Top Linux Interview Questions and Answers

Job interviews can be exciting, but let’s face it: they can be nerve-wracking sometimes. No matter how prepared you are, it always seems that the interviewer throws a curveball your way and you may be caught off-guard. It’s always helpful to brush up on your interview skills ahead of time, and also know more about the common interview questions that are asked. More importantly, it’s important to research the top interview questions in your industry, as interview questions for different positions always vary. To help you prepare for your upcoming interview, we’ve gathered some of the top Linux interview questions and answers:

Q: How secure is Linux?

A: Linux is an operating system, and just like any operating system, one of its primary goals is to be as secure as possible. If you’re interviewing for a Linux job, your interviewer wants to know that you understand Linux as an operating system inside and out. This includes understanding its level of security as well, so it’s highly likely that one of your Linux interview questions will be centered on this subject. It’s important not to answer this question with a vague answer, such as “very secure.” Explain to your interview how you know that Linux is a secure OS. For example, you can explain that Linux includes Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM), which adds an extra level of security by adding a barrier between applications and actual authentication mechanism.

Q: How do you review boot messages in Linux? What command would you use?

A: When it comes to Linux interview questions and answers, you can almost always expect to be questioned about commands. After all, if you are offered a position working in Linux, you’ll need to know all essential Linux commands. This particular Linux question is just an example of one of many that may come up during your interview; it’s important to be fully prepared to answer questions about any Linux commands throughout your interview. This tests your knowledge in several ways.

For this example, let’s focus on the specific command this question addresses: the command used to review boot messages. Not only would you want to ensure you answer correctly by telling the interviewer that dmesg is the command used for this particular operation, but take it a step further. Explain in detail how the command will allow you to review boot messages. You’ll also want to explain the importance of boot messages and why someone would need to view them. Be sure to also mention any snags or challenges a Linux user may encounter when using a dmesg command, and how to overcome any of these potential obstacles. This detailed response regarding command questions will show the interviewer that you’re confident in your knowledge of Linux.

Q: What is a Puppet Server?

A: Puppet is an essential piece of open-source software the Linux OS supports, and if you’re interviewing for a Linux job, it’s important that you know this and can demonstrate your knowledge to the interviewer. Aside from just offering the basics about what a Puppet Server is, you’ll also want to explain all the features available to users. You can tell the interviewer, for instance, that using Puppet code allows Linux users to be as efficient as possible by multi-tasking. If a Linux user desired, they can use Puppet code to update user accounts, change file permissions, and install new software - all simultaneously. These are just some of the examples you can use if you’re answering a Linux interview question about Puppet code. 

Q: What are the differences between Linux and Unix?

A: The names may sound similar, but Linux and Unix actually have many differences, some of which are significant. As a Linux professional, it’s important to demonstrate to your interviewer that you understand these differences by being prepared with several examples. For instance, you can explain that the two operating systems are very different by how they work. Unix is an operating system that is mostly used in internet servers, HP, Intel, and so on. Linux, on the other hand, is a free operating system and open source software development system that is used for PCs, game development, computer software, and hardware. 

Q: What is swap space?

A: If you’re interviewing for a Linux job, you’ll be expected to know about the system’s capabilities and features. As such, you may be expected to define and explain swap space at some point during your interview. First, you’ll want to answer this question by giving your interviewer a basic definition of swap space: It is physical memory that is temporarily used if you’re running multiple programs in Linux simultaneously. Take your answer a step further by explaining the reason why swap space is used: It typically happens when your computer’s RAM can’t support all of the programs that are running. You’ll also want to mention that there are various tools and commands that can be used to manage swap space usage. Be sure to provide examples. 

Q: Explain the fundamentals when it comes to Linux. What are its basic components? 

A: Not all of your Linux interview questions will necessarily be complicated or specific; in fact, your interviewer may throw you a curveball by asking you a very basic question about Linux. A Linux professional should be able to answer this question with ease, confidence, and without hesitation. Even if you know Linux’s basic components, it’s still important to be prepared with what to say if you are asked this question during your interview. Essentially, Linux is made of up three components: Kernel, System Library, and System Utility. You’ll also want to briefly explain each of these components and their roles in the Linux operating system. 

Q: Why do you use Linux?

A: As someone interviewing for a Linux position, it’s important to understand the benefits of using Linux as an operating system. You may have your own reasons for using Linux, but if you’re looking for ideas on how to answer this question, you can point out of some of the major reasons most users prefer Linux to other operating systems. For example, it’s an open source operating system, which allows programmers to customize it. It also supports various file systems, and is a very secure. No matter your answer, be sure to respond to this question with enthusiasm.

Q: What are the differences between DOS and Bash?

A: Linux professionals should be able to easily differentiate between DOS and Bash. Be prepared to name some of the basic differences if your interviewer asks this question. The differences can be simple ones; for example, DOS commands are not case sensitive, but Bash commands are. 

Q: What is a Virtual Desktop? 

A: Virtual desktops are stored on remote servers and can offer alternatives for Linux users with multiple open windows. Not only is it important to know the basic definition of a virtual desktop, but you’ll also want to list some of the benefits in your response. For example, you can explain that with virtual desktops, data integrity is improved and that there is centralized administration. 

Q: How do you create a new user account?

A: Compared to some of the other Linux interview questions you’ll be asked, you may be asked some questions like this, which may seem like no-brainers. Even if you’re confident with the simplicity of the topic, remember that there may be more than one answer. Your interview wants to see that you think outside of the box and that you’ve considered all possibilities. For example, is there, in fact, more than one way to create a new user account? Is one way more complex than the other? What mistakes might a Linux user encounter along the way? Be sure to use each Linux interview question as an opportunity to shine and demonstrate your expertise; don’t just brush it off as an easy question with a simple, straightforward answer. Be sure to tackle these seemingly simple questions from all angles.

Maybe you just completed your Linux training and you have an interview coming up, or perhaps this is a new field to you altogether. No matter where you’re at in your Linux journey, there’s no denying that this is a technical and complex subject, and there’s always more to learn. Ensure that you’re on top of your game during your Linux job interview by enrolling in Simplilearn’s Linux Training ahead of time and sharpening your skills. 

About the Author

Shivam AroraShivam Arora

Shivam Arora is a Senior Product Manager at Simplilearn. Passionate about driving product growth, Shivam has managed key AI and IOT based products across different business functions. He has 6+ years of product experience with a Masters in Marketing and Business Analytics.

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