Database Administrator

7 Database Administrator Interview Questions and Answers

Whether you are preparing to interview a candidate or applying for a job, review our list of top Database Administrator interview questions and answers.

What types of databases do you work with?

Many types of database infrastructure exist, so you want to confirm that the applicant has the background that you're looking for. Look for people who mention the specific database versions they're familiar with, as well as a brief explanation of their experience level with each. What to look for:

  • Detailed information
  • Years of experience
  • Brief overview of duties
Example: "I'm most familiar with Microsoft SQL Server. I started with the 2012 version and worked with that for five years. I've also supported SQL Server 2014 and 2016 environments, as well as MongoDB.

Do you have experience with on-premises databases, cloud databases or both?

Many organizations are moving from a fully on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. You can discover which environment your candidate works the best in. If your organization intends on changing away from your current configuration, you can find out whether your interviewee can support your long-term goals. What to look for:

  • Strong understanding of infrastructure differences
  • Flexibility
  • Willingness to learn
Example: "I have ten years of experience with on-premises databases, and I'm currently working on certifications for hybrid and cloud-based infrastructure. I do my best to keep on top of the latest trends in database administration and educate myself appropriately.

Can you explain what ODBC is?

This question tests the technical knowledge of your applicant and is directed at people you're hiring for mid-level positions. Look for an answer that covers the basic concept and goes into some detail about its role in a database environment. What to look for:

  • Thorough understanding of this acronym
  • Good communication
  • Use case examples
Example: "Open Database Connectivity is a method used by application front ends when they're communicating with a database backend. I've helped software developers implement ODBC so they can pull the right data sources into custom enterprise apps.

What is the highest number of database servers you have worked with?

You get an idea of how large of a data center the database administrator has worked with. If you're a large organization looking for a DBA for critical systems, the applicant with small business experience may not work out well. What to look for:

  • Size of company
  • Number of servers
  • Type of server environment
Example: "I worked with 200 Oracle on-premises databases in a mid-size professional services organization and have experience scaling this environment up and down as needed."

How would you handle data loss during a database migration?

Data loss is a high-pressure situation for a database administrator, especially if a migration project falls behind schedule. You get to see their thought process, how they handle stress and the strategies they use for disaster recovery. What to look for:

  • Level-headed reactions
  • Detailed technical answer
  • Examples of how they handle pressure
Example: "I would step in and identify whether the problem that causes the data loss was a one-time occurrence or an issue with the entire migration. Once I addressed that, I would locate the backup containing those databases and begin the restoration process."

Do you have experience working with Hadoop?

Big data technology is another rapidly growing area. Hadoop helps organizations work with massive data sets by splitting them into smaller sets and then consolidating the results. A willingness to learn Hadoop or existing experience may help your company use your data more efficiently. What to look for:

  • Subject matter knowledge
  • Overall experience
  • Desire to learn about trends and new solutions
Example: "I have experience implementing and optimizing Hadoop solutions for enterprises. I also stay on top of new ways to use Hadoop by participating in technical forums and a Hadoop Slack channel.

What's your process for troubleshooting database problems?

A database administrator needs a strong process for identifying and addressing issues. While automated tools help lighten their load, you get to see their overall thought process and troubleshooting strategy with this answer. What to look for:

  • Solid process
  • Willingness to use available resources
  • Experience with addressing common issues
Example: "I use a combination of manual and proactive monitoring to keep an eye on the database servers. I regularly check tickets to see if anyone is reporting performance issues or other concerns. When I identify something that requires troubleshooting, I begin by diagnosing the symptoms and probable causes. I will delegate the hands-on repair to a lower-level tech if needed, depending on my task list and the complexity of the repair."

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