DevOps engineer interviews: Ask these questions

Single out your best DevOps engineer candidates by asking a mix of soft skill and technical questions
463 readers like this.
Harvard Business Review How to Keep Your Top Talent CIO

Now that DevOps is proliferating in the enterprise (companies like Disney, Nike, and Walmart, for example, are all on the adoption train) the term is starting to creep up more and more in job titles. This is challenging organizations to consider the significance of "DevOps engineer" as a role and the value of having someone with DevOps in their title on their team. What steps can you take to ensure that DevOps candidates are the right fit for your company?

[ Not everyone believes DevOps engineer is a useful title right now. Read The great DevOps engineer title debate. ]

Part of the interview process needs to get at the DevOps culture you are seeking to create.

When you are looking for a DevOps engineer, you are seeking someone who not only has the skills you need to complete technical work but also embodies the DevOps values and mindset. Part of the interview process needs to get at the DevOps culture you are seeking to create.

5 DevOps engineer questions

With that in mind, consider asking questions such as:

  • What’s the most important business outcome for a DevOps team to deliver?
  • Have you been able to achieve continuous delivery on the projects that you’ve worked on?  What were the keys to ensuring that you could deliver that value to the business?
  • What’s the most important character trait for DevOps engineers to have to ensure team success?
  • How do you ensure that the DevOps team communicates effectively across team boundaries?
  • What are the most important operational requirements to understand early in the process?

These dig into a candidate's ability to work across teams, communicate effectively, and understand the full spectrum of DevOps capabilities.

DevOps engineer tools

Being a true DevOps engineer also entails technical capabilities and mastery of specific tools. So, in addition to soft skills and values, it’s important to understand technology and deployment environment specifics, in order to effectively assess a DevOps engineer candidate.

For instance, there are big differences in development technologies (Java, Node.js, C#, React – or some combination of them all) and deployment environments (Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, etc.). These differences are critical and must be understood. You should look for candidates who have experience with the tools that your organization uses.

It can also be helpful to look for someone who has skills that match your clients’ needs or the needs of a particular project. In some cases, you may be looking for a pure AWS DevOps engineer who will work completely in the cloud deploying Node.js applications. Or, you may be looking for an engineer who might be skilled with other technologies for a hybrid deployment.  While progress is being made to abstract the platform differences, those technologies still require DevOps engineers have a good understanding of the underlying tools and infrastructure that will support the software.

Bottom line - candidates that seek DevOps positions and self-identify as DevOps engineers are good candidates for the general set of skills you are looking for, but be sure you have a solid technical evaluation in place in order to ensure that your hard skill requirements are also met. And don't neglect the soft skills that set great DevOps engineers apart. 

[ What do great agile leaders do differently? Read How to be a stronger DevOps leader: 9 tips. ]

Jonathan Fries is VP of Software Development at Exadel ( Jonathan has 20 years of experience in software development and technology management. He brings a wealth of experience from product companies and consulting firms.