The Best DevOps Interview Questions & Mindset

DevOps

DevOps Mindset

I’m glad you found this page.

You’re obviously here because you are looking for good DevOps interview questions.

Right?

Great news, I’ll offer my thoughts and 3 questions (and follow-up Qs).

Each question will include an explanation that can help get you into the right frame of mind for what you need to look for in prospects with the best skills and mindset.

Best DevOps Interview Questions

First of all, let’s understand something.

DevOps Engineers and Admins are not really job titles…

…and if you’ve spent much time researching, DevOps is not a team; it’s a culture and/or philosophy for improving IT service delivery.

A good resource for this is DevOps Cafe (Damon Edwards & John Willis).

Finding the right type of talent for a DevOps environment (culture) will take more than finding the sharpest Linux or development talent.

DevOps Question #1 – Teamwork

Provide an example of your greatest technical accomplishment where you worked together with a team to solve a difficult problem?

  • What were the challenges?
  • What was your role?
  • How did you put the team ahead of yourself?
  • How did you gather information?

Explanation:

At the heart of DevOps is an unselfish spirit to deliver better services.

There are no individuals working on their own agenda.

This idea is easier said than done because working independently and unsupervised is what we are taught is the best thing for good employees.

However, DevOps brings the problem solvers together to create a mastermind where more people working together are wiser than individuals working alone. Sounds good, right? It’s not that easy.

DevOps interview questions should be crafted to find creative candidates who can work well with others. 

DevOps Question #2 – Flexibility

Tell me about a time when you were given instructions to do a task and before you finished, you were asked to change direction more than 5 or more times?

  • How did this make you feel?
  • What were some of the comments you had (or thought)?
  • Did the changes make sense in the end?
  • Did you finish the task?

Explanation:

If you haven’t read the book (or at least chapter one) of The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, you should so you understand the term Pivot.

Pivots are changes of direction that happen as often as necessary while the solution to a problem is being determined.

The purpose of pivoting is to avoid spending valuable resources (time, people, money) on something that isn’t working.

In other words, it’s failing, and then we need to pivot and move on.

People who struggle with pivoting will struggle with DevOps, too. Once again unselfishness should triumph over ego.

Your interview questions (or screening) should help identify people who can pivot or change direction quickly without a lot of fuss.

DevOps Question #3 – Fill In the Blanks

Explain a time when you were given a task to figure out a solution for a problem with little or no information?

  • What type of conversations took place to fill in the blanks? And with whom?
  • Were there any problems between team members on what was the better solution?
  • Were you able to solve the problem in a reasonable time frame with a solid solution that worked?
  • How did you contribute to the overall result?

Explanation:

Many traditional IT people are notorious for needing to know far too much information before they can get started. Our brains are just wired like that. (We’re like Johnny-5. “Input, I need input!”)

In fact, gathering requirements before a project starts can take months if you let it.

The goal of DevOps is to create a mastermind that can fill in the DNA gaps when there are bits of information missing. This is why I harped so much on communication and people skills in my DevOps Skills post.

Finding people who bend easily and don’t get hung-up when they are asked to do a task without understanding the full picture isn’t easy.

DevOps is about continuous improvements which come in an iteration or small bits at a time. Sometimes requirements come in bits, too.

Your interview questions should help identify people who can work without knowing the entire stack of requirements up front. Find people who can figure it out. People who are creative thinkers.

Retrospective

If you don’t get the mindset point, read this article again because it’s important for the person interviewing to get it, too.

Let’s review who you’re looking for:

  • First, the candidate needs to be a team player (no grand-standers).
  • Next, they need to be flexible or willing to change direction without notice (pivot).
  • And finally, they need to be able to operate with little or no information, (fill in the blanks).

I don’t recall where I read or heard this [maybe on DevOps Cafe podcast] but the best definition of DevOps was actually by Bruce Lee:

Be like water!”

Find people who are unselfish and can adapt quickly to anything they are assigned…better yet, who aren’t waiting to be assigned.

Want to find out more about DevOps?

Read my Free DevOps eBook that covers the process of starting the automation journey.

And if you’re not that familiar with CI/CD, then check out the best DevOps online video training for beginners.

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