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5 Interview Questions You Should Always Ask

While they need technical skills, EA candidates also need the ability to deal with numerous people in a changing and sometimes chaotic environment

Traditionally, enterprise architecture (EA) managers looking for a new employee have focused their interview questions on technical skills such as integration, application architecture, or infrastructure architecture. While these skills are important, today’s fast-paced and sometimes chaotic environment requires a broader set of skills.

Enterprise architects now face faster business planning cycles, increasing technical complexity, a diverse set of stakeholders, and a rapidly changing technical environment. EAs need not only technical skills, but also the ability to navigate through all of this complexity.

Five questions will help managers assess whether a candidate is up to the challenge.

  1. ADAPTABILITY: Give an example of a time your team or organization shifted their goals or resources. What effect did it have on your work? How did you respond?

    Business priorities are constantly in flux. Nearly half of CEB Enterprise Architecture members say that their business’s strategy has changed frequently in the past couple of years. But many EA groups report that they struggle to react to these changes. To avoid being left behind, EA needs architects who can quickly adjust and adapt to new, different, and changing circumstances.

    What to listen for in the answer:

    • Ability to absorb new information and situations quickly and with ease. 

    • Demonstrated ability to quickly switch tracks and adapt to changes in ongoing projects.

  1. CREATIVITY: Give an example of an innovative idea you used to get round a problem you had with a project. How did the idea differ from normal solutions?

    Business leaders are far more likely to turn to technology to improve products and services than they once were, and many of them are willing and able to run new technology projects on their own. CEB data show that nearly a third of technology spending at the average company is outside of IT, and so architects need to be flexible enough to support these new initiatives, many of which involve new or untested technologies.

    What to listen for in the answer:

    • Candidate’s response should show they are willing to discuss innovative solutions to extraordinary challenges.

    • Should exude curiosity and cite instances where they observed processes/ideas from other teams and adapted and implemented them for their team.

    • They should demonstrate unconventional points of view.

  2. INFLUENCE: Describe a situation in which you persuaded someone of your point of view. How were you able to maintain peoples’ confidence in that view?

    The number of individuals involved in technology decisions is increasing, meaning that architects have to work with a large and diverse set of stakeholders, each with their own motivation and objectives. Architects must have strong influencing skills to ensure that EA meets its objectives. But many architects do not yet hit the bar: CEB data show that only 35% of architects are good at influencing stakeholders. When interviewing EA candidates, find out if they have a demonstrated ability to persuade others.

    What to listen for in the answer:

    • That they managed discussions positively and with maturity and used logical arguments to persuade and negotiate with others.

    • That they understand important stakeholders, regardless of title or seniority.

    • Value working relationships and are neither too aggressive nor too passive in team situations.

  3. LEADERSHIP: Give me an example of when you had to gain support for an unpopular decision. How did you manage it and how did your team react? How did you convince your team to work on it?

    Senior enterprise architects worry their staff are poor leaders. In a world of uncertainty, architects need to be able to make decisions, sometimes based on incomplete information, and then champion those decisions with their teams and external stakeholders. When evaluating candidates, look for an ability to lead teams, and make sure that the candidate’s leadership style matches your organizational culture.

    What to listen for in the answer:

    • Candidate should show the ability to mentor, coach, and lead others.

    • Is able to step in and take charge of situations, especially when team members disagree on something, and make sure that the work is not impacted.

    • The candidate mentions cultivating and employing relationships with other leaders from the organization.

  4. COLLABORATION: Describe a situation in which you worked with geographically or functionally disparate groups of people on a project. How did you align the team’s efforts with the overall objectives?

    The average employee collaborates with ten or more individuals just to accomplish day-to-day work. Network performance, the skill of being able to give and take from others to achieve a set of objectives, is as important to business profitability as individual performance. However, only 10% of IT employees could be classified as network performers. Look for architects who create value by working together in a team.

    What to listen for in the answer:

    • Candidate understands and is comfortable with the natural tension between the needs of different constituents within groups of people who come together to accomplish a certain task.

    • Able to articulate what and how the other team members contributed, and how they worked together and successfully completed the project.

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