Recruiters, Nerves, and Saying 'No' in Interviews (video with transcript)

In this episode of “Dear SQL DBA”, I talk about three articles written by members of the SQL Server community on interviewing that I can’t stop thinking about.

  • “Playing the Third Party Recruiter Game”, by Adam Machanic - read it here
  • “I Hate Interviews”, by Rob Sewell - read it here
  • “Learning to say ‘No’” by Mark Broadbent - read it here

In this 8 minute video, I talk about why I think these posts are so great (without spoiling everything). If you’re short on time, check out the transcript below the video, listen to this on the go as a podcast, or just follow the link to read the articles yourself.

Transcript of the video

Today I’m talking about interview advice from the SQL Server community. We’ll be talking about recruiters, nerves, and saying “no”.

I recently hosted TSQLTuesday, which is a monthly blogging event. I got to pick the topic. The topic I picked was interview patterns and anti-patterns and I wanted to open it up: you didn’t have to talk about both patterns and anti-patterns. I really wanted to just get advice from folks about interviewing.

There are some fantastic posts! I really enjoyed reading through all of them and a lot of the advice works for any sort of developer or IT professional. It’s not all SQL Server specific.

There were three of these posts that really stuck with me. Like the kind of blog post that you read and I just couldn’t stop thinking about them, they really resonated with me.

I am sharing those three posts with you in this episode. I’m not gonna spoil the posts for you: what I’m going to do is I’m going to tell you where you can find them and talk about why I think they’re such outstanding posts and how I think they can help you.

“Playing the Third Party Recruiter Game”, by Adam Machanic

The first post is by Adam Machanic. He wrote this post on - read it here. This post is called “Playing the third party recruiter game.” In this post Adam tells you how recruiters make money, and more importantly what that means about your relationship with the third party recruiter. He gives you really practical advice on how to vet the recruiter and to make sure that you’re working with the right recruiters because there’s a lot of recruiters out there.

He gives you real world examples of how if you work with the wrong recruiter it can end up burning you, so he tells you how to vet the recruiter and make sure that you’re avoiding the ones that can lead you into disappointing situations that aren’t great for you. He tells you why you should be interviewing your recruiter and how to go about doing that in a practical way that won’t be weird or awkward. He gives you really specific questions to talk through in the interview and lets you know how the process should be going.

This is really great insight, because the first time you work with a recruiter, you just don’t have a good idea of how this should work! If you’ve been working with the wrong recruiters you probably don’t know how much better it could be.

So check out Adam Machanic’s post on SQLBlog, which is titled “Playing the third party recruiter game,” if you’re going to work with recruiters. They really can help you land great jobs. This is great essential reading to help you find the right recruiter and get the most out of the situation.

“I Hate Interviews”, by Rob Sewell

Another fantastic post is written by Rob Sewell on Read it here. I love that URL. Head to Rob’s blog and you’ll find this post, it’s called “I hate interviews,” which i think is just a fantastic title, right? Super memorable, right to the point, and Rob explains why he hates interviews. He is overcome with nerves.

This isn’t just a DBA thing: he explains how interviews have made him nervous his whole life. He does it in a way where I felt like I was right there with him. It’s a great post because I felt like a friend was telling me about difficult times that he had with entertaining stories, and he helped me understand systems that he’s put in place that have helped him manage this and be able to deal with interviews.

He still hates interviews and this is this is how things work in the real world: we can’t always just make nerves go away. We have to learn how when we have things in life that make us really nervous or make us anxious, we have to learn how to get good at them even if that nervousness can’t be vanquished.

So he manages this. He gives really practical real-world tips, but the big picture is: there is preparation, practice, knowledge, and distraction. He talks about exactly how he works these out so that he can do well at interviews which don’t come natural to him.

I think it’s a really great honest post that’s going to help so many people, because there’s a lot of us who get really, really nervous and interview situations.

Thank you so much Rob for writing this excellent post.

“Learning to say ‘No’” by Mark Broadbent

Mark Broadbent also wrote a really honest, helpful post about a different type of problem with interviews. Mark’s site is and Mark’s post is called “Learning to say no.” Read it here.

In Mark’s post, he explains how he had this pattern in his life where he was having these stressful jobs that caused him a lot of anxiety: that kind of thing where you’re going to work and you’re dreading the stress and negative situations you’re going to be in all day. He got to a point where he thought back on it, and he recognized that this was a pattern, and that his own actions had – this this wasn’t just a coincidence, he was in this pattern for a reason.

He realized he had never turned down a job offer. I read Mark’s post, and I thought about this, and I remembered a time in my career when I would only ever interview for a job if I was in a stressful situation, and I was really burnt out. I realized that I never saw this pattern at that time in my career as clearly as Mark points it out. If I’d had that moment of realization back when I was in that pattern, wow, maybe I could have changed things!

Mark changed things for himself by setting himself a challenge: he set himself a challenge of turning down a job offer. He explains in this post how he went about that and how it changed his career.

I’m not gonna spoil how it turned out, but I think it’s a really interesting compelling post that’s absolutely worth reading over on Mark Broadbent’s blog on