Although the labor market is not as tight as it was a couple of years ago, recruiting top Oracle talent is still a challenge—especially finding the right blend of technical skill and people skills. Besides thoroughly checking technical references, here are four questions that you should ask a DBA job candidate.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
This question will give you clues about the mindset of the DBA. When asked what is challenging about the DBA job, the DBA’s answer will reveal a great deal about his or her personality and ability to work well with other people. The DBA who talks about the technical challenges of the job and difficulties administering and maintaining the database may not be ideally suited for a position where contact for the development staff is critical. On the other hand, the DBA who speaks openly of the challenges associated with getting the developers fast answers and accurate information might be a better consideration.

How do you perceive the relationship between the DBA and the development staff?
The answer to this question is critical when evaluating a DBA candidate. Many DBAs, by virtue of their high pay and product-specific knowledge, tend to think of developers as underlings; in some cases, DBAs view developers with outright contempt, believing their queries to be naive. On the other hand, DBAs with the proper attitude will respond to this question by talking about the developers as clients to whom they provide data services essential to the application. In some shops, the DBAs may be responsible for code, reviewing SQL queries, or DML statements written by developers; so, a good relationship is vital.

Do you treat your test and production systems differently? If so, why?
The answer to this question will often provide insight into the priorities of the candidate. In many shops, the DBA doesn’t perceive the test databases as being as important as the production database. The appropriate DBA candidate will note that the data integrity of the test databases is crucial to the development staff because it is their “production” environment in many cases.

What experience have you had analyzing new systems?
The answer to this question will reveal a great deal about the breadth of the DBA’s background. Although technical proficiency is an absolute requirement for the DBA, you must remember that the DBA needs to have some tangential knowledge about the functional areas within the business that they are supporting: for example, networking; Java syntax; or business-side concerns, like finance or accounting. DBAs with a strong business background will often be very useful to the initial design and implementation of new business functionality within your organization.

Balance, grasshopper
A balance between technical aptitude and effective communication skills is essential for any top-notch IT professional, and a DBA is no exception. Check technical references and drill down on their certifications and work experience first. After gauging those skills, the open-ended questions provided in this article should give you a good idea if the candidate is a nice cultural fit for your team.

Screening candidates

What questions do you ask DBA candidates? Post a comment below.