DevOps Institute

Top 3 Tips for Acing a DevOps Interview


September 18, 2019

By Savinder Puri

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First, let’s answer a fundamental question – what qualifies me to write this article?
In the early 2000s, I was a “build jockey”. In other words, I was responsible for creating product builds that ran on four parallel blade servers for 16+ hours. In 2015, I consulted for a start-up and was tasked with a simple challenge — “Enable us to take a new piece of code live into production in less than an hour”.

So, I’ve been around the block. I’ve become somewhat of a DevOps Evangelist. I have experience in upskilling, soft skills, and build engineering. In my current role, I conduct a lot of interviews for those seeking careers in DevOps. I interview for DevOps jobs across applications, infrastructure, agile, toolset and change management areas.
Here are my three tips for acing a DevOps interview.

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Communication is key

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Depending on whom I’m interviewing, I would typically ask one of the following:

  • Chef or Puppet or Ansible? Why?
    • How would you explain the concept of a Docker container to your grandmother?
    • I am the CIO of a financial services company, about to make major investments into DevOps. Ask me 3 questions and then give me 2 reasons why I should buy the product/service from you?

Be prepared to effectively communicate complex ideas (technical/technology/leadership) in your interview. The ability to explain complex concepts is extremely crucial in DevOps careers today. If you need help breaking down DevOps, check out: How to explain DevOps in plain English.

If you’re also curious about what questions you may also be asked during a job interview in the tech field, check out this article about Information Technology (IT) Interview Questions. You can get a good idea of the various questions that you may be asked that go beyond your background.

The main point is, be able to communicate technical questions in the most concise and comprehensive way. You want to show that you understand what a career in DevOps requires and that you have the skills to do it.

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Revise your fundamental skills

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Whatever your background, study the position you are applying for – especially the tools and technologies you’ll be using. Researching ahead of the interview will ensure you’ll be able to answer each question they ask you

If you’re unable to answer a question, a good interviewer should go back to *your* basics and check your fundamentals. A bad interviewer will go back to *his/her* fundamentals and check your fundamentals. This will not be your lucky day!

One question I oftentimes love to ask is, “What version of <abc> tool (*your basic skill*) have you worked with?”

I’m not looking for the exact version – just the ballpark. This tells me about a candidate’s attention to detail and general awareness.

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Be genuine

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Last but not least, be honest with the interviewer. If you are not sure how to answer a question, ask for the interviewer to repeat the question. Take your time and ensure you understand the question fully. Then, if you do not know the answer, it’s perfectly OK to say so. It’s not possible for anyone to know all the answers.

If you’re looking for a few more ways to handle tough interview questions, check out the 4 ways to Handle Interview Questions You Don’t Know How to Answer. It may be helpful to keep these in the back of your mind when you head into an interview. Not only will it help you tackle questions you may not be able to answer, but it may also calm your nerves knowing your ready to handle any situation.

Most importantly, keep in mind it’s better to be genuine rather than fake an answer and get caught later. Better to miss a couple of answers than your credibility.
Hope this helps!

If my inputs can help just a couple of people land a new job and make their lives a little better, it will be totally worth it!

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