We’ve talked about getting started as a solutions architect before in this blog. In that piece, we covered the kinds of soft/hard skills expected of you, the qualifications and training that can set you apart from other applicants, and the essential experience you need to enter the field.
But after you’ve accrued the relevant knowledge and background, you’ll then need to navigate the interview process. And with a diverse range of questions coming at you, things can get a little tough. But luckily, that’s what we’re here for.
Below, we’ll take a look at what you can expect from the solutions architect interview process, the interview questions you can expect to be asked, and how to go about answering them in the most effective way.
The typical interview process for a solutions architect role
Although not every interview is going to be the same, the solutions architect interview process generally looks something like the below:
Here, you’ll touch base with a recruiter who will ask you questions about your CV, some light technical questions, and a few behavioural questions over the course of 30-45 minutes. They’ll want to get a sense of your technical knowledge and how much of a cultural fit you’ll have at the company.
Next, you should expect to speak with the hiring manager. You’ll delve a little deeper into your technical skills and domain knowledge, but you should also be prepared to make a case for why you’re the best candidate for the role.
If you have previous SA experience, then now is the time to display it, but if not, make it a point to mention how much you’re looking to join a team where your skills will be able to develop over time.
Things will probably differ between companies at this final stage, but they tend to follow a similar structure. For the most part, you’ll interview for around three to five hours with a lunch break halfway through. You’ll go through a series of rounds, ranging from 30 to 60 minutes long.
One of the rounds will be a technical concepts interview, which involves you explaining key technical concepts such as APIs. You might also have to deliver a presentation, where you’ll have to walk through a demonstration of a product you’re experienced with.
Your presentation skills will obviously be tested, but your interviewer will also be looking at how you handle objections in the form of “customer” questions that they’ll ask.
The rest of the interview will focus more on your behavioural skills. Your recruiter will be able to inform you of the exact structure, so be sure to get in touch with them for the full details. A quick look at a prospective company’s interview processes on Glassdoor will be able to help out too.
General solutions architect interview questions
Describe the typical work week of a solutions architect
When hiring managers ask this, they’re using it as a way to determine whether you know the role should you be hired. So, before you dive in with an answer, think back across any relevant previous roles, and relate them back to the vacant position. Experienced candidates will have the upper hand, but anything that you can link to the role you’re interviewing for should stand you in good stead.
Just be sure not to go overboard on the details. Keep your answer clear, on-topic and well organised. Describe the daily duties of a solutions architect, pointing to things such as supervising development teams, updating stakeholders, assessing systems architecture, and working with technical teams to create more effective solutions.
How did you become a solutions architect?
A pretty unassuming question on the surface, but it’s a great way of helping the interviewer learn more about you and goes a long way to showcasing your skills and experience succinctly.
In your answer, highlight the skills and experience you gathered along the way, whether it was in junior roles, during education or while earning any relevant certifications.
What makes you stand out from other solutions architects?
A chance to really shine, you’ll be asked this so that interviewers can learn more about the skills and abilities that make you unique. Show them the value you can bring to their company by highlighting two or three things that you believe make you stand out from other applicants.
For example, it could be that you hold degrees in other fields that have helped fine-tune your SA skills in some way, or it could be that your attention to detail has helped you navigate some tricky challenges in previous roles. Whether it’s tech skills, personal attributes or your past education, be sure to back it up with real-world examples.
Technical solutions architect interview questions
What approach to security do you take with your solutions?
A crucial question. Security is a big priority for businesses, and they want to know that you can ensure it across their operations. As such, your answer needs to highlight your security bona fides in the proper manner. Your answer should be clear and straightforward, making mention of any security features you’ve used in previous projects to achieve appropriate safeguarding.
If necessary, refer to both authentication and authorisation, and if the use of forms is noted, then be sure to mention any solutions you used for password management. Your interviewer wants to come away knowing that your methods are as secure as can be.
How do you protect against injection attacks?
Showing you know how to respond to one of the biggest web security issues is sure to impress your interviewer. Since there are numerous ways of dealing with injection attacks, you have a lot of scope in your answer.
Whether you’ve opted for limiting access or updated and patched apps to previously deal with them, the most important thing is that you show your ability to come up with appropriate solutions as and when injection attacks take place.
How do you address scalability?
As a company grows, your interviewer will want to know how you can ensure a system will be able to handle increasing amounts of work. Have you scaled vertically and increased resources on the same server, or have you done it horizontally across multiple servers in the past? Let the interviewer know your methods in a brief, precise manner.
How can you handle fault tolerance?
System failure is bound to happen. But what the interviewer wants to know is how well you can keep a system up and running in the event of a component failing.
Show them your fault tolerance skills by pointing to the techniques you use to keep systems continuous, from eliminating single points of failing and switching to new servers to modelling and testing simulated failures so you can prepare for the real thing.
Experiential interview questions
How would you communicate to clients who disagree with or don’t understand your assessments?
Essentially, the interviewer is asking “how are your interpersonal skills”. Solutions architects have to suggest and recommend solutions to clients and customers alike, who may not understand the technical jargon behind their assessments.
Your interviewer will want to hear examples of times when you listened carefully to the views expressed by clients, used your empathy to show you understood their frustrations, and then used your communication and language skills to explain the reasons behind your assessment in the first place.
What major challenges did you encounter in your last role, and how did you address them?
Whether it’s working with a difficult colleague, troubleshooting a bug in some new code, or getting to grips with incoming technology, your interviewer wants to know how you respond when your mettle’s been tested.
Essentially, this is a way of showing off your problem-solving skills. Regardless of the context, you should show how you effectively addressed a challenge, whether it was putting aside differences to collaborate, your ability to adapt or your skill in quickly learning new concepts. There’s a chance your answer might get emotionally charged, so be sure to keep your non-verbal communication in check too.
Have you ever come up with an innovative solution?
In other words: can you get creative with your solutions? The interviewer wants to know whether you do things by the book or whether you have the imaginative skills to come up with something different.
Think back to when you were faced with something challenging and used your abilities to suggest an innovative idea or designed an app to deal with the problem head-on. Bonus points if you can explain any complexities in a simple, straightforward way, too!
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