8 Database Design Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 6 December 2022
Published 7 May 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
If you're applying for a job in database design, there are certain questions that a hiring team can ask you during the interview. Such questions can help the interviewers determine if you can perform tasks related to the job. Learning about interview questions can help you prepare appropriate answers. In this article, we discuss eight database design interview questions with sample answers and highlight tips that can help you answer questions effectively.
8 database design interview questions with answers
Here are eight database design interview questions with answers:
1. What's database design?
An interviewer can ask this to assess your knowledge of database design. This may be an entry-level question, but the interviewer can also pose it if you're a high-level professional. When answering the question, begin in a calm tone and provide the basic definition of database design. This can show that you understand the usefulness of the question.
Example: 'Database design is the process of creating a model structure for a database. This model includes processes such as database creation, implementation and management. A database is an important asset for the company and handling the design process efficiently can ensure better business performance.
The design phase consists of eight key steps. First, the company can determine the purpose of the database, then organise essential information and divide the details into tables. Steps four and five involve creating columns and listing primary keys. In steps six, seven and eight, the company can create table relationships, review the database design and apply normalisation.'
2. Discuss the structure of a database.
This is an entry-level question that shows your knowledge of basic structures in a database. An interviewer can ask this to determine whether you understand the fundamentals of design and how different database features function. You can answer this by providing a definition and then giving examples of structures.
Example: 'A database structure is a tool that helps you organise data instead of having it on a list with a random order. One of the common database structures is a database table that comprises rows and columns. The table can also be referred to as a two-dimensional array.'
3. Illustrate the conceptual design of a database.
This is an intermediate-level question that an interviewer can ask to gauge your level of experience. Designs are key elements in the field database field and so an interviewer may ask you this question to assess your knowledge of a conceptual design framework. When answering this question, you can give a broad definition and then give a brief statement of how you can use a conceptual design to perform your job efficiently.
Example: 'A conceptual design is the description of a database before the company creates one. The creation of a conceptual design may be the first step in the database creation process. There are four key steps in conceptual design: data analysis and determination of requirements, entity relationship modelling, model verification and design distribution. A conceptual design can guide the development team on how to structure the database.'
4. Explain the physical data model
This is an intermediate-level interview question that interviewers may ask to assess your knowledge on different data models and how each works. You can answer this question by giving a concise description of the data model and describing components in its structure. You can also provide a brief description of your experience if you have utilised the model.
Example: 'A physical database model illustrates all table configurations, including column names, data types, constraints, primary keys, foreign keys and table relationships. A foreign key is a tool that can allow you to establish a relationship between tables. A physical data model may be essential in the planning phase as it helps the development team to estimate the database size.'
5. What are the steps to design a logical data model?
An interviewer can ask this question to both entry-level and highly experienced candidates. They may ask you this question to assess whether you understand how to create a database by following standard industry steps. To answer this question, you can first list the steps, then briefly explain the data model. You may also choose to explain the processes in each step.
Example: 'There are five steps you can follow to design a logical data model. The steps include specification of primary keys, determination of relationships, discovering of attributes, resolving of many-to-many relationships and normalisation. A logical data model may be essential in creating a visual representation of the entire database system or its parts.'
6. Clarify the difference between logical and conceptual models
It's possible to present knowledge in two separate areas when an interviewer asks you to describe differences. When they ask this question, they can assess your scope of knowledge of different data models. When you answer, you can list distinct differences that are easy to understand.
Example: 'In a logical data model, there are primary keys and foreign keys that define relationships between data, while a conceptual data model doesn't contain keys. The conceptual data model may assist developers in creating the logical data model, while the logical model helps create the physical model. Additionally, a logical data model represents attributes while a conceptual model doesn't.'
7. What is SQL and what are some of its advantages?
This may be a technical question for high-level professionals who are more likely to have experience in handling Structured Query Language (SQL). Interviewers can use this question to gauge your level of knowledge and expertise beyond the entry level. If you're unsure of the answer, then it's important to let the interviewer know.
Example: 'SQL is a programming language that developers use to manage a database. Simple SQL queries can retrieve data, delete entries, create new databases, set permissions, update records and insert new entries. One of the key advantages I've noticed is that it's relatively easy to learn and many database management systems support SQL. Additionally, it's easier to manage a database with SQL as you might not use large amounts of code.'
8. Explain the terms attribute and relations
This is an intermediate level question. An interviewer can ask this to assess your knowledge of various terminologies in the field. You can answer this question by giving a brief description of the terms to show that you understand the specific entity in question.
Example: 'In a database system, an attribute includes all the properties that describe an entity. In many cases, the attribute is the column name. For instance, if the database contains a list of employee names, attributes include entries such as employee ID, age, department and position. A relation is a two-dimensional table with several rows, called tuples and columns, called attributes.'
Tips on preparing for database design questions
Here are tips that can help you prepare to answer database design questions:
Research the organisation: Understanding key information about the company can help you gain confidence for the interview, so it's important to read the job description, website, media posts and press releases. This can help you know the type of questions to expect and how to answer.
Search for common interview questions: When preparing for the interview, it may be useful to analyse numerous interview questions besides technical questions. You can research questions related to your strengths, weaknesses, behaviours and habits so that you feel better prepared and boost your confidence.
Use the STAR method: When the interviewer asks you about a real-life event, you can use the STAR interview technique to ensure you answer the question fully. STAR represents situation, task, action and result and it makes it easy for interviewers to follow your story.
Practise: It may be helpful to practise answering common interview questions with a friend, family member or by yourself, in front of a mirror. This can help you memorise answers to technical questions, get additional points from colleagues and determine the best way to answer general questions.
Carry examples of your work: During the interview, an interviewer may ask you about work you've completed concerning the position, and having work samples can help you demonstrate your understanding of complex concepts. Before you show interviewers samples, it may be important to get permission from the company to ensure you don't expose critical project details.
Ask questions: To ensure that you answer technical questions correctly, you can clarify your doubts with the interviewer instead of making assumptions. Interviewers may ask complex questions to assess your communication skills and so if you communicate in such an uncomfortable situation, it shows that you can do the same at work.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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