To Test or not to Test – That is the question

To test or not to test, that is the question:

Would you rather have a person that takes longer to find, but knows what you need and is skilled, or a body to throw at a project to get things done.

We have adopted a new interview process: a 3 hr ‘skills’ test with full internet access (since we all know Google is the best Jr. DBA out there)
This is not a hard test, but we use it to serve a few purposes

1) Ensure you really can do what you say you can – you would be surprised at how many certified people we get for senior openings that can’t perform basic requirements, such as the restore of a simple backup file.

2) Help determine how to best utilize you within the team. The test helps highlight your strength and expose your weaknesses.

3) A stress test – how do you handle pressure of a sudden request?

If you make it through the test well enough then you get talked with. That conversation is more one to get to know you more and to get you to talk. Through the conversation we all can get a little more comfortable and we both get a better feeling for who we are and can pick up on little things we not be telling each other to help us both make final decisions.

I do ask the recommended question of what is the SQL related thing you have done in the past you are most proud about. Once I had an interviewee tell me how they tuned a procedure from 5-6 hrs to < 30 minutes just via indexes and rewritting a little code. Another time I had a person tell me how proud he was last year (2011) that he figures out a replication setup for SQL2000 with no support form anyone, and even though it crashes a few times and knowbody knows why, it is his biggest accomplishment. Hearing that it was crashing and no one was figuring out why was unexpected on an interview, and if I recall correctly was one of many factors of why we didn’t offer a position.

So what are your thoughts, is a test too much? Would you be scared away from somewhere that gave a ‘stress’ test prior to an in depth interview?

If you’d like to try out a version of the test, or are interested in using one in your interview process, let me know and I can send you a copy or work with you to come up with one.

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