|In just 48 hours, 120 resumes from
Oracle DBAs landed on the desk of Debbie Reames, a senior
technical recruiter for Los Angeles-based staffing company
Commercial Programming Systems. So Reames did what a lot of
recruiters do. She wiped out half the pile in a three-step
process. Need an H-1B visa? Gone. Need to relocate? Not for this
job. Only worked at small companies? This job might be too big
Despite the steepest downturn in the history of IT, there are
jobs to be had by Oracle certified professionals and DBAs,
according to many surveys. Of course, there are also longer
lists of qualified candidates. When it comes to searching for a
job in this market, even the most experienced IT pros need to
remember some of the rules they learned long ago and apply some
new strategies as well.
In many ways, the DBA market can be divided into two groups
– juniors and seniors.
The junior DBAs, those with less than three years of
experience, are the ones facing layoffs and a meaner job market,
according to Don Burleson, owner of Kittrell, N.C.-based BC
Oracle Consulting. Burleson is the author of 17 books related to
Oracle technology and careers, including Conducting the
Oracle Job Interview, a guide for IT managers who have to
assess Oracle job candidates.
"Many companies will not hire beginners, period,"
However, Burleson said, there is hope for junior DBAs.
Companies that are not willing to spend $120,000 annually for a
seasoned professional will sometimes take rookies and train
them. Burleson suggested the health care industry and
universities as two places that new DBAs should look for that
critical first job.
Government security clearance key for veterans
Then there are the veterans. DBAs who have more than 10 years
of experience, who hold advanced degrees and who have
specialized skills are still in strong demand.
Knowledge of Oracle financials, SAP, PeopleSoft, 9i RAC, 9iAS
and Unix are qualities that carry weight, Burleson said. Also,
government security clearance is something that gets many Oracle
DBAs past the first round of resume cuts. In addition,
development skills such as Java, Windows, J2EE and portals lend
candidates a competitive advantage.
More important, Reames said, a candidate's skill set has to
match a company's needs. "They really need to have every
skill," Reames said.
"If the job calls for someone with data modeling,"
she said, "and I don't see any specific data modeling
experience, I'll discount it."
In addition to specific technical skills, Burleson says, many
companies are looking at educational backgrounds, preferring to
hire candidates who have graduate degrees or MBAs. Companies
value DBAs who have an understanding of finance or accounting,
the business processes that DBAs support.
Follow-up calls, first-round interviews
For both groups, there are some basic ground rules to getting
through the critical first round of interviews.
Simply getting the resume in as early as possible can help.
With 120 to read, Reames might not see each of them before she
finds enough qualified candidates to interview.
Candidates should call recruiters too see whether their
resume was received, she said. "Don't be afraid to call to
follow up," Reames said. "It may give you an
advantage, and we may not have looked at the resume
Applicants who make the first cut are usually interviewed on
the telephone. It's important to remember that the person
conducting the interview may not have a technical background,
Burleson said. At this point, candidates are being judged on
their non-technical qualities. Communication skills are crucial
here, experts say.
Because communication skills are so critical on the job,
Burleson recommended that candidates provide potential employers
with writing samples, preferably ones that have been published.
Several online sites, including this one, accept submissions of
technical tips, he pointed out.
Real techie talk
The handful of applicants who survive the telephone interview
can expect an interview at the job site and what Burleson calls
the "teching" of the candidate. He advises
interviewers to ask specific questions, such as "What is
the default password for the sys user in Oracle?"
There's no faking answers to those questions, and an
interviewer can easily judge the technical skills of the
candidates. "Only a practicing DBA knows the answer is 'changeoninstall,'"
Burleson said. "A seasoned DBA can spot a faker
Then comes the last stage, on-site meetings with a company's
IT staff. These meetings typically last about half a day, and
this is where the potential hires will really be tested.
Sometimes there are open-ended questions, such as "What
would be the first thing you would do if an end user complains
that performance is poor?" The answers to these questions
can be very revealing, Burleson said, because they don't have
one right answer, and they show how candidates can think on
their feet, or how innovative a DBA is.
Perhaps more important, this final interaction is where the
intangibles, like interpersonal skills, are judged. Having a DBA
who is a team player is a priority for most, if not all,
companies. In many cases, the intangibles make the difference.
"I've seen companies reject the most technically
qualified candidate. It happens all the time," Burleson
points out. "DBAs have to be able to play well with
Finally, Burleson said, forget casual Fridays.
"It's the kiss of death to underdress for an
interview," he said.
"Appearance does count."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
More on Don Burleson's book Conducting
the Oracle Job Interview