Common Operating System Interview Questions (With Sample Responses)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Operating systems are a critical component of working with computers and networking systems. Many IT careers require extensive knowledge of operating systems and how they work. Understanding the kinds of questions a hiring manager asks in an interview about operating systems can help you better prepare your responses in advance. In this article, we discuss the purpose of hiring managers asking operating system questions during an interview, review the definition of an operating system and highlight questions you can expect along with three specific questions with sample responses.

What are operating system interview questions?

When applying for a position as an IT professional, you can expect to receive various operating system questions during your job interview. Whether you are a seasoned professional or applying for an entry-level position, it is vital you know how to answer operating system questions with confidence and expertise. In addition, this can help you make a positive first impression with the recruiter or hiring manager.

The hiring manager asks questions about your knowledge of operating systems to determine your candidacy and evaluate your ability to perform the job's duties. They also ask these types of questions to assess your problem-solving abilities, critical thinking and analytical skills. In addition, answering questions related to operating systems can demonstrate your ability to take previous experience and apply it to a current situation, offering value to the organisation.

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What is an operating system?

An operating system is a master computer software program that allows other software and hardware to integrate with the computer system and function properly. Without an operating system, a computer cannot perform the tasks of a regular computer. The computer's operating system assigns memory required to run other software programs, such as word processing, databases or spreadsheet functions. It also controls the computer's use of hardware, such as printers, external storage devices, and network connections.

General interview questions

When interviewing for an operating systems position, the hiring manager wants to learn about your expertise and personality. During your interview, they can ask you a series of general questions about your personality traits, background and motivation for applying. Here are several general questions you may encounter:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What do you know about our organisation?

  • Why are you interested in our operating systems position?

  • Tell me why you want to work for our company.

  • How did you hear about our open position in operating systems?

  • What unique skills do you have that set you apart from other candidates?

  • Tell me about your top three strengths in operating systems.

  • What is your most significant professional achievement?

  • What do you consider being your biggest weakness as an employee?

  • Why are you looking for a new position?

  • What did you enjoy most about your most recent role in operating systems?

  • Where do you see your career in five years?

  • What are you looking for in a new position?

  • How would you describe your ideal work environment?

  • What do you enjoy least about working in operating systems?

Related: Interviewing Skills: Definition and Examples

Questions about experience and background

Much of your interview is likely to focus on your experience, history, and skills related to operating systems. The hiring manager or recruiter asks questions specific to your expertise to assess your ability to perform the job's duties. Several questions you can prepare for include:

  • What qualifications make you the best candidate for this job?

  • How has your academic training prepared you for a career in operating systems?

  • Tell me about your work history.

  • What certifications or specific operating systems training do you have that would benefit this role?

  • What have you learned from the mistakes you have made in your position?

  • Which of your previous positions related to operating systems was the most rewarding?

  • What significant challenges did you face in your previous position?

  • What was the most impactful thing you learned about operating systems in your previous work?

  • What is your favourite part of working with operating systems?

  • How would your previous coworkers describe your work ethic?

  • What were the primary responsibilities in your previous job?

  • How did your knowledge of operating systems positively affect your previous employer?

  • What do you do to maintain your technical knowledge about operating systems?

  • What process do you use for troubleshooting operating system problems?

  • What is the most significant operating system problem you have faced, and how did you come to a solution?

Related: What Is a Computer Programmer? Definition and Career Advice

In-depth questions

During your interview, you can also expect in-depth questions to evaluate your understanding of computer operating systems. These are technical questions used to assess your knowledge and expertise to perform the technical duties of the position. Some questions you can expect include:

  • What are the standard operating systems used today?

  • How many types of fragmentation occur within an operating system?

  • What is your preferred operating system for a company such as ours?

  • Describe the benefits of a multiprocessor operating system.

  • How would you describe virtual memory?

  • Explain the principles of a time-sharing system.

  • What are the primary functions of a virtual file system or VFS?

  • How do you explain multitasking as it relates to operating systems?

  • What is caching?

  • Describe thrashing as a concept within operating systems.

  • How do you explain technical concepts to people outside of the IT environment?

  • What is the function of paging within the context of operating systems?

  • How do you differentiate between a physical and logical address?

  • Describe the various types of scheduling algorithms.

  • What is a Kernel, and what are its primary functions?

Related: Technical Interview Questions and Example Answers

Interview questions with sample answers

Preparing answers to common questions can help you feel confident in an interview. Here are examples of how to answer a few common computer operating system interview questions:

1. How would you describe the relationship between computers and operating systems?

As a professional working within IT, you require a solid understanding of the relationship between the hardware and software you work with daily. Therefore, a hiring manager asks this question to evaluate your comprehension of the basics of operating systems. When answering this question, focus your response on providing a detailed answer to how operating systems work and the functions they serve.

Example: "A computer is a physical piece of hardware that cannot function until you apply an operating system. It houses the physical components, such as the motherboard, graphics cards, sound cards, and hard disk drive. The operating system is the platform that brings all the physical components to life and allows everything to communicate seamlessly for a person to use the computer. The operating system is available upon starting the computer and provides the functioning for the computer, such as network access, memory storage retrieval, and use of devices. It also supports the use of other software programs."

2. What types of operating systems are available?

There are various types of operating systems available for consumers and businesses to use in their computers. Understanding the multiple options available can show your expertise to the hiring manager. There are several types of operating systems commonly used, including:

  • desktop operating system

  • handheld operating system

  • multiprocessor operating system

  • simple batch operating system

  • clustered operating system

  • distributed operating system

  • multiprogramming operating batch system

  • real-time operating system

  • time-sharing operating system

When responding to this question, provide several examples and briefly explain each.

Example: "There are several operating system types, including desktop and handheld systems. In my previous position, I helped a company move to a distributed operating system to increase their employee's availability for remote work. It also worked well for their situation, as they continued to add more employees to their team. I also worked with a different company that was concerned about data security. I helped them to establish a network operating system that allows for highly stable centralised servers with the potential for no-hassle hardware upgrades."

3. What are the advantages of a multiprogramming operating system?

A multiprogramming operating system allows the user to run multiple programs on one CPU or central processing unit. When answering this question, share your understanding of a multiprogramming system by providing examples of its advantages over other kinds of operating systems. When possible, offer a real-world situation where you used this operating system over another for the organisation's benefit.

Example: "A multiprogramming operating system allows the user to maximise the CPU usage. It can process several programs simultaneously. As a result, multiprogramming has a quick response time and can save money from one system instead of having multiple single systems. For example, in my previous position, my employer tasked me to optimise the CPU usage of the organisation's system. After researching several options, I implemented a multiprogramming operating system. This increased the utilisation of the CPU and also provided greater memory and resource usage."

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