In the past few years, companies have been placing increasing emphasis on the role of DevOps engineer. In this role, specialists are charged with ensuring continuous delivery and development of quality software and updates to existing technologies within the company. Plainly put, this role bridges several gaps across teams to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction at the same speed.
According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, DevOps jobs have a projected growth of 39.3 percent over the next 10 years. That’s good news if you’re just thinking of getting into DevOps.
In order to break into this field, though, keep in mind that the interview process (as for any tech role) can become quite tedious and lengthy. We spoke with several experts on how to know if you’re the right candidate for a DevOps engineer position, how to prepare for interviews, and which questions to ask.
What Is DevOps?
Before we plunge in, it might be helpful to review the definition of DevOps, which is a set of methodologies and tools that allow organizations to accelerate their building and adoption of crucial services, software, and apps. Anyone who wants to master DevOps must adopt the associated methodologies and tools; they must also learn how to effectively guide teams and organizations through DevOps best practices.
- Technology (CI/CD, automation, testing tools, etc.)
- Processes and methodology (i.e., Agile and Scrum)
- Team and internal culture (everyone aligned toward the same goal!)
On a more tactical level, here are the top five must-have processes and frameworks within IT enterprises (according to DevOps Institute’s Upskilling IT 2022 Report):
- DevOps and DevSecOps
- Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)
- Design Thinking and System Thinking
When it comes time for an actual job interview, hiring managers and recruiters will expect you to know DevOps terminology (such as continuous delivery/continuous integration), processes and tools (get ready to learn Git!), as well as many of the tools, platforms, and methodologies that allow organizations to run, including (but not limited to):
- Monitoring and observability (Elasticsearch [ELK/EFK Stack], Prometheus, Grafana, Datadog, New Relic)
- Agile development methodology (Scrum)
- IaaS platforms including the cloud-agonistic Terraform, AWS’ CloudFormation, Microsoft Azure ARM templates, Google Cloud Deployment Manager, and shell scripting/Python/Ansible.
If that seems overwhelming, don’t worry: these are the kinds of things you learn over the course of a career. But continuous learning is key for many tech-related jobs, including DevOps.
Questions to expect in a DevOps engineer interview
Because of the wide-ranging scope of a DevOps engineer, you should expect the interviewers to ask theoretical and opaque questions, especially at first. Some examples:
- Why is DevOps necessary?
- What’s the difference between Agile and DevOps?
- What are some of your favorite DevOps tools?
- Define version control and why it’s important to a DevOps engineer.
- Describe some of your best-practices for DevOps.
- What are the benefits of CI/CD?
“Organize your answers to the most common questions,” Mykola Tymvik, COO at Clario, tells Dice. “You'll be asked about previous project experience, what you learned, what problems you ran into, and what mistakes you've made that you've learned from.” He also advises to brush up on weaker points in your skillset, particularly if they are of importance to the company you’re interviewing for.
Qualities of a successful DevOps candidate
Wendi Reuter, IT candidate relations specialist at Carex Consulting Group, says diversity in experience matters: “We would be seeking someone with professional experience with a wide range of experiences within the technology space. Generally speaking, we would be looking for someone with a development background but have a strong understanding of deployment and operations.”
Soft-skills matter, too. “A good DevOps engineer must be able to collaborate with all portions of the team to ensure business success,” notes Chelsea Cohen, co-founder at SoStocked. “Being a strong decision-maker will help get projects done in a timely manner.”
Lightcast says the following specialized skills pop up most frequently in DevOps-related job postings:
How to prepare for a DevOps engineer interview
Roy Morejon, President and co-founder at Eventys Partners, offers these tips to help you prep for an interview:
“Tech skills are important and played a pivotal role in landing you an interview, but your soft skills are what will seal the deal. People need to know that you can work well with others and that you can communicate your field to someone who may not understand it well.
“Highlight your communication skills. In a remote environment, you need to show that you can take extra initiative to facilitate communication and make sure everyone is on the same page.
“Finally, showcase transferable skills that matter to the company you’re interviewing with. This shows flexibility, versatility, and creativity. The less you need to be taught at a new job, the better.”
Reuter adds: “Be able to provide and explain your experience in specific situations. [For] a DevOps role, hiring managers are going to want to hear about a specific issue/situation/upgrade you have been tasked with completing, and the nuts and bolts of how you went about resolving it, who was involved in the resolution, and the specifics of the problem that was resolved including what effects it had on operations for the company.”
Questions you should ask in an interview
The dreaded “Do you have any questions for us?” query always comes at the end of the interview process, when recruiters and hiring managers know you’re a bit tired. While you might want to punt questions for later, this is your best opportunity to get answers you want, learn about the company, and give the people interviewing you the right impression.
Another thing to ask: what teams you’ll work with, and how the company has resourced those teams. Understanding whether you’ll work with third-party or contracted staff can help you understand the role better.
This is also a great time to ask direct questions about the platforms and technology being used at the company, and challenges the team or company face. “Don't be afraid to get in-depth about the tech stack,” Tymvik reminds us, “it's just as useful for the interviewer to cover this as well. CI/CD solution, QA, what they use for monitoring and metrics, disaster recovery—these are all vital. Some answers may depend on the technical expertise of the interviewer, but if they know what you know, then these questions are vital. You want a job that's full-fledged and will challenge you; make sure their infrastructure is up to snuff.”
DevOps is a complex job with a number of nuances (especially if you specialize in a subfield such as DevSecOps). However, if you master its principles and commit to continuous learning, you can win the job interview and succeed in the position.