks you need, or do you need someone to start from the beginning? How many people will be working to organize the functionality of the database? No matter what step you are in for your business, you need to find the person who can do what you are asking. That may sound obvious, but it may be harder to find out this information than you think.
Check their background. When looking at each candidate’s resume, look at their education. Are they certified in the database you use? Look at their experience. Have they worked with people? One thing to think about may be their customer service experience; if an individual has learned how to talk to others, how to please others, and how to work well with others, than they can hopefully work with you and your team to create and manage the database you want.
3. How much customer service experience does the candidate have?
Customer service should be one of the top qualities among database administrator skills. While the technical side of the database is important, the communicative side of the database is even more so. If the DBA doesn’t know how to give the users what they want, then what is the point in even having a DBA? For the database administrator, the user is the client, and the user is everyone on your team who needs to access the database, from the person doing data entry to the person retrieving the information or printing it in a specific format. The DBA should be the lifeline between the programmers or other technology-based employees and the rest of the staff. You want a DBA who really cherishes that role.
Though you may be able to find their customer service experience on their resume, it may also help to ask them how they have felt about their previous employer and employees. Do they complain at all about having to help others? Or do they seem to relish it? Look for the small cues to let you know how good they will be communicating to you and the rest of your staff. When you want to hire a DBA, it comes with hiring someone who doesn’t only do, but who can train and teach others to do the same.
4. Can you tell if the candidate is creative?
Creativity is important in almost every job. But when it comes to being a DBA, you want someone who can really think outside of the box and provide you with ideas for your data you never even imagined yourself. Creativity paired with superb knowledge of your specific database can allow for new designs, new presentation, and overall new methods of helping your business do its very best. The best DBAs see the database as their own puzzle, and forever want to solve your questions in bigger and better ways.
Sometimes creativity can be hard to find in a person from a resume or an interview. Nerves and a fear of risk-taking may leave the individual with keeping to the safe answers or not showing their full potential. Asking the candidate a question unrelated to databases or the office life may help move them out of their comfort zone and into a new scenario. Though it may take some of your own creativity too, come up with a question or problem for them to solve that allows them to showcase their abilities without being bogged down with expectations.
5. Can the candidate problem solve?
A DBA’s main adversary is the database error and issue. And no matter how much knowledge they may have from past experience and how much education they have slogged through, eventually, a new problem will come up. How will the DBA handle it? Will they be able to find the answer?
If a candidate shows potential for customer service and creativity, as well as a good basis of knowledge in your database choice, then that is a great step towards knowing if they can problem solve. Giving the candidate scenarios may also help, but may also leave gaps in what you are learning about the individual. One of the best questions you can ask the candidate is, “How do you solve problems and troubleshoot in your current or last position?” This allows them to think about whatever recent problems they experienced, and to show you their step-by-step thinking process. It also allows a conversation to begin, and for you to see whether they view only one solution to a problem, or whether they are open minded to others. The role of the database administrator does not require so much of knowing the answer, but the ability to find the answer.
In all, hiring a DBA is hard. You want the ability of the “tech guy,” the customer service skills of a receptionist, and the creativity of the CEO, all wrapped in one person. But as long as you learn how to spot these abilities, even when they sometimes hide behind a bland resume or a hard interview, it is well worth your time to hire the best DBA you can.
Published: December 10, 2013

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Ed Fox

Ed Fox is the Director of Technology for Tarkenton. To assure users of a rich online experience (whether they are customers, employees, partners, or suppliers for a business), Ed combines knowledge of coding language, development and design, content management, and other critical tools. He also focuses on creating an effective website through search engine optimization and a deep and thorough understanding of web analytics. Connect with him on .

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