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IT careers: 10 top DevOps engineer interview questions for 2021
Experts share the DevOps engineer job interview questions you will face in 2021 and advice on how to answer them.
5, 6, and 7: A trio of related questions
How do you go about building consensus?
How do you take feedback? Is there a time that you had negative feedback and what was your response?
How do you learn and keep up with industry trends?
Lachhman points to each of these three related questions as examples that are equally important for DevOps hiring managers and candidates. Each speaks to the practical realities of a DevOps engineer position and DevOps culture overall. Continuous learning speaks for itself; if you can’t respond to that question, you’re sending up a red flag.
The question about consensus-building ties to the interdisciplinary nature of DevOps roles and the need to be able to work well across functions and stakeholders, Lachhman says. Not everyone has the patience required to get buy-in for changes that will impact an entire team or organization, for example.
“Dealing with lots of engineers can be like herding cats,” Lachhman says. “Lots of opinions and priorities can fly around.”
Lastly, the feedback question is inherently worthwhile to DevOps culture, but it is perhaps especially valuable if you’re interviewing someone who is transitioning from, say, a traditional software engineer role into a DevOps job. Lachhman notes that a person might be used to hearing feedback only in code/sprint reviews, rather than the more frequent feedback loops they might encounter as a DevOps engineer or related role like SRE.
“As a DevOps engineer with potentially more internal customers, feedback is certainly to come more often,” Lachhman says.
8. What is the biggest challenge you faced in your previous position or team? How did you overcome it?
If the first and final questions have the most influence on the overall feel and substance of an interview, this is Oehrlich’s suggestion for a closing prompt.
“This is great as the last question as it can expose a variety of skills such as problem-solving, communication, collaboration, learning, and styles – all top must-have skills for a DevOps [professional] or any human going into 2021,” Oehrlich says.
Oehrlich notes that a candidate who’s on top of things will also return this question to the interviewer: “What’s the toughest challenge your team is facing right now?”
This can produce insight into the day-to-day realities of the position and organization, including potential warning signs about cultural problems or other issues.
“This could make or break the deal,” Oehrlich says. “I asked that question one time and I learned that there was a lot of bureaucracy within an organization [that impeded people’s ability] to get things done. Even though the position was excellent, with great benefits and a super-cool challenge, I was no longer interested.”
9. Why are you hiring?
But wait, you said that was the final question of the interview.
Not so fast: Extending Oehrlich’s anecdote, it’s important for DevOps engineer candidates to ask questions of their own. While this is common advice for most job interviews, Lachhman says it’s especially critical for DevOps roles because the title can mean very different things to different people. It’s the proverbial wide paintbrush.
This big-picture question, suggested by Lachhman, could reveal a lot about the hiring manager, the team, or the organization – whether the reasons are good, bad, or ugly.
“This is a loaded question that can expose a lot about the team and workload,” Lachhman says. “Are they hiring because they want to scale the team and hit the limits on what they can achieve? Did someone leave and they are forced to backfill? Are they looking to bring on additional skill sets that they do not have?”
10. How much of this job is on-call?
This is a good way to dig into an organization’s philosophy (or possible lack thereof) on work-life balance without actually using the phrase “work-life balance” directly, which could produce a canned answer that obscures some of the realities of the job.
“System engineering jobs usually have an on-call portion to their job if supporting production systems,” Lachhman says. “As the development pipeline is viewed as critical for business, they are starting to be treated like production systems with the [same] rigor and uptime requirements as prod.”
This is a chance to find out what’s expected of the DevOps engineer in terms of pager duty and/or general workload – another facet of the job that could vary significantly by team or company – and how that meshes with your goals.
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