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Amazon Web Services Engineer Hiring Guide & Questions to Ask

Ihor Shcherbinin
VP of Recruiting at DistantJob - - - 3 min. to read

During an ordinary quarantine day, in addition to working and eating, you might have to catch up on sports news on Turner Broadcasting and then listen to a live performance on Twitch. Or, after browsing on Facebook and LinkedIn, you used to finish the final episode of a Spanish series on Netflix. So, what do all these brands have in common? Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Obviously created by Amazon, AWS is a cloud platform featuring over 175 services that work thanks to data centers worldwide. From small start-ups to tech leaders, everyone uses Amazon Web Services cloud computing for their products and services. 

Are you still wondering why you should hire an Amazon Web Service Engineer? We created a hiring guide for you based on practical experience.

What is Amazon Web Services (AWS)?

Before hiring an Amazon System Engineer, let’s look at what AWS is. Launched in 2006 from the internal infrastructure, AWS is a certified solution architect professional to handle online retail operations. It offers a variety of tools and solutions for enterprises and developers across 190 countries. Because of its solid structure, government agencies, education institutions, nonprofits, and private organizations rely on AWS services for their operations.

In the beginning, it was one of the first companies introducing a pay-as-you-go cloud computing model providing users with computing power, database storage, and content delivery services.

The Amazon Web Services is an evolving cloud computing platform that incorporates a mixture of infrastructure such as IaaS, platform as a service, PaaS, and SaaS, a packaged software as a service. AWS certified cloud practitioners can configure each service based on their needs.

These services include: 


Benefits of AWS

There are multiple reasons why so many companies are turning towards Amazon Web Services. Essentially, AWS is a cloud computing platform that offers many different features. The most popular are the Amazon EC2 and S3. Multiple services make AWS perfect for scaling. Whether you need extensive server computation during busy hours or you just want your website to grow over the years, you can pick the features that suit your needs best. 

Secondly, Amazon Web Services charges usage-based. Rather than subscriptions or yearly commitments, the costs are fair for small startups and large companies because they depend on the use. The pricing structure is one of the main reasons to utilize cloud computing, and AWS is one of the cheapest options that still offers an incredible amount of features. You can save a considerable amount of money compared to traditional, on-premises servers and hardware because you only pay for what you need.

Finally, you want to hire the best AWS engineer to exploit the incredibly high uptime AWS offers. Besides data privacy, performance and reliability are unmatched by any traditional local hardware because you have the power of AWS behind you. If you have invested a significant amount in your servers or need specific information on-premises for compliance reasons, AWS also offers hybrid computing. This mixed solution allows you to use both on-premises and cloud services.

What Is An Amazon Web Service Engineer?

A few months ago, Amazon released a blog post capturing a day in the average life of a software engineer at Amazon Web Service. The beginning of the day usually starts with a coffee and customers’ questions on Amazon EC2. After that, it’s time to test instances and update a script to post some data to an SQS queue. Suddenly, another update to support a tcpdump case of a failed request to one of the APIs. Then, another mail from a customer that needs to scale the site. 

All that happens before lunch, and the list of (incomprehensible) tasks keeps going on. The post was a funny expedient to promote a new job opening in the company. However, the working day of any AWS big data engineer looks more or less like this. As we mentioned earlier, AWS’s main strength is that it offers multiple services and keeps updating to accommodate new requests.  

In short, an AWS big data engineer is an IT expert who creates, maintains, and monitors an AWS cloud infrastructure for running applications. From transactions to databases, from script to analytics, the engineer produces, tests, and develops cloud environments. When it comes to hiring, it can be challenging to isolate specific skills and portray the role. 

AWS engineer vs AWS developer

When it comes to hiring an Amazon Web Services Engineer, keep in mind that there is a difference between AWS Engineer and AWS Developer certificate:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: Meant for engineers, the solutions architect exam focuses on AWS services in general. An engineer acquires knowledge about all AWS services and solutions, from architecture to design.
  • AWS Certified Developer Associate: Meant for developers, the Developer Associate exam focuses on topics like DynamoDB, SNS, SWF, etc. Since developers works on specific stages of the process like design or backend technologies, this exam focus on single features of AWS services.

Which one is better for your scope?

Generally speaking, engineers have a more comprehensive vision of the whole AWS architecture. So, if you need someone to work on a specific stage like handling databases or implementing user experience, a developer specialized in what you need is a better choice. When you want someone who takes care of the project as a whole managing a dev team, you want to hire an Amazon Web Services Engineer.

Here are the role’s core responsibilities and the skills you can’t ignore when hiring an AWS engineer: 

AWS Engineer Role And Responsibilities

AWS is a unique cloud platform. However, it has one thing in common with any other technology: it keeps evolving and updating. Uses and users around the Internet constantly transform, and so do software and cloud platforms to accommodate businesses’ and users’ requests. For you, this means finding someone curious and willing to research new features and services to boost your site, always seeking new AWS data engineer certification, and improving the current practices.

An AWS cloud developer builds and keeps running the multiple features of an AWS cloud platform. Generally speaking, this is a range of responsibilities you can expect from an AWS devops professional depending on the scale of your project: 

  • Plan, implement, and expand the AWS cloud infrastructure
  • Build, release, and maintain the configuration of all production systems and features
  • Constantly integrate and deploy the methodology for server-based technologies
  • Collaborate with the development team to design and implement any scalable software services
  • Cybersecurity and in class cloud security solutions
  • Stay updated on new technology options and products to determine which one is the best for your company 
  • Improve continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines
  • Maintain recommended process and architecture improvements
  • Troubleshoot the system and fix issues of each platform and application domains
  • Monitor pre-production acceptance and test the high quality of your company’s services and products

Tools and Skills of AWS Engineers 

Because of the variety of tasks and responsibilities, for an AWS engineer, skills and tools go hand in hand. Most of the work includes programming languages like AngularJS, C++, Java, and Python. In this sense, tools and skills blend. You can’t have brilliant problem-solving skills with a tool (in this case, any programming language) you don’t know. Likewise, tech tools such as Hadoop, Kafka, Kubernetes, Redshift, Scala, Spark, and SQL are crucial for an AWS engineer.

Here are essential skills and tools to consider when hiring an Amazon Web Service engineer: 
  • Design and maintain AWS web environments, including services like EC2, ELB, RDS, and S3
  • Build and maintain cloud-native applications
  • Background in Linux/Unix and Windows server system administration  
  • Experience with devops engineering on aws and DevOps tools in a cloud environment, like Ansible, Artifactory, Docker, GitHub, Jenkins, Kubernetes, Maven, and Sonar Qube
  • Installation and configuration of different application servers such as JBoss, Tomcat, and WebLogic
  • Monitoring solutions like CloudWatch, ELK Stack, and Prometheus
  • Writing Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC), using tools like CloudFormation or Terraform
  • Deep command of programming languages for cloud computing: SQL data, XML data, R math, Clojure math, Haskell functional, Erlang functional, Python procedural, and Go procedural languages
  • Troubleshooting distributed systems
  • Command of script development and scripting languages
  • Working with DevOps, an engineer must be familiar with Continuous Delivery (CD), and tools such as AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeDeploy, and AWS CodePipeline

Besides technical skills and tools, remember that this role works on different platforms and stages of the process. Teamwork and communication skills are essential for long-term collaboration. Because of the nature of the position, an AWS engineer needs time management problem-solving and teamwork skills, and the ability to train other team members.

Why Consider Hiring a Cloud Engineer For Amazon Web Service?

Among its long list of AWS users, Netflix is one of the most relevant. The media platform adopted AWS in 2009. Since then, according to a 2016 Business Insider article, Netflix has pushed AWS services to their limits—and beyond. This ongoing pressure perfectly combined with Amazon’s desire to meet customers’ requests no matter what. As a result, AWS developed and improved to the innovative and comprehensive set of services you can see today. 

Tech leaders like Hertz, Time, Inc., etc., followed the example. Since 2015, Netflix has moved all its IT operations to AWS. From transactions to customer databases, the companies are relying on AWS infrastructure. 

What are the different AWS Engineer Positions?

Because of the multiple tasks and responsibilities, the ‘Amazon Web Service Engineer’ role might still sound vague and ambiguous. That’s why this type of engineer can play in different positions based on specific tasks and functions. From a back-end developer to a Cloud engineer to a software architect, an AWS engineering background opens different career paths. 

Here is a list of the possible jobs and options for an AWS engineer:

  • Data engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Back-end developer
  • Front-end developer
  • Full-stack developer
  • Cloud engineer
  • Development operations engineer
  • Java developer
  • .NET developer
  • Software engineer and architect
  • System engineer and administrator

When you hire an Amazon Web Engineer, this is something you need to consider. Since there are multiple areas of specialization, you need to be aware of what you need for your project. Your new entry will collaborate with other developers, both when launching products and when maintaining the service. In addition, the AWS developer will monitor your database to ensure data privacy, safety, and better service for your customers. In short, an AWS engineer supports your development team at each stage of the process. 

That’s why it’s important to ask the right questions during the interview process! 

5 AWS Engineer Interview Questions 

If you want to hire the best possible team member for your business, saving time, money, and effort, contact us. Our IT recruiters will find you a highly vetted expert cloud engineer in no time. 

If you want to do the job yourself, keep in mind that AWS offers many different services. With AWS’s flexibility, security, reliability, scalability, and cost savings, you need to ask the right questions to hire an Amazon Web Services engineer. 

Here, we’ll focus on the overall architecture to ensure your future AWS engineer fully understands this cloud service and boosts your business.

1. How do you create a new security group in the Amazon EC2? And why do you need it?

This command should be simple for your Amazon Web Services Engineer to know: ec2-create-group CreateSecurityGroup. As you can see with the command, this creates a new security group with your account.

A security group functions similar to a firewall by controlling the traffic in and out of your instance, or the inbound and outbound traffic. After the group is created, it’s also possible for your AWS engineer to add different rules to it, increasing its security.

2. If you have a distributed application that occasionally processes large volumes of data across multiple Amazon EC2 Instances, how can you recover gracefully from instance failures in the most cost-effective way?

This question comes from Edureka and explains when your potential AWS engineer should use Spot instances. Spot instances are the correct option here because they have low rates and do not require a long-term commitment.

In fact, using Amazon EC2 Spot instances can save you up to 90% on On-Demand prices. Spot instances “are spare compute capacity in the AWS cloud available…at steep discounts,” while still allowing you to “scale your application’s throughput up to 10X for the same budget.”

A good time to use EC2 Spot is test and development environments, image renderings, or other fault-tolerant and flexible applications.

3. Explain the difference between stopping an instance and terminating an instance.

If you simply stop an instance, it performs a normal shutdown by entering the stopping state and then transitioning to the stopped state. AWS does not charge any usage or data transfer fees for the instance after it is stopped. However, they do continue to charge for the storage of Amazon EBS volumes.

While the instance is stopped, some of its attributes, such as the instance type, can be modified. All Amazon EBS volumes stay attached, and your engineer can restart the instance later.

If the instance is terminated, however, it doesn’t simply move to a stopped state. Once you no longer have a use for the instance, you can terminate it to stop incurring charges for it. To protect your instances against accidental deletions, you can enable termination protection to prevent your engineer from terminating the instance using the console, CLI, or API.

Once it’s terminated, it stays visible in the console for a short time before being automatically deleted. It’s impossible to connect to or recover a terminated instance, so you need to be careful with this command.

You can also use the InstanceinitiatedShutdownBehavior on any Amazon EBS-backed instance to control whether the instance stops or terminates when you initialize the shutdown from within the instance itself. The default is to simply stop the instance.

Additionally, you can use the DeleteOnTermination attribute on any Amazon EBS volume to determine whether the volume is deleted or preserved when the instance it is attached to is terminated. 

[For more information about the instance lifecycle, see Amazon’s explanation.]

4. What is a DDoS attack, and what services can minimize them?

DDoS is a cyber-attack. In this case, the hacker accesses a website creating multiple sessions to stop legitimate users from accessing the service. Based on the scale of your project, there are different solutions.  

The most common tools to deny a DDoS attack on your AWS services are:

This question from Simplilearn helps you understand how much your candidate is with different solutions and tools.

5. How can you recover and log in to an EC2 instance if you have lost the key?

In this case, the candidate should mention these steps to recover an EC2 instance when you lose the key:

  1. Verify that the EC2Config service is running
  2. Detach the root volume for the instance
  3. Attach the volume to a temporary instance
  4. Modify the configuration file
  5. Restart the original instance

How To Find and Hire Amazon Web Service Engineers

To find the perfect candidate for your project, you have different strategies: 

1. Networking and Social Media

You can ask colleagues and start researching Social Media a good fit for your team. This system works quite well when you are in a solid network and can rely on multiple channels for your research. On the other hand, if your network is just in the beginning and you have tight deadlines, this solution takes a lot of time and energy.  

2. Freelance platforms & outsourcing companies

Freelancer platforms and outsourcing companies always save time and effort when finding skilled and reliable professionals. However, this type of solution might not work well with this role. Freelancers and outsourcers sometimes have multiple clients, and a full-time role would better suit a long-term relationship.

3. Remote Recruitment Company (Like DistantJob!)

Remote recruitment agencies can save you time and effort during the hiring process reaching top talent worldwide. Professional recruitment agencies can start the search from a pool of candidates. In addition, the hiring process is well tested, and the solid network allows checking previous background and skills. Finally, recruiters are trained in interviewing candidates, asking the right questions to spot the best candidate based on your needs. At DistantJob, we have been recruiting talented remote developers for a while – 10 years, to be specific –  we know how to spot skilled candidates. And, more importantly, we know who can make a difference in your team.

If you are looking for an AWS engineer to boost your sales, we are here to help. We will analyze your project to isolate your needs and ask the right questions during the interview. Plus, our amazing HR team will take care of you and your new hire over time because we love to make sure we do a great job. Just contact us for more info!

Ihor Shcherbinin

Ihor, is the VP of Recruiting at DistantJob. He specializes in sourcing and placing top remote developers for North American companies. His expertise covers the entire recruiting cycle, from pinpointing job needs to finalizing hires. Known for his skill in remote staffing solutions and offshore team integration, Ihor excels in matching the best tech talents with U.S. organizations. His approach to virtual developer hiring is marked by insightful candidate selection and strategic offer negotiation, ensuring the right fit for every role.

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