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Lessons Learned: How to get a DBA job

Part of the Lessons Learned series, this week's mini-lesson will help you score your dream DBA job.

Welcome to's Lessons Learned series. Each week you will get a mini-lesson pertaining to a highly specific Oracle database or E-Business Suite topic. The lessons are culled from expert responses and tips written by our panel of Oracle gurus. At the end of each month, you will be tested on what you've learned. Email us your lesson requests today.

   I'm having trouble finding an entry-level DBA job.
   How can I ace the job interview?
   What kinds of questions about managing a database will I be asked?
   What about after the interview?
   How can I make myself more marketable as a DBA?

This week's featured experts:

Brian Peasland

Michael Hillenbrand

I'm having trouble finding an entry-level DBA job.
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It is very tough to break into the DBA field these days. The market is very competitive. The best advice I can give is to take a job as a developer or systems administrator where you think you can work your way towards becoming a DBA. Most DBAs take one of these two paths. It is rare one jumps from college right into becoming a DBA.

Excerpted from Brian Peasland's "Help finding an entry-level Oracle DBA job."

How can I ace the interview?
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Be confident! Never underestimate your abilities. If you do not know the answer to something, admit it. Focus instead on your ability to find the answer and your willingness to learn.

But don't be arrogant! Yes, you can be overconfident to the point of being viewed as cocky, inconsiderate, and even rude. A good rule of thumb here is to focus on the team accomplishments as well as the "me" accomplishments.

Excerpted from Michael Hillenbrand's article "Acing the DBA job interview: Getting back to basics."

What kinds of questions about managing a database will I be asked?
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One of the things I do is to ask the candidate to provide step-by-step examples of how to do something. For instance, I sat in an interview once where other DBAs asked the candidate what type of backups they had done on their systems. The candidate replied "hot backups." The other DBAs were satisfied with this answer. But I sensed that the candidate was not completely honest with their experience level. So I asked the candidate to describe the exact steps his backup script performed. He didn't need to be completely accurate. But I quickly found out that this candidate had no clue what major steps needed to be taken to perform a hot backup in an Oracle database. So be prepared to provide examples of how you do things in addition to what things you have done.

Click for Brian Peasland's "Interview questions about managing an Oracle database."

What about after the interview? Am I done?
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The follow-up can make or break the entire deal and yet is often the most overlooked element of the interview process. Let's look at a typical scenario. I interview three candidates that are all very strong. As I weigh the options of who to hire, I get a real nice thank you letter in the mail from candidate A. Candidate A thanks me for my time, says she enjoyed talking to me, reiterates the things we talked about, tells me why she is a good fit for the position, and describes the value she is confident she will add for my company. I get a simple canned "thank you for your time" letter from candidate B and I hear nothing from candidate C. Who do you think I will hire? Who would you hire?

Click to read the rest of Michael Hillenbrand's "Acing the DBA job interview: Getting back to basics."

My contract is ending soon. How can I make myself more marketable as a DBA?
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One thing you might want to consider is upgrading your certification to Oracle 10g. Many companies are now looking for DBAs who know and understand Oracle 10g as it has been out for a while now. The 10g OCP certification exam will not be enough to land you a job, but it will not hurt your chances either. Some companies do not value OCP certification and others do. I try to maintain my certifications to the most current levels and I have upgraded for every version from Oracle 7.3 all the way up to 10g.

Publishing helps as well. Consider writing a white paper on a specific topic and then submitting that paper for conferences. Presenting a paper at a conference or user group meeting is a great way to get noticed. While at the conference, you can do some social networking to get your name out there. Sometimes it's who you know.

Excerpted from Brian Peasland's "Becoming more marketable as DBA."

For more information on landing an Oracle job, read "How to get an Oracle DBA job."

Go to the Lessons Learned library for additional lessons and quizzes.

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