Most Common DevOps Interview Questions and Answers

Published: December 15, 2020
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These days, virtually anyone interested in making a career in IT has heard of DevOps. With its widespread application and demonstrable success across a startling number of global industries, DevOps is often treated as the be-all and end-all methodology for IT pipeline optimization. In the meantime, practitioner companies like Amazon have even developed their own software, while organizations like the DevOps Institute continue to develop our understanding of the topic.

This has, naturally, led to increasing demand for ‘DevOps engineers’. However, as DevOps Evangelist and Trainer Ivor Macfarlane has stated, DevOps teams are actually incredibly diverse. Rather than being a group of engineers who “all do the same thing”, a DevOps team actually brings “power” to a company through diversity. In other words, companies that practice DevOps are looking for engineers with a variety of backgrounds and skills.

That being said, one thing that all DevOps engineers have in common is their ability to apply what they know within a DevOps culture. Having an understanding of the methodology itself is crucial, and many common DevOps interview questions have emerged as a result.

It goes without saying that passing an interview requires more than simply answering questions correctly. Candidates are also expected to have adequate experience, and interviewers will often expect prospective engineers to answer questions based on how they have used and applied DevOps in the past. 

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Candidates are also expected to keep their knowledge of the methodology up to date. After all, DevOps is always evolving, and showing an awareness of exactly what new elements would be most relevant for the interviewing company can be a great way to score brownie points.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common questions typically asked at interviews for DevOps job roles.

General questions for a DevOps interview:

1. How much do you know about DevOps?

Here, your interviewers will want a straightforward answer. You should cover how DevOps has grown in importance, as well as what makes it a value-added practice. They will also expect you to be able to describe DevOps’ approach to merging teams focused on development and operations in order to deliver products more quickly and reliably. Finally, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of how DevOps is utilized throughout the entire lifecycle of a product or service.

2. What’s the difference between Agile and DevOps?

Agile and DevOps are both big names in the world of IT, but while there is certainly some overlap, there is also a lot that distinguishes the two of them. 

DevOps is focused on enabling cultural improvements, with a focus on continuous development, testing, integration, deployment, and, finally, monitoring software. It also looks at resolving conflicts of interest between developers and operations staff. 

Agile, on the other hand, is a methodology that focuses on iterative targets and rapid releases for the sake of delivering ongoing value. It also has practitioners collect customer feedback which, combined with iterative planning, allows users to continue adapting their project goals to suit evolving end-user requirements.

In short, they are both fairly ‘agile’ methodologies, but while DevOps is about a cultural shift between development and operations, Agile is more about making sure that developers and clients are on the same page.

3. What are the most popular tools in DevOps?

The holistic approach DevOps takes to IT lifecycles means that a DevOps culture will typically utilize a number of tools for many different purposes. You will need to show that you are aware of the most popular options on the market, as well as what they do, how they are applied, and what your personal preferences are, and why.

Some of the most common options include:

  • Chef
  • Git
  • Ansible
  • Docker
  • Jenkins

It will be a good idea to frame your answer around the tools you have used in the past. You will also get extra points for describing which tools work well together, as this will demonstrate an awareness of how to optimize DevOps pipelines as a whole rather than focusing on specific functions.

4. What are the different phases in DevOps?

The DevOps methodology lays out several phases that make up a ‘DevOps lifecycle’. You should be aware of:

  • Plan – What type of software needs to be developed? You should begin by creating a plan, even if it’s only a rough idea for now
  • Code – Based on the end-user requirements, the team will begin writing the necessary code
  • Build – The application will be built by integrating the different code developed earlier in the lifecycle
  • Test – This stage is absolutely crucial, and it will certainly be worth emphasizing this in your interview. The application must be tested vigorously and, where necessary, rebuilt
  • Integrate – At this point, programmers will combine their code
  • Deploy – It’s time to deploy the code. However, the DevOps team will first make sure that any changes they make will not disrupt existing high-traffic services, such as websites
  • Operate – If necessary, operations staff will assess the code
  • Monitor – The performance of the deployed application is monitored. The team will action any changes necessary to meet the needs of end-users
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5. What are the main benefits of DevOps?

The value of the DevOps methodology can be seen in terms of strategic business goals as well as IT optimization. 

There are a number of benefits to consider, including:

  • Removing silos between disconnected teams
  • Establishing permanent cultural improvements
  • Continuous software delivery (a huge benefit in the demanding world of modern IT)
  • Faster detection for threats and defects
  • Increasing the speed, stability, and reliability of operations work
  • Delivering new features and software faster
  • Increased automation and efficiency

6. How would you go about applying DevOps to a project?

Your answer will need to take a few things into account:

  • Version control
  • Integration
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Delivery
  • Monitoring

You will need to go into detail here, such as saying how much time should be spent reassessing existing processes or creating a proof of concept (PoC). You should also specify at what points the team will take action, such as when they begin rolling out the project or integrating code. 

You’ll notice that these tasks typically take place before DevOps is implemented, but understanding when the methodology actually starts creating value will also be important.

7. How are continuous delivery and continuous deployment different?

Someone who doesn’t understand DevOps might make the mistake of assuming the two are synonymous. This isn’t the kind of answer you’d want to give in a DevOps interview!

Continuous delivery is about making sure code can be sent to production safely. Comprehensive testing will take place during production to ensure this. As a result, products or services supported by the code will function as expected.

Continuous deployment, on the other hand, makes sure that, once new code has passed automated testing, it is then sent to production automatically. This process relies on cultural changes in DevOps that establish continuous monitoring as a necessity. Overall, this allows DevOps teams to develop and release code much more quickly and reliably.

8. What is configuration management and what is it used for in DevOps?

Configuration management is about making sure software, servers, and systems can function reliably and as expected. 

In the context of DevOps, configuration management is applied to the management and administration of several systems simultaneously. The resource configurations that make up IT infrastructures are standardized, and the integrity of the system as a whole is maintained as a priority.

9. What is continuous monitoring and how does it apply to a system’s architecture in DevOps?

Within a DevOps infrastructure, teams will constantly be looking to detect, identify, and highlight any potential issues. This ‘continuous monitoring’ makes sure resources, services, and applications are running properly. This is also useful in terms of transaction inspection, controlled monitoring, and continuous auditing.

10. What is AWS DevOps and how does AWS support the methodology?

‘Amazon Web Services (AWS)’ is a cloud platform offering a number of services that can help support DevOps:

  • Scaling – AWS allows DevOps teams to manage anything from a single instance to thousands
  • Security – AWS makes it easy to establish policies and grant specific permissions to users
  • Flexibility – AWS allows DevOps teams to skip the process of installing or setting up new software, as its services are already ready to use
  • Partner ecosystem – AWS allows users to connect with partners in a single integrated ecosystem where everyone can access the necessary services
  • Automation – This lies at the heart of DevOps. Thankfully, AWS makes it easier to automate essential processes and tasks

As popular as AWS DevOps has become, there is no guarantee that your interviewer will ask about AWS. However, it is certainly worth making yourself aware of the respective benefits of the software. 

11. How do you measure success in DevOps?

This question is common, especially for businesses that want to understand how success in DevOps is reflected in strategic gains.

There are a number of KPIs for measuring success in DevOps, including:

  • Team/ practitioner surveys 
  • Frequency of deployment  
  • Compliance 
  • Application performance 
  • Frequency of downtime 
  • Mean Time to Detection (MTTD) and Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) 
  • Failed deployment percentage
  • Mean time for recovering from failure

12. What is ‘infrastructure as code’, and what does it have to do with configuration management?

Generally speaking, ‘infrastructure as code (IaC) refers to managing infrastructure elements (load balancers, networks, and so on) in a descriptive model using the same approach DevOps engineers take for managing source code. Code is used to manage deployment, configuration, and provisioning. IaC also plays a key part in enabling automation in DevOps.

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13. How has DevOps become so popular in the last few years?

This question is more about knowing famous examples of DevOps being used than simply regurgitating the benefits we have already talked about. 

Have you heard of any prominent companies that utilize DevOps, such as Facebook? If so, it will be worth doing research on them beforehand so that you have several case studies to talk about. You may even get bonus points for talking about how the lessons of your examples can be applied to the company you are interviewing with. 

When talking about your case studies, be sure to cover how DevOps was applied in order to create business value. For example, automation, rather than being an end in itself, increases efficiency and reduces cost. In other words, don’t take it for granted that your interviewer will know how the benefits of DevOps translate into business value.

If this sounds like too much effort for a single interview, keep in mind that knowledge of case studies will be sure to help you as a DevOps engineer down the line. DevOps is not a set script that anyone can follow; senior DevOps engineers are experts at knowing exactly how to utilize the methodology in different scenarios.

14. What are the anti-patterns in DevOps?

Defining a pattern is easy: it’s a common usage that you follow. However, if a pattern does not work for your company in particular and your team continues to follow it anyway, that would constitute an ‘anti-pattern’. 

In most cases, these will be down to the common myths floating around regarding what DevOps is or isn’t. Some of the most common misconceptions that companies exhibit include:

  • We will need to form a separate group to implement DevOps
  • DevOps isn’t a methodology, but a process
  • We’re too unique to use DevOps
  • We don’t have the right people to incorporate DevOps
  • Agile is the same as DevOps
  • DevOps is about release management and is development-driven
  • DevOps will fix every problem in our IT pipeline
  • DevOps refers to developers taking charge of production
  • Development does not drive DevOps
  • IT operations does not drive DevOps

15. How much expertise do you have in terms of the development and technical operations sides of DevOps?

This is where your existing experience will come into play. What kind of expectations were you subject to? How did you use your skills across different points in the DevOps pipeline? How adaptable did you have to be?

If possible, be sure to bring your answer back to the tools you applied in each instance.

Focused DevOps interview questions

In many cases, a DevOps interviewer will require you to answer questions on topics relating to the role you have in mind. These areas can include:

  • Source code management
  • Continuous integration
  • Continuous testing
  • Configuration management
  • Containerization
  • Virtualization
  • Continuous monitoring
  • Version control system (VCS)

These questions will usually revolve around DevOps tools and programs that focus on specific roles within a DevOps pipeline. In the case of an example like Git/ GitHub, you may be asked:

  • What are the advantages of using this program over its competitors?
  • What kind of issues does Git resolve?
  • What elements are included in Git and what are they used for (e.g., Git stash, git fetch, Git pull)

For positions within a specific DevOps team, interviewers will often be looking for DevOps engineers who have an understanding of specific tools. 

Can DevOps certification training help me become a DevOps engineer?

As we mentioned earlier, one of the few things that makes all DevOps engineers similar is their understanding of the DevOps methodology. While this can be picked up on the job, it is much more efficient to develop such an understanding via a fully accredited training course.

The DevOps Institute is a global organization that boasts many of the world’s top DevOps engineers as members. In addition to helping advance our understanding of DevOps through regular webinars, research pieces, and even online conferences, it has also established a series of world-class DevOps certifications.

Good e-Learning is an award-winning online training company with a diverse portfolio of courses on DevOps, DevSecOps, SRE, and more. As a Trusted Education Partner for the DevOps Institute, we have proven the scope and effectiveness of our DevOps training opportunities. Our courses come with a variety of online training assets, including instructor-led videos, knowledge checks, and practice exams, as well as downloadable materials for studying offline. Students can access courses anywhere via the free Go.Learn app, and our support team is fully qualified to answer questions on course content. Once a student feels ready, they can also contact us to receive a FREE exam voucher.

Want to find out more? Visit the Good e-Learning website, or contact a member of our team today!

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