Interviewing for a Code Reviewer Position :: SQL Server

You are interviewed for a position as a code reviewer to help improve code quality. The organization's application has queries written by untrained people. The queries have numerous problems, including logical bugs. Your interviewer poses a number of questions and asks for a concise answer of a few sentences to each question. Answer the following questions addressed to you by your interviewer:
  1. Is it important to use standard code when possible, and why?
  2. We have many queries that use ordinal positions in the ORDER BY clause. Is that a bad practice, and if so why?
  3. If a query doesn't have an ORDER BY clause, what is the order in which the records are returned?
  4. Would you recommend putting a DISTINCT clause in every query?


  1. It is important to use standard SQL code. This way, both the code and people's knowledge is more portable. Especially in cases where there are both standard and nonstandard forms for a language element, it's recommended to use the standard form.

  2. Using ordinal positions in the ORDER BY clause is a bad practice. From a relational perspective, you are supposed to refer to attributes by name, and not by ordinal position. Also, what if the SELECT list is revised in the future and the developer forgets to revise the ORDER BY list accordingly?

  3. When the query doesn't have an ORDER BY clause, there are no assurances for any particular order in the result. The order should be considered arbitrary. You also notice that the interviewer used the incorrect term record instead of row. You might want to mention something about this, because the interviewer may have done so on purpose to test you.

  4. From a pure relational perspective, this actually could be valid, and perhaps even recommended. But from a practical perspective, there is the chance that SQL Server will try to remove duplicates even when there are none, and this will incur extra cost. Therefore, it is recommended that you add the DISTINCT clause only when duplicates are possible in the result and you're not supposed to return the duplicates.