This content is part of the Essential Guide: How to start your cloud career

Top 5 cloud architect interview questions and answers

Job candidates need technical skills and much more to work in the cloud. Prepare for your cloud architect interview with these potential questions and answers to stand out from the crowd.

As enterprises push more of their workloads to the cloud, IT pros need different skills than they did on premises -- and more of them.

The days of traditional Windows or data center interview questions are long gone. Applications such as Excel or Visio are still important, but knowing one cloud platform's interface over another might not have the same value. Perhaps the vendor might change the interface, or the company to which you've applied uses AWS, but you're only familiar with Microsoft Azure.

Cloud architect interview questions goes far beyond the technical aspects of the job and often delve into gray areas that bridge business functions and cost aspects. Review these five questions that might come up in your interview and see what types of answers could help you land the job.

1. Have you done X?

This might be an opening question, where the interviewer fills in the X with AI, machine learning, relational database management system, etc. What they ask about will vary, but this is a question designed to see what you know in a general sense. Keep the answer more to the surface level -- unless they ask for additional details.

If you've worked on a machine learning project, it is fine to just add a brief summary of the work you did. This is not a deep dive on any topic, so don't get stuck in the weeds on a specific subject.

If you haven't worked with something, be honest about it. But if you're aware of the topic, then let them know. Nobody has experience in everything cloud-related; the key is whether you're aware of the subject matter and are willing to work with it.

2. Describe a migration with which you were involved

When it comes to the cloud, a lot of the projects involve migrations from on premises to cloud-based systems. This type of question should not be a surprise, but don't just talk about the technical aspect of the migration. Include the business aspects, as well.

For example, what were the downtimes with which you needed to work? How were end users affected, and what did you do to mitigate that? A migration is more than just using a tool to move data from point A to point B. Talk about the process and the impact, and always reference the security aspect. For example, how did you ensure the company's data was safe and secure?

These topics help to round out a complete picture of your migration and show that you're more than just a technical person.

3. Did your cloud migration or deployment yield cost savings?

This can be a hard cloud architect interview question for IT pros who only focus on the technical or design side. However, this is one of the most critical questions you'll be asked. If you are not aware of the cost impact of your change, then why are you doing it?

Some might say this shouldn't matter to IT, but we all have to be good stewards of company resources, and that is the key to this question. An interviewer will take notice if you upgraded simply because the latest version was out or because there was a cool new interface, not because it had a cost impact or security needs.

Keep in mind, this is where you can brag a bit about your Excel skills and show off reports.

4. What went wrong, and how did you adjust?

This is a common question -- and for good reason. An interviewer doesn't want to hear you say your cloud project went smoothly and without issue; that's almost impossible.

This cloud architect interview question is about how you handled the issues and whether they were related to costs, resources or scale problems. Even if it was something small, explain how you kept the efforts moving forward in spite of the challenges.

5. How do you do X?

This is always a great indicator of what the hiring company is doing or trying to do. It isn't a generic question; the topic is something they need done, and they want your take on it. The downside with these types of questions is you might not know all of the steps or technologies in play -- and almost any answer you give could be wrong.

Employers have the upper hand with this question, because it's an issue they're currently encountering. However, you can counter with an answer that provides a top-down approach.

No one will expect you to have the exact answer.

Start with the problem and discuss how you would research the possible options. Try to keep it at an investigation level and not an in-depth analysis of the technical aspects -- save that for when you get hired. It's OK to offer some specific tools or techniques to address the problem, but you would have to base it on a range factors, including cost and impact on the business.

No one will expect you to have the exact answer. This is about having multiple ideas and continuing the conversation about those ideas after you get the job. Be flexible in your answers and what you might design and implement. Don't get backed into a corner with what you think is a sure-fire solution -- you'll need a lot more details for that, no matter who you are.

Job interviews are often stressful points in anyone's career. We often become tongue-tied and even forget the basics while it's happening. These questions won't be the only ones you'll face, but they will help to build a framework of what to expect so you can land that cloud architect job.

Dig Deeper on Cloud infrastructure design and management

Data Center