By Danny Aspinall
Interviews can be a nerve-racking experience for every professional, no matter if you’re a cloud freshman or veteran.
But with the Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition finding that just 48% of permanent AWS professionals expect to be working for their current employer in the coming year, and a further 28% are already actively looking for a new opportunity, knowing how to interview for AWS roles successfully is crucial for today’s talent.
In this post, we’re showing you how to impress in front of future employers, using our experience and expertise as leading AWS recruitment specialists to offer up some top tips and tricks, and example interview questions and answers. Oh, and that’s not forgetting invaluable industry insights that help you get ahead by better understanding exactly what employers are looking for when hiring AWS talent.
So whether you’ve already secured your next interview (nice work!) or you’re looking to get ahead when re-entering the job market, this AWS interview guide is for you.
Not doing your research on the employer you’re interviewing with is a sure-fire way to fall at the first hurdle.
Interviewers can tell from a mile away if you’ve taken the time to find out more about the company, and they consider this a solid indication as to whether or not you’re actually passionate about joining them.
Fail to do basic research on your prospective employer, and you can even be caught out by simple questions like:
And unsurprisingly, this is never a good look.
On the flip side, the more research you do, the more you can be effective in demonstrating why you’re the right person for the role. For example, armed with the right research, you can display impressive business acumen by positioning yourself as a candidate who understands the role of the cloud for that specific industry or organization.
Every business is at a different stage of its cloud journey, but the reality is that most are still developing their long-term cloud strategies. Organizations know what they want from the cloud, but don’t necessarily know how to get there—our Careers and Hiring Guide found that more than half (53%) of businesses surveyed faced challenges with their implementation because they lacked the appropriate skills internally.
Likewise, we found that a lack of in-house skills (19%) and struggling to identify the skills needed (9%) ranked among the top tech staffing challenges employers expect to face in the next year. And so, if you are proactive in researching the relevant industry and bringing ideas, examples, and solutions to the table from the get-go, this exhibits an impressive degree of knowledge, enthusiasm, and authenticity that’s sure to get you far.
If you know what employers are looking for when hiring AWS talent, you have the insider information you need to ensure you’re ticking all the right boxes in your next interview.
In our Careers and Hiring Guide, AWS professionals told us that these are the top five product types they have experience with:
So, if you possess these skill sets, be sure to make this clear in your interview to stay competitive against other candidates. Don’t just say you have these skills, however—prove it. Highlight real word instances of when and where you’ve utilized these skills, anchoring it back to examples on your resume where possible, to present tangible evidence of your expertise.
In the same survey, these were the top five areas that candidates had the least experience in:
Candidates holding these skill sets should therefore shout loudly about it, as this presents a great opportunity to set you apart from other interviewees. ML and FinOps look set to be amongst the top cloud trends for 2023, meaning that if you’re experienced and knowledgeable in these areas already, your interviewer will definitely want to hear all about it.
It’s important to showcase all your strengths, as this will present you as an agile and adaptable team member. However, employers value experience and expertise above all else, so try to emphasize your area of specialty the most.
If you hold a certification, steering the conversation towards this is one way to touch upon your area of expertise. Not only does this demonstrate a verifiable level of knowledge and skill, but certifications also show a level of commitment, credibility, and passion for AWS—it’s why 89% of those with certifications believe that they make you more marketable.
Looking for more invaluable career insights on all things AWS?
The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide is the ultimate resource for anyone looking to build a rewarding career in AWS.
The questions you’re asked throughout the interview might be a little tough at times. While the interview may start lightly, you should be ready to answer some complex and technical questions as it progresses
The trick is to stay calm, collected, and most importantly, honest. If you don’t know the answer, don’t bury your head in the sand, or dig yourself a hole by making it up as you go along. AWS is an extensively complex ecosystem, and though your knowledge may lack in one area, you may excel compared to others in another.
While preparing for the more technical questions will depend on the context of your role, preparing for some of the more common interview questions can help to relieve some of the nerves by arming you with some strong, thought-out answers ready to go. Don’t just recite pre-prepped answers word for word, though—use them as a foundation and personalize with your own knowledge, research, and context.
While this might seem like a simple question for a cloud pro, here the interviewer is actually testing your ability to communicate complex ideas in clear and comprehensible ways.
This is an invaluable skill to modern workforces, the majority of which still lack a widespread understanding of basic cloud concepts and capabilities. And so, by asking for a cloud definition in layman’s terms, the interviewer can gauge not just how much you understand the technologies involved, but also how well you can explain this to your peers.
This question has less to do with your technical expertise, and is more focused on how much of a valuable asset you could be to the team—cloud pros with good communication skills can help inform decision-making, guide internal cloud adoption, and increase buy-in from stakeholders and senior teams.
AWS provides perhaps the broadest range of scalable, flexible infrastructure for all types of workloads and tasks. With this question, interviewers are assessing your core understanding of these resources and their applications.
Look to prove a fundamental knowledge of:
This one’s intended to evaluate your wider knowledge of the cloud landscape, and in particular, whether you’re keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on new developments.
In such fast-paced and highly-evolving ecosystems like AWS, employers want talent that is eager to expand their knowledge, quick to adapt to change, and jump right in and get hands-on with new developments and solutions.
And so, your answer should reflect this. Don’t just recite a dull stat about AWS’ latest market share—talk about recent announcements you felt were notable or exciting, and root predictions for the future of AWS in the context of your current expertise and experiences.
It’s likely you’ll be quizzed on a specific product that you’ll be using in your role, so be sure to revise all its latest features, updates, and capabilities of the ones relevant to you.
You’ll likely already use these products regularly day-to-day, so may think that this is a breeze of a question. But it’s always worth recapping and doing a little extra homework—you don’t want brain freeze in a job interview, and this can even happen with information you’d think was on the tip of your tongue.
So take some time the night before your interview to jot down some of the most recent features of the relevant products, making note of their functionality too, so they’re fresh in your mind the next day.
The best answers to this question don’t just rattle through a list of past projects—the interviewer wants to see how deeply you can explain the intricacies of each project to assess your level of knowledge and application.
This is a good time to highlight some of those in-demand skills we’ve already discussed!
If you’ve got a large portfolio, strive to highlight a good mix of projects to demonstrate your adaptability. We also recommend including an example of a time things didn’t go totally to plan—being able to prove how you utilize your skills and expertise to overcome real-world problems will demonstrate your value to the team.
The key thing to remember is that the interviewer is looking for detail. For example, don’t just tell them that you implemented security best practices; tell them about the specific steps you took to do it. It’s likely that the interviewer will be evaluating your answers against their internal ways of doing things—for example, how your use of a framework or tool compares to their existing options—again presenting a great opportunity to demonstrate your immediate value to their team.
Psst, for even more insider info, check out this blog post—AWS experts shared with us their top interview questions (and how to answer them) to help businesses size up their next hire… but to help you get ahead, we thought we’d share them with you too!
At the end of the interview, it’s likely you’ll be asked whether you have any questions of your own.
Coming prepared with some questions to ask at this point is Interview Prep 101, but it’s important not to overlook the importance of this stage. This is your opportunity to confirm whether the employer is the right fit for you—interviews are a two-way street!
So make sure you’re asking questions that you actually care about the answer to. When we asked AWS professionals in our Careers and Hiring Guide what motivates them to consider leaving an employer, they cited reasons including:
These are all areas you can ask about at this stage of the interview, and although they can be awkward to talk about, it’s crucial you ask about what matters most to you— after all, the wrong hire benefits neither you nor the employer.
And by asking these questions, you demonstrate a level of passion and care for your job and your workplace—something sure to be admired by any interviewer. As Neetu Kumar, Technology Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Centrica, advises employers in the UK edition of our Careers and Hiring Guide: “It’s not about fitting into a culture, it’s about how a candidate can add to your culture.”
Don’t be afraid to be direct, asking questions on:
The reality is that, with the digital skills gap still gaping, there’s a whole lot on offer for the right AWS talent right now. This means that if one employer isn’t ticking the right boxes, it’s likely another will, so take the time to consider options rather than diving headfirst into your first offer.
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