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Don Burleson Blog 







Conducting a Database Administrator Background Check

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

March 18, 2015

The job of Database Administrator (DBA) is a mission-critical job whereby a corporation entrusts billions of dollars worth of data to a single individual.  Database Administrators are generally paid at the same level as a mid-level manager or Vice President, and it is not uncommon to find people with salaries in excess of $150,000 per year, even more for special DBAs who have functional and technical skills.  Oracle estimates that the average DBA earns more than $100,000 per year.  Foremost, you must carefully screen for intelligence.

Being a DBA requires a special type of professional. 

  • Bright People:  It takes someone with above average intelligence to manage a complex computer system, and an ideal DBA has an IQ in the range from 120-140, the same as a typical college graduate student.  Dumb DBAs have a propensity to compromise the security of a database, even when they do not intend to reveal details.

  • Diverse People:  A DBA needs to have the rare mix of technical skills and excellent communications skills.  Without the ability to communicate complex concepts in plain English, a DBA is seriously hobbled.

  • People with functional knowledge:  It is always a bonus to have a DBA with functional knowledge which is why the MBA degree is popular with DBAs to manage business databases.  For example, a DBA with a CPA is ideal to manage a financial database and a DBA who is a medical informaticist with an MD degree is perfect for managing a medical database.

  • People without any moral turpitude:  This is one of the toughest areas to check. The job interviewer needs to be like Elliott Ness, finding “The Untouchables”, trustworthy people to fill jobs that give them access to confidential and valuable data.  The DBA arena attracts all sorts of posers, and resume fraud is rampant, not to mention people who truly believe that they are competent when in reality they are inept.  see my notes on why bad credit indicates a dishonest personality. and Oracle employers checking your credit history

Let’s take a closer look at how to evaluate people for moral turpitude.

Evaluating the morality of a job candidate

In my book Conducting the Oracle Job Interview, I describe how I have used my degree in Psychology to develop unobtrusive measures to detect job candidates who are dishonest.  Honesty trumps every other area of candidate evaluation, especially in light of the media reports of dishonest DBAs stealing millions of dollars from their employers.  For more details, see my notes on evaluating the honesty of a job applicant.

Part of evaluating morality is complete background checks, credit checks and drug tests.  Many people misunderstand that it is not the act of committing an offense that matters, it’s lying about it.

Evidence of lying will quickly disqualify a DBA job applicant.  A Secret Service Agent once told me a tale where some agents were fighting boredom in a long stakeout and they were messing around with their handguns.  One of the guns discharged, and the two innocent agents concocted a story to CYA and deflect the blame.  In the end, the agent who fired the gun confessed that he did wrong, and it should not be a surprise that the person who admitted his transgression got a small punishment while the agents who lied about it were fired.

  •  Credit check:  People who do not pay their bills on time have no respect for their obligations.

  • Criminal check:  While it may be OK to have a few parking tickets, we disqualify people who do not pay their tickets because it indicates disrespect for the law.

  • Surprise drug testing:  A random urinalysis is an absolute requirement, and I do it right after the on-site interview, marching them straight to the nurse’s office.  I have been amazed at the results, where fine upstanding people come back testing positive for Meth, Heroin and all sorts of substances.  The tests now can tell if the applicant has an alcohol problem, even if there is not alcohol in their system at the time.

Inhuman Urinalysis

Corporations have hired me for decades to interview and screen computer job applicants for sensitive positions, and over the years I have interviewed hundreds of DBA candidates.  I thought that I had seen every possible result from the “piss quiz”, until I heard the story of the “inhuman” urinalysis results!

Another manager told me that he had the results of a drug test come back as “inhuman”, meaning that the urine was not from a human being!  

The drug test did not indicate the species, but I can imagine this person with a cup on a broom stick following Fido around waiting for his chance to get a urine sample!

It is also important to note that the urine sample is collected on-site and tested for warmth (real pee should be over 90 degrees at collection time).  I can only guess that this fellow “keestered” the dog urine, or heated it up with a Bic lighter in the bathroom stall!

Oracle employers check your credit history

This article shows that a credit check is a routine part of pre-employment screening, and acts of "moral turpitude" such as paying your bills late, can ruin your chances of getting a top Oracle job. 

Also, see my notes on why bad credit indicates a dishonest personality.

A slow payment history indicates irresponsibility

This article notes that companies are routinely doing background credit checks of all job applicants, and they have little sympathy for people who don't honor their credit payment terms.  A history of slow credit payments can indicate irresponsibility and a disregard for personal commitments:

"Richard Becraft was offered a good civil service job with the Department of Defense in May 2002. . .

After a background check, however, the job offer was rescinded. The government letter that the Oxnard, Calif., man received indicated “financial considerations” made him a poor security risk."

I work for many companies in a job applicant screening service where we help them hire responsible Oracle professionals and I'm amazed at the amount of background checks that are done before hiring database professionals.  I have extensive details on doing background checks for Oracle job applicants in my book "Conducting the Oracle Job Interview", $9.95 at Rampant TechPress.

Your Web Presence is evaluated

Many employers now check all of your postings on the web.  Your raunchy comments from a decade ago could ruin your chances of being hired, especially for the top-jobs with five-figure salaries.  I saw a job applicant rejected because he made rude and inappropriate posting on a message board using his verified e-mail from a prior employer.

Some of the background checks now include extensive checks:

  • Credit checks - A history of late payments indicates a lack of responsibility to honor your credit agreement.
  • Criminal checks - Sites like can find everything about you, even your history of traffic tickets.  Here is an actual criminal check of a job applicant that I interviewed awhile back.  Possession of stolen property, I never would have guessed.  Here is another job applicant where we found a charge of heroin possession.
  • Job History verification - Employers know that they are allowed to ask the tell-all question "Would you re-hire this person".  A "no" from a previous employer will often cause your resume to go into a wastebasket. 
  • Education verification - I've seen dozens of cases where a job applicant has listed a degree that they have not earned.  Employers call the schools and request that the applicant provide transcripts.  I once caught a liar who listed a fake MBA and when I confronted her, she explained that she was "planning to get that MBA", as-if that was perfectly acceptable.
  • Web presence verification - There are companies that perform "Google checks" on you, and they sometimes reveal questionable professional behavior. 

This degree of background checking has become even more problematic because of the huge amount of resume fraud in the Oracle industry, usually by foreign workers and some firms reject 10,000 job applicants every month.

Job applicants are much more likely to lose a job because they have a recent criminal history or they lied on an application about their identity, experience or education. . .

“Of the 10,000 adverse action letters we send out monthly, very few of them are credit related,” Greenblatt said. “It’s less than 5%.”

For more information on screening the right people for a DBA job, see The  Oracle Job Interview Handbook.



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