Michael J. Swart

January 23, 2009

Technical Interviews (good or bad?)

Filed under: Miscelleaneous SQL — Michael J. Swart @ 6:41 am

Recently there have been a couple articles I’ve read that give different sides to the argument over whether technical interviews are effective, valuable or worthwhile.

Brent Ozar in an article called Top 10 Interview Questions to Ask Senior DBAs mentions (as #2):

Anything to put them under stress … This is your one chance to see how they handle stress before the brown stuff actually hits the fan. Ideally, a senior DBA is someone who’s had their cage rattled more than once, and they’re comfortable under the gun.

With a different point of view, Phil Factor has an article titled Technical Interviews, and tests, have got to stop! He begins by saying:

… I’d like more successful developers to confess their inability to remember much more than their name under the pressure of a technical interview. The most extreme geeks all have brains that blue-screen with a temporary aphasia under stress.

Phil Factor then goes on to argue for a different (albeit unconventional) interview technique that measures determination. 

I have to side with Brent on this one for a few reasons:
Jobs are stressful. I don’t know of any IT job that is so cushy that the employee is not expected to work under pressure from time to time. It’s nice to see a candidate who has that grace under pressure. Confidence is the key I think. 
These questions are not like academic exams. Phil Factor’s assumption is that the only point of these technical questions are to see whether the candidate gets the right answer or not. 5 marks for getting the right answer! And perhaps some interviewers do treat questions that way. But better interviewers care as much (or more) about the candidate’s approach to problem solving and behaviour under stress. And I think Brent and Phil can both agree on that point.
Bias disclaimer: I love puzzles. I love challenges like that. So I’ve never had a fear of taking technical quizzes. In his article Brent posed the question of solving the FizzBuzz problem with SQL code. I stopped reading the article right there and solved it before returning to the article. (See problem as posed by Brent here) If asked about trivial stuff like which port SQL Server typically listens on for secure connections. I have no problem quickly saying “I don’t know that off the top of my head I’d have to look that up”
So I say yes! Good, keep the technical interviews coming!

Michael J. Swart

January 19, 2009

Sending Query Results to Colleagues

Filed under: Miscelleaneous SQL — Michael J. Swart @ 6:30 am

If I need to send data or query results to colleagues, I like to send them using Microsoft Excel Especially if it’s through email and the results aren’t so huge as to overwhelm the clipboard.
When doing this, there’s a couple things that I like to do to make my life easier:

First there’s an option that you might not have come across yet in management studio that includes the column names when copying the results. Under the Tools menu, select Options. The following dialog is shown:

Select Include column headers when copying or saving the results. This (as you might have guessed) saves some time when pasting into excel:

Update (Feb 5, 2009
): Interesting quirk about the above feature: Column headers aren’t included if there is only data from one column selected. Also this feature has no effect on existing query windows, only on newly opened windows. So without that knowledge, it might seem like this option has no effect.

The second thing I like to do is to include the query on Sheet 2 and format the results. I.e. formatting includes bolding the header, and enabling autofilter on the worksheet, etc…:
See an example (video).
It’s nice and it works. (But it’s not quite enough to justify it’s own Excel template). I think Excel does well for what it’s used for here: A portable, sortable, data viewer.

January 9, 2009

Did you ever notice…

Filed under: Tongue In Cheek — Michael J. Swart @ 11:28 am

It’s a busy week, so I thought I’d provide an extremely short mini-post.

Did you ever notice:
  • The RAISERROR function is spelled with one less E than expected.
  • The column loginame in the table sys.sysprocesses has one less n than expected.

These cost me a minute or two of head scratching in the past.

January 2, 2009

A Meta-Post (about Google Analytics)

Filed under: Miscelleaneous SQL — Michael J. Swart @ 6:34 am

That is, a blog post about blog posts. Specifically about Google Analytics.

For the past few months, I’ve found it interesting to use Google Analytics to see how people arrive at my blog. Most of the traffic comes from Google’s search page and from what I understand, that’s true of most blogs (or web sites in general). Here’s a couple interesting facts that surprised me:

  • The most common search term that generated visits to this blog is 341 characters long. 52 visits representing 6% of all visits since I started tracking. That search phrase is:

    a network-related or instance-specific error occurred while establishing a connection to sql server. the server was not found or was not accessible. verify that the instance name is correct and that sql server is configured to allow remote connections. (provider: named pipes provider, error: 40 – could not open a connection to sql server)

    And that phrase will bring you to this post.

  • The second most common search term at 3% is “sql poetry“. No joke.

For those that use Google Analytics. Leave a comment about any surprises you may have found yourself.

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