Your Guide to Preparing for Your SQL Interview

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

The article provides numerous hints and tips on answering SQL screening interviews with confidence. It also elaborates on the different types of SQL query-related interview types that a candidate might come across.

[Featured image] A person in a gray button-down sits at a computer workstation running SQL queries on a laptop

Structured query language (SQL) is one of the most crucial skills for database administrators to possess. You should assume the topic of SQL to arise throughout the interview session for data science positions as you prep for your interview.

With the help of this guide, you will discover details about SQL specialised interviews, including what sorts of tests you can experience as well as some frequently asked interview questions. There are also some sample questions, along with a step-by-step method for creating SQL code during the interview, and several interview performance recommendations. 

SQL screenings

To retrieve, analyse, and interpret information, database administrators utilise SQL to interface with relational databases. 

It's customary for data scientist interviews to have an SQL technological assessment because it's such a crucial skill that everyone must be thorough with. This section of the interview requires you to use SQL to solve real-world challenges. Although you may be given some typological problems in a conventional interview, the true goal would be for the interviewer to see if you are proficient in using SQL rather than simply talking about it. Commonly, such tests take one among the following three forms:

1. One of the most popular kinds of SQL testing is the whiteboard test. You'll be handed a board and pen to handwrite your questions on. Since you won't get a computer checking your code for syntax or conceptual flaws, this is merely about proving that you might work through a task and apply the appropriate SQL ideas to solve it.

2. You will be handed SQL queries to tackle in a live programming session during this sort of screening. This makes it easy to manage your queries and double-check your output as you proceed, but because you're executing code, the syntax is important. This form of testing is not quite as prevalent as whiteboard screening since various databases employ different technologies.

3. You'll be handed a task or set of questions to take home but also solve them within a certain amount of time. This is the least used screening approach. This allows you to compose your questions in the privacy of your own home, away from the scrutiny of an examiner. Coding problems are however usually more difficult.

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Interview format

There really are three major kinds of questions that will often be addressed during an interview, just like there are three potential patterns for professional assessments. From easy to sophisticated, we've grouped them here. The simpler, typological questions will indeed be shorter and far less significant than that of the live coding problems, so bear that in account while you practice.

Defining SQL Terms

Since you're applying for a database analyst position, you are probably familiar with SQL. It's conceivable that you'll be prompted to define SQL, but it is far more probable that you will be asked to describe highly technical ideas in SQL, such as the distinction between two key topics or how a notion is applied.

Query related questions

This second type of inquiry presents you with a SQL query as well as a question regarding it. This assessment assesses your abilities to read, understand, analyse, and troubleshoot other people's code.

Writing a query

One of the most typical SQL specialised assessment questions urges you to address an issue by executing a SQL query. Usually, you will be handed tables and told to construct a few queries to get, change, or delete data from them.

Tips on answering SQL interview questions

Walking into the interview with a defined action plan is often the greatest method of keeping nervousness at bay before one.  Even if you're apprehensive, you can use the following tips and approach to organise your ideas and lead you to a resolution, regardless of what sort of inquiry you're expected to compose.

  • To understand and comprehend what you've been told to accomplish, repeat the inquiry mentally.

  • By posing questions to the information, you can learn more about it. What sort of data is dedicated to each column? Is there any data in any other columns that are distinctive (for example, a login number)?

  • Determine which columns you will need for addressing the query. This allows you to concentrate on the data that counts rather than being side-tracked by data that is unrelated to the question.

  • Consider how you want your response to seem. Do you want a single item or a collection of values? Is the solution going to be an equation? Would that be a float or a number? Is this anything you'll have to cater to in your code?

  • Step by step, compose your code without any rush. It's a good idea to sketch out your strategy beforehand. You will have a clear framework the moment you start to write your inquiry if you write out the stages you want to take.

  • Following that, code in short iterations, taking a single piece at a time, following your blueprint. Once you're satisfied with the very first step's code, continue with what is to follow.

  • On the whole, describe your approach. Demonstrate whether there was a better method to writing your code, such as using subqueries. Also, don't forget to respond to the query in light.

  • Pronounce your steps aloud as you go through them. You should clarify the what, why, as well as how of every action to your recruiter, who might not be thoroughly familiar with SQL.

  • Include textual descriptions about what each phase of your inquiry is supposed to achieve. This could aid in keeping note of your progress in the query, as well as making your code more understandable. You can also enter side comments in case you are programming in a live setting.

Next steps

Handwriting SQL queries is among the greatest strategies to practice for your SQL interview. This coding language is often regarded as one of the more straightforward programming scripts to master. SQL's design and syntax are influenced by the English language, making it reasonably simple to read and comprehend. If you’re new to the world of SQL, learn how to start using it for data analysis with the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate on Coursera.

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