SRE vs. DevOps Engineer: Identify Best Fit Candidates

Learn how SRE vs. DevOps engineers compare to assess them accurately in the hiring process.

When analyzing an SRE vs. DevOps engineer, it’s important to note that each is a valuable professional field in technology. Ultimately though, they focus on different aspects of the industry and require separate evaluation types during the hiring process. Read on to better understand the difference and how to find the best candidates using accurate assessment.

SRE vs. DevOps Engineer: What’s The Difference?

DevOps engineers are responsible for optimizing the development pipeline. They ensure that code is deployable and completed as quickly as possible. SRE engineers focus on the availability and uptime of the projects. They also work to prevent outages and ensure that the system is always available when the user needs them. Simply put, DevOps engineers write and deploy the systems while SRE engineers focus on the system's reliability. 

These two fields work hand-in-hand. Ultimately in the developmental process, one could not do their job without the other. Both positions need similar skill sets but will apply them differently. They understand that change is necessary for the development lifecycle and requires specific tools to successfully fulfill their jobs. However, finding the most qualified candidate also requires a specific toolset. 

Filtered helps hiring managers find the most qualified candidates and streamline workflows with skill-based, data-driven recruiting technology. 


SRE DevOps

  • Data Monitoring
  • Communication
  • Dashboarding Tools
  • Reliability Monitoring
  • Source Code Management
  • Leadership
  • Automation Testing
  • Critical Thinking
  • etc.
  • Programming Languages
  • Security Skills
  • Cloud Skills
  • DevOps Toolchain Fundamentals
  • Automation Testing
  • Continuous Deliverability
  • Adaptation
  • Critical Thinking
  • Mathematics

How to Accurately Assess SRE vs. DevOps Engineers Differently

While many technical positions assess fundamental knowledge, detail-oriented assessments are what hiring managers should use to separate the good from great candidates. In addition, both DevOps and SRE engineers are essential to keeping a company’s IT infrastructure running smoothly, so it’s necessary to assess their specific skill sets. 

Part One: Assessing SREs 

The daily tasks of a site reliability engineer should be a vital part of the assessment. These tasks are the most relevant to a candidate’s day-to-day workflow, so they must have a basic understanding of these duties or at least the ability to learn these tasks. 

Since SREs are in charge of monitoring logs/metrics, responding to incidents, and setting benchmarks, it’s vital to focus questions and scenario breakdowns on these tasks. Divide these three pieces of business. Ask questions and give scenarios on each part to have an overall evaluation that can be further split into subsectional evaluations. These steps will give your hiring managers and team a better understanding of where the candidate stands on each part. 

Monitoring Question Example:

“What is the most vital factor when choosing between monitoring systems?” 

This question can help hiring managers determine which candidates best fit their company and processes. Data monitoring can also be used to gather information on their decision-making abilities and give insight into their critical thinking skills. 

Incident Response Question Example:

“Is declaring an incident early on important, or does this cause more damage?”

This question analyzes the candidate's comprehension of how time management is crucial to incident response practices. It’s crucial to listen to the answer and the candidate's reasoning. Even if the answer is different than what you expect, their reasoning may give insight into why they believe they’re correct. 

Setting Benchmarks Question Example: 

“Say you’re given a report of the most recent application update. The latency increased on a particular aspect of the application, which the development team called an additional function. What benchmarks and steps would you take to decrease the latency without changing the necessary output of the application?”

This question assesses the candidate's ability to problem solve and set benchmarks on issues. Their answer will give the hiring manager insight into whether the candidate fits the team.

Suppose the candidate gets a perfect score on the questions that evaluate log monitoring but not on the other two. In that case, they will need most of the training period to learn how to respond to incidents and set benchmarks for future projects. This rule goes for all aspects of the evaluation.

Site reliability engineers need to know IT operations and software engineering to fully support the infrastructure. Questions on these subjects would be perfect on a written test because many of these questions are based on accuracy. It’s critical to keep subjective questions off of a written test. It’s standard to have a written test as the first step in the hiring process. Therefore, objective questions test a bar of knowledge that the candidate possesses. Save subjective questions for candidates you are considering hiring to determine other expertise besides baseline technical knowledge.

Objective Subjective
What are the “four golden signals” for monitoring systems? What approach would you take for a data backup?

This question is objective because it has an accurate answer. These questions are much easier to evaluate through written tests. The answer is:

  1. Latency
  2. Traffic
  3. Errors
  4. Saturation

(Not exactly in that order)

This question is subjective because it would be difficult to assess over a written test. Each candidate will have slightly different answers determining their skill sets for priority assessment, critical thinking, data monitoring, and reliability. Every candidate will have different strengths and weaknesses, so while this question assesses a chronological order of events, it’s mainly there to assess the differences in each candidate's process.

Part Two: Assessing DevOps Engineers

DevOps engineers have numerous daily tasks that can differ based on the company and software they are working on. DevOps engineers will critically review documentation, feedback responses, and code throughout their day. 

While a DevOps engineer has numerous responsibilities, it’s still important to determine the main tasks for your company's open position on any given day. These tasks can help you gather questions to ask in the interview. 

If one of the responsibilities that your DevOps engineer will be doing is gathering customer requirements, then it would be important to ask a question about this. 

A perfect question for the suggested scenario would be:

“What is your preferred methodology for gathering customer requirements with a deadline approaching?”

This question is perfect for the scenario because it analyzes their step-by-step process and communication skill sets. It also analyzes whether your candidate can effectively gather data with a quick turnaround rate. 

Just like the SRE assessment, it’s necessary to ask objective questions on a take-home test. The take-home test helps eliminate candidates that don’t meet your baseline. 

Real-time evaluation of skills for DevOps engineers is even more critical than the take-home test. Having ready-to-go platforms and environments for your candidate to perform within will give you a more accurate reading of their experience and professionalism. DevOps engineers must be proficient within coding environments and have a basic knowledge of different software. Providing them a software, IDE, or diagram builder to use while breaking down a scenario can give you insight into how adaptable they are to new technology. 

Some great scenarios and questions to ask a DevOps engineer during a full-assessment:

Questions Scenarios
“What platforms/software are you most comfortable with?” Give the candidate a slice of Ruby code with syntax and logic errors. Have the candidate point out the errors and fix them.;
“What is the best approach to adding DevOps to an existing project?” Give the candidate a virtual whiteboard and ask them to draw out the DevOps Toolchain diagram.;
“What is the cost of poor secrets management?” Show the candidate a series of logs, one with an issue reported, and give them a few minutes to go over them. Ask them if anything stood out about the logs to test if they noticed the issue.

Ultimately, when comparing SRE vs. DevOps engineer candidates, there must be a streamlined process to determine which candidate best fits a role. Implementing an automated technical hiring platform to focus on the candidate's specific skills can help the hiring process tremendously. Hiring managers can expedite the process, get new hires into training, and meet SLAs with a full team. Filtered offers the recruiting technology you are looking for to fill your open positions the fastest with the most qualified professionals. 

Filtered is a leader in skills-based hiring. Our end-to-end technical hiring platform enables you to spend time reviewing only the most qualified candidates, putting skills and aptitude at the forefront of your decisions. We’ll help you automate hiring while applying objective, data-driven techniques to consistently and confidently select the right candidates. To get started, contact our team today or register for a FREE demo.