Wednesday, September 08, 2010

MDX Interview Questions : How to prepare for SSAS MDX interview

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As I serve / can serve on the interview panel for my employer, I cannot share any kind of interview questions, but this post is about how to prepare for an interview where you expect questions on Multi Dimensional Expressions (MDX). Below are certain points that should provide some hint / direction to keep in view, while preparing for your interview.

1) Work Profile: The depth and number of questions that you might face on the MDX section depends on the job profile for which you are appearing an interview. If you are appearing for a full time SSAS developer, expect the same level of brain storming on MDX as a T-SQL developer might face on T-SQL. If your interview is for a job profile of MS BI Tech Lead, MDX would be inevitably one of the sections. But that section might comprise of few complex queries to test whether you have ever worked on MDX. If you are a reports developer on a junior profile, you might skip away with questions on MDX, but if you are on a senior reports developer profile, you would still have to face MDX queries to a moderate level.

2) Cube Anatomy: If you do not understand cube anatomy, having knowledge of MDX would seem completely bookish to the interviewer. For ex. if you are not able to explain the difference between levels on attribute hierarchies and levels on user hierarchies, that would mean that though you have an idea of MDX but you do not understand how to navigate the cube using MDX. In T-SQL terms, this means that you know "select" command, but you do not know the difference between a view and a stored proc. In this case your knowledge on MDX would be rated on a scale of 1-3 on a scale of 10.

3) Operators and Functions: You should knowing the frequently used operators and functions in MDX. If you are poor at that, again it would project to the interviewer that you have bookish knowledge. No healthy querying can be done without operators and functions, and though not all, but if you do not have even an idea of even the frequently used MDX functions and operators for reporting purposes, your knowledge on MDX would be rated in a range of 3-5 on a scale of 10.

4) Effects of cube modeling: MDX is heavily influenced by the dimensional model of the cube. And many times by looking at the query results, one can tell the nature of the entity that is being used for retrieving the results or any issue with the dimensional model. For ex. if a measure is not associated with a dimension and you use them on two axes in your query, looking at the result, you can easily tell that there is a high probability that both are not associated. A clever interviewer would try this technique too to judge whether you have practically worked on MDX or you have just mugged up a few queries. If you perform well in this area, there is a high probability that you would score in a range of 5-8 on a scale of 10.

5) Interviewer's knowledge: Many a times it happens that interviewer might not be that good on MDX too. You need to score a good percentile, and not a good percentage. This means that you need to prove yourself competent enough to interviewer's knowledge. If you are just asked one question on MDX section like "Can you tell me a complex MDX query that you have used in your project or Can you tell me the syntax of MDX query", there is a high probability that the interviewer does not wish to screen you in detail on MDX or the interviewer himself / herself has limited knowledge on MDX. This means that you just hit a jackpot on your interview for the MDX section.

I hope this helps for all those who are scared of MDX. MDX is not at all similar to SQL, but also if you attempt to learn MDX without comparing it to SQL, MDX is a wonderful and a very powerful query language.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sidharth I need your help to setup my career. I had worked for 1 Year in MSBI after that I switched to other tool. After 3 years I want to switch to again MSBI in this case how to crack my interview yar. Or what is the best possible way to getinto MSBI field. Please blog it.

Siddharth Mehta said...

Try to land yourself into a MS BI project where you can leverage on your existing skill sets.

Though you may have worked on other ETL / Reporting / Cube Designing tools, there are some common elements like MDX / Report Design / ETL Fundamentals that you can always apply everywhere.

Another approach can be to pursue a certification in MS BI to reinforce confidence in the interviewer's viewpoint in your MS BI knowledge.

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