Interview Questions for Enterprise Architects

Companies
interviewing enterprise architects look for a comprehensive technical skill set,
along with communication skills and a passion for the job.

Interview Questions for Enterprise Architects“There
are a lot of people that interview and are passionate
about something else,” says Craig Kapper, senior regional vice president
for Robert Half International. “You can be an okay communicator, but if
this is your life work and you are wildly passionate about it, you’ll probably
get the job.”

A
firm foundation in one or more
current architecture is essential. These include
service-oriented architecture (SOA), model-driven architecture (MDA),
event-driven architecture (EDA) and object-oriented design (OOD). During an
interview, you should be able to explain your experience and give concrete
examples of where you implemented it. You need a solid understanding of
software development processes and methodologies, and should be able to explain
TCP networking, firewalls, routing and load balancing. 

Here’s
some key questions you can expect to be asked.

Give
examples of enterprise architecture you designed and what type of protocols you
used.

A successful answer includes an explanation of your experience and
the methodology that was leveraged, middleware that was used to interact with
complex environments, and lessons learned.

How do you
see IT supporting new business initiatives?

This question attempts to reveal not only your experience and
knowledge, but the vision you hold to transform and implement business
strategies.

“The enterprise architect must be able to see big picture,
the forest as opposed to the trees,” says Sandy Lambert, managing director
of recruiter Lambert and Associates.

What advice
would you give server side Web developers wanting to ensure new code was secure
from external attacks?

“Enterprise
level work is inevitably about security,” says Kapper. With security a
major priority for an organization’s infrastructure, enterprise architects must
have a solid understanding of current security processes, including encryption, authorization,
authentication and public key infrastructure.

What
problems do you expect to encounter with an organization that has a “siloed”
structure? How would you deal with it?

This is an organizational question that will be specific to a
company’s network. Lambert asked this specific question to candidates for
Citibank in order to learn how they’d connect silos of a large and diverse
infrastructure and enable the enterprise vision.

What kind of
cloud computing work have you done?

This is the first question Vasanthan Dasan, CTO
and vice president of engineering for the Armada Group asks of enterprise architects
during interviews. He’s interested in hearing of how they see their role in the
ongoing trend in cloud computing and migration.

“The trend I’ve seen over the last three years has been
organizations moving applications, infrastructure and network into a hosted
cloud model,” he says. “I believe that trend is going to continue for
the next ten years as the majority of it infrastructure is moved to a hosted
model.”

Even if cloud computing experience may be on a candidate’s resume,
Dasan asks this question to learn about a candidate’s experience and knowledge
about cloud computing in his or her own words.

Describe how
you migrated an application in a traditional architecture to the cloud.

Dasan follows up with this to see how a candidate solves problems
and approaches cloud migration with a specific architecture. At times he’ll even
ask the candidate to demonstrate by drawing code and designs on a board.

“I’m looking for why they chose these methods, what features
they included, what options and how they go about deciding certain components,”
he explains.

Prioritize the following criteria
for a new code design based on importance, and explain your reasoning: performance,
ease of maintenance, code accuracy, ease of use, and ease of adoption.

This
one’s tricky, since the right answer ultimately is what the client thinks is
important. However, an honest assessment and identification that the right
answer lies in an organization’s needs is helpful.

Draw an
example of the architecture of a high transaction website or database, and
explain it.

This will test your knowledge, quick thinking ability and
communication skills. The interviewer will look at load balances, Web servers,
scalability, data modeling and among other things.

What
enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have you worked with?

Kapper also asks, or follows up, with related ERP questions such
as: What platforms have you used for ERP implementation efforts? What ERP
modules have you been specifically responsible for? What ERP tasks were you
assigned to? What kind of network protocols do you use?

How did you measure success and moderate
performance in one of your projects?

“I’m really looking for good communication skills,”
Vasan says. “The ability to articulate, model the problem, extract
solutions, define interfaces between components, and have good knowledge of
what’s possible implementation-wise, and what’s available and tested in the
marketplace.”

Other questions:

What is the
best project you ever worked on?

What did you
contribute to the project?

— Chandler Harris

6 Responses to “Interview Questions for Enterprise Architects”

  1. Agnelo Marques

    Agree completely with Jerry.
    EA is more about Business process and how technology can enable the Business. All technical questions stated here are necessary for a Technical Architect of an application but an Ent. Architect. The EA will not get into the details of these. These questions to me looked more like the ones for an Application Architect and now Ent. Architect

  2. Jerry Rosenbaum

    Your questions focus on technology, and as such you are asking things done by a technology architect.

    An enterprise architect is much more concerned about the business processes and the relation of business to computer solutions. The EA should know about cloud computing and where it fits in and where it does not fit in, but the details of implementation (including technology stacks) are handled by others working as part of the team to solve business problems.
    Business people really do not care about technology solutions, they care about solving business problems.

  3. Robert M. Green

    There are four ‘super objects’ within the enterprise architecture space – data, process, technology and governance. I agree with Jerry, the article focused on technology where as most of my clients want the ‘chief’ Enterprise Architect to focus on the necessary architectures which address the ‘four factors of production’.

  4. Kat Miles

    I concur with the spirit of the other comments made on this page. I work for a Fortune 50 organization with over 100K staff, >$50B in revenues and nearly 2M online interactions/transactions daily.

    I think many leaders are confused by the differences between Application and Enterprise Architects. Any leader who asks an EA to scribble code confirms this. Think of the EA as the glue, the binding, between business and IT strategy. Any EA should be working with multiple App architects to ensure that the AAs are doing what needs to be done to tie their pieces of the puzzle together.

    I have ALSO worked for multiple startups where the CIO is the EA is the App architect and lead developer.

    So the rule of thumb is: recognize the difference between a hammer and a needle and when to use each.

  5. Thanks to the Chandler Harris, for the good coverage of the enterprise architect’s interview questions, however most of these are indeed technical, yet many times asked to EA.

    In reality, based on the business needs, EA concerns on the business process and a technical solution for the for the business process.(Macro level), that high level architecture document provides inputs to the Technical Architects(Domain Specialists, Technology architects etc). to provide the technical solutions.

    Apart from that, as Robert pointed out, EA’s space is around data, process, technology and governance.

    Any ways why don;t all of you add some of the questions related to EA? so that others can get best suggestions from you guys.

    Cheers
    Arvind