In today’s competitive job market, acing a job interview is crucial to secure your dream job. If you are aspiring to work in the field of data management or software development, chances are high that you might face SQL (Structured Query Language) interview questions. SQL is a programming language used for managing and manipulating data in relational databases. To help you prepare for your SQL interview, we have compiled a list of common SQL interview questions, ranging from basic to advanced.

What is SQL?

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a programming language designed for managing and manipulating data in relational database management systems (RDBMS). It allows users to perform various operations such as data insertion, retrieval, deletion, and updating in a database. SQL is widely used in the IT industry and plays a crucial role in data-driven applications and data analytics.

Importance of SQL Interview Questions

Interviewers use SQL interview questions to assess a candidate’s understanding of the language and their ability to solve real-world database problems. These questions evaluate the candidate’s analytical skills, problem-solving abilities, and proficiency in writing SQL queries. As a job seeker, having a solid grasp of SQL concepts and being well-prepared for the interview can significantly increase your chances of landing the job.

Common SQL Interview Questions

Basic SQL Questions

What is a database? A database is a structured collection of data organized and stored in a way that allows efficient retrieval and management of data. It serves as a central repository for data in various formats.

What is a table in SQL? A table is a collection of related data organized in rows and columns. Each row represents a record, and each column represents a field in the table.

Explain the SELECT statement. The SELECT statement is used to retrieve data from a database. It allows you to specify the columns you want to retrieve and apply conditions to filter the data.

What is a primary key in SQL? A primary key is a unique identifier for each record in a table. It ensures that each row can be uniquely identified and helps maintain data integrity.

What are the different types of joins in SQL? The different types of joins in SQL are INNER JOIN, LEFT JOIN (or LEFT OUTER JOIN), RIGHT JOIN (or RIGHT OUTER JOIN), and FULL JOIN (or FULL OUTER JOIN).

What is the purpose of the WHERE clause in SQL? The WHERE clause is used to filter the rows returned by a query based on specified conditions. It allows you to retrieve only the data that meets certain criteria.

Explain the difference between CHAR and VARCHAR data types in SQL? CHAR is a fixed-length data type that pads spaces to the right to reach the specified length, while VARCHAR is a variable-length data type that only stores the actual characters entered.

What is the role of the BETWEEN operator in SQL? The BETWEEN operator is used to retrieve data within a specific range of values. It includes the values specified in the range.

What is the purpose of the LIKE operator in SQL? The LIKE operator is used for pattern matching in SQL queries. It allows you to retrieve rows based on a specific pattern in a column.

What is the difference between DELETE and TRUNCATE in SQL? DELETE is used to remove specific rows from a table, and it can be rolled back. TRUNCATE, on the other hand, removes all rows from a table and cannot be rolled back. It also resets identity columns.

What is a foreign key in SQL? A foreign key is a field or a set of fields in a table that refers to the primary key of another table. It establishes a relationship between two tables.

What is a subquery in SQL? A subquery, also known as a nested query, is a query embedded within another query. It is used to retrieve data based on the results of the inner query.

How do you use the ORDER BY clause to sort data in descending order? To sort data in descending order, you can use the ORDER BY clause followed by the column name and the keyword DESC.

Intermediate SQL Questions

What is the difference between INNER JOIN and OUTER JOIN? INNER JOIN returns only the matching rows from both tables, while OUTER JOIN returns all rows from at least one of the tables, along with matching rows from the other table.

What is the GROUP BY clause? The GROUP BY clause is used to group rows with the same values in a specified column. It is often used in combination with aggregate functions like SUM, COUNT, AVG, etc.

How do you use the ORDER BY clause? The ORDER BY clause is used to sort the result set in ascending or descending order based on specified columns. It is handy for organizing data for better readability.

SELECT column1, column2
FROM table_name
ORDER BY column1 DESC;

What is the purpose of the COUNT() function in SQL? The COUNT() function is used to count the number of rows that meet a specific condition or to count the total number of rows in a table.

Explain the concept of database normalization. Database normalization is a process of organizing data in a database to reduce redundancy and improve data integrity. It involves breaking data into multiple tables and establishing relationships between them.

What are SQL constraints? SQL constraints are rules applied to the columns of a table to enforce data integrity and ensure that data meets certain conditions. Common constraints include NOT NULL, UNIQUE, PRIMARY KEY, FOREIGN KEY, and CHECK.

What is the difference between a UNION and a UNION ALL in SQL? The UNION operator combines the result sets of two or more SELECT queries and removes duplicate rows. The UNION ALL operator, however, combines the result sets without removing duplicates.

How do you calculate the average (mean) value of a column in SQL? To calculate the average value of a column, you can use the AVG() function.


SELECT AVG(column_name) AS average_value
FROM table_name;

Advanced SQL Questions

Explain the difference between UNION and UNION ALL. UNION combines the result sets of two or more SELECT queries and eliminates duplicate rows, whereas UNION ALL retains all the rows, including duplicates.

What is the purpose of the HAVING clause? The HAVING clause filters the results of GROUP BY by applying conditions to aggregated data. It is used to restrict the output based on specific criteria.

How do you optimize a SQL query? Query optimization involves improving the performance of a SQL query by selecting the most efficient execution plan, creating indexes, and using proper table relationships.

What is a self-join in SQL? A self-join is when a table is joined to itself using aliases. It is used to retrieve related data from the same table.

Explain the difference between a clustered and non-clustered index in SQL? A clustered index determines the physical order of data in a table, and there can be only one per table. In contrast, a non-clustered index is a separate structure that provides a quick lookup of data without affecting the physical order of the table.

What is a correlated subquery in SQL? A correlated subquery is a subquery that refers to a column from the outer query. It is evaluated for each row of the outer query, making it more performance-intensive than a regular subquery.

What is the purpose of the ROW_NUMBER() function in SQL? The ROW_NUMBER() function assigns a unique number to each row returned by a query. It is often used in combination with the ORDER BY clause to create a result set with row numbers.

Explain the concept of transaction management in SQL? Transaction management in SQL ensures that a group of related database operations is executed as a single unit. It follows the ACID properties (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) to maintain data integrity.

What is a CTE (Common Table Expression) in SQL? A Common Table Expression is a named temporary result set that can be referenced within the context of a SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statement. It improves query readability and reusability.

How do you use the CASE statement in SQL? The CASE statement is used to perform conditional logic in SQL queries. It allows you to specify different actions based on various conditions.

What are SQL window functions? SQL window functions perform calculations across a set of rows related to the current row, defined by the OVER() clause. Common window functions include ROW_NUMBER(), RANK(), DENSE_RANK(), and LEAD().

Explain the difference between a stored procedure and a user-defined function in SQL? A stored procedure is a set of precompiled SQL statements that perform a specific task and can be called multiple times. A user-defined function is a reusable SQL code block that returns a single value and is called as part of a SQL expression.

What is the purpose of the PIVOT and UNPIVOT operators in SQL? The PIVOT operator is used to rotate rows into columns, transforming data from a normalized format to a cross-tabulated format. The UNPIVOT operator does the opposite, converting columns into rows.

What are SQL triggers? SQL triggers are special stored procedures that are automatically executed when specific database events occur, such as INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE operations on a table.

How do you handle NULL values in SQL queries? NULL values can be handled using functions like COALESCE() or NULLIF(). COALESCE() returns the first non-NULL value from a list, while NULLIF() returns NULL if two expressions are equal; otherwise, it returns the first expression.

Explain the difference between a temporary table and a table variable in SQL? Temporary tables are physical tables stored in the tempdb database and can be accessed by multiple sessions. Table variables, on the other hand, are variables that hold a table-like structure in memory and are limited to the current session.

What is the purpose of the ROLLUP and CUBE operators in SQL? The ROLLUP operator is used to generate subtotals for aggregated data in a result set. The CUBE operator, on the other hand, generates all possible combinations of aggregated data, providing more detailed summaries.

How can you handle duplicate rows when using the INSERT statement in SQL? To handle duplicate rows during the INSERT operation, you can use the ON CONFLICT clause in databases that support it or use the INSERT INTO … SELECT statement along with appropriate filtering and joining to avoid duplicates.

Tips for Answering SQL Interview Questions

  1. Understand the question thoroughly: Take your time to comprehend the question before jumping to conclusions. Ask for clarifications if necessary.
  2. Use proper syntax and keywords: Write SQL queries using the correct syntax and relevant keywords for the specific operation.
  3. Explain your thought process: While answering complex questions, walk the interviewer through your thought process step-by-step.
  4. Provide examples: Support your answers with examples to showcase your practical knowledge.


Preparing for an SQL interview can be a daunting task, but with the right approach and practice, you can excel in it. Understanding the basics of SQL, practicing SQL queries, and familiarizing yourself with common interview questions are essential steps in securing your dream job. Remember, confidence, clarity, and problem-solving skills play a vital role in impressing the interviewer.


Can I use SQL with non-relational databases?

No, SQL is specifically designed for relational databases. For non-relational databases, you’ll need to use other query languages like MongoDB’s query language for MongoDB.

Is it necessary to memorize all SQL functions and keywords for the interview?

While it’s beneficial to know as many functions and keywords as possible, interviewers often focus on your understanding of core concepts rather than memorization.

How can I practice SQL interview questions effectively?

You can practice SQL interview questions by using online platforms that offer interactive SQL practice exercises and challenges.

Are SQL interview questions only relevant for software development roles?

SQL is widely used in software development, data analysis, data engineering, and database administration roles, making SQL interview questions relevant for a broader range of positions.

What’s the best way to prepare for a technical SQL interview?

Besides practicing SQL queries, review database normalization, transaction management, and indexing concepts to prepare comprehensively for a technical SQL interview.