Common DevOps interview questions – and how to answer them

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Popular and lucrative, DevOps are in high demand right now. Learn how to highlight your skills

With more than 8 in 10 IT leaders using DevOps practices in their workplace, the field’s popularity has increased in leaps and bounds lately. As such, more and more opportunities are becoming available as businesses look to leverage the skills and knowledge of the position.

Clearly, it’s an enriching market to find yourself in. But how can you stand out from the field of applicants who are also vying to secure a spot working as a DevOps?

To give you the edge, we’ll run through some of the most frequently asked DevOps interview questions – and how to go about answering them – below.

The typical interview process for a DevOps

While the DevOps recruitment process does entail traditional elements like face-to-face meetings and follow-up interviews, your success hinges largely on the technical testing phase, which is used to assess your practical skills and knowledge.

As part of a DevOps technical assessment, you’ll typically be given a problem for which you must doctor an effective solution on the firm’s development platform of choice. You’ll be required to write, build and run the solution to demonstrate its workability, all while highlighting your technical knowledge and problem-solving abilities to hiring managers.

This might sound like a daunting prospect, but with the right preparation and lots of practice, you should be ready for whatever is passed your way. There are a variety of DevOps practice tests you can access online, so be sure to try your hand at a few different versions to get a feel for typical scenarios and requirements.

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General DevOps interview questions

Can you briefly explain what DevOps is?

This a standard entry-level question but one that’s sometimes fired at experienced DevOps as a test of their foundational understanding; interviewers use this to gauge your general knowledge. It might sound obvious, but it’s a question that shouldn’t be underestimated.

As well as demonstrating your general DevOps knowledge, you should also show your understanding of how and why it came about. Talk your interviewer through the growing importance of DevOps within IT and be sure to touch on how it aims to combine the work of both development and operations teams so that software can be delivered with as little failure as possible.

What DevOps tools have you worked with?

There’s a good chance that the job description will list specific tools to help you answer this question, so be sure to refer to it. Here, the interviewer wants to get a sense of your hands-on knowledge of at least one or more tools, along with the benefits that come with each.

Examples of more common DevOps tools include:

Git: A free and open-source version control system, with an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI)

Ansible: An open-source provisioning and configuration management tool

Puppet: Similar to Ansible; another configuration management tool used by Ops teams 

Docker: A feature-heavy platform-as-a-service (PaaS) product that allows for containerisation and is compatible with a wide variety of environments and public clouds

Jenkins: An open-source automation server which helps with streamlining development, testing, and deployment to facilitate CI/CD

Chef: A configuration management tool which includes multiple automation, delivery, compliance, and remediation tools in one stack

In your response, it’s important to be honest about the tools you have and haven’t worked with. Don’t try to kid the interviewer that you’ve worked with tools you’re unfamiliar with; they may ask about them in follow-up questions, which could put you in a tricky situation that’s hard to get out of.

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Why do you think DevOps has increased in popularity over the years?

A measure of your awareness of DevOps’ position in the industry, your answer should note the field’s increasing growth with reference to the benefits and successes it’s brought to a range of big-name businesses.

Take Facebook, for example. Their continuous deployment and code ownership have allowed the social media giant to scale up without compromising on the user experience. This has allowed them to implement hundreds of lines of code, without affecting quality, stability, and security.

By pointing to examples like this, you can show the interviewer you understand the role DevOps plays in higher success rates, reduced lead times between bug fixes, continuous delivery through automation, as well as an overall reduction in manpower and costs.

Technical DevOps interview questions

What is the difference between DevOps and Agile?

There’s a good reason you’ll be asked this. The two terms have some overlap, to the point where they’re incorrectly used interchangeably. The interviewer will want to know that you understand the differences.

So, while the two both aim to make the software development process faster and more efficient, it’s important to note that Agile is a philosophy, whereas DevOps is a set of approaches which define the team culture. DevOps aims to streamline software delivery by connecting development and workflows so that software is constantly improved, deployed, and monitored cyclically.

Agile, on the other hand, turns software development into short sprints, using customer feedback at regular intervals to improve the software at every juncture. The two aren’t mutually exclusive; they can be used side by side or independently, which is worth emphasising to your interviewer.

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What is version control in DevOps?

A system that records any changes made to one or more files that then saves them in a central location. A straightforward answer, but a commonly asked question you can develop further in your response.

For instance, it’s worth mentioning how the tool can also be used to go through changes made over a certain period to check what works and what doesn’t, examine issues or errors that might have taken place, and revert specific files or projects back to a previous version. And of course, if you used version control to achieve a specific goal then be sure to highlight this fact.

Can you explain the term ‘infrastructure as code’ in a DevOps context?

With the traditional way of managing infrastructure falling by the wayside, here’s your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of this important operational aspect of DevOps.

After mentioning how these approaches are becoming less popular, talk your interviewer through how infrastructure as code (IaC) lets DevOps teams manage configurations, deployment and provisioning through software code. Mention how this allows specific tasks to be carried out in faster, safer, and easier ways.

What are some important DevOps KPIs?

Even if you’re going for an entry-level position where you aren’t running a team, it’s important to let your interviewer know which KPIs you’ll be working towards. So, highlight and explain the following:

Failed deployment rate: A measure of how often deployments lead to failures or outages

Mean time to failure recovery: If a build fails, the DevOps team must identify the root cause and run a successful deployment. Essentially: how long it takes to solve an issue

Lead time for change: A KPI that measures the time it takes to initiate a change and then implement it until the final deployment

Defect escape rate: The number of defects that aren’t detected during testing, which are then passed onto the end user

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Experiential DevOps interview questions

Tell me about a project you completed successfully

You’ll be asked this so that the interviewer can get a grasp on how you approach particular problems. Since collaboration is a large part of DevOps, try focusing your answer on teamwork and how you’ve worked well with others in the past.

Perhaps there was a time when you dealt with an issue of team morale, or how you communicated effectively between developers, product managers and non-technical stakeholders.

You don’t even have to take your answer from previous work experience – university projects, volunteer work and extracurricular activities can all be mined to demonstrate how you successfully met a goal.

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