Salesforce Architects design end-to-end solutions that are robust, despite the system pressures and scale alongside the businesses that use them. Architects will spend a lot of time drawing, discussing, establishing, and considering solutions. However, the Salesforce Architect role involves far more than simply dealing with solutions.
Your architect interview answers need to consider the bigger picture; you’ll need to add color by including considerations within your answers that bring the interviewer along in your explanations. Think beyond straight-forward answers that could have been lifted from a textbook. Remember that you will almost certainly be dealing with multiple business units/departments in an enterprise-level organization.
Salesforce Architect interview questions will be designed for you to:
- Share real-life experience: Experience is the primary way a hiring manager will assess how you fit the role. This could include stakeholder management, or scenarios where you’ve had a difficult conversation with a customer. It takes tact to tell a client that what they’re doing isn’t scalable, and should their business model change, they will have to rip out a significant amount and build again.
- Demonstrate your technical knowledge: Firstly, you have to know what you’re talking about, from a broad range of functionality across the Salesforce platform, for example, what’s involved in a CPQ implementation, how to deal best with large data volumes, and solutionizing to avoid unwanted outcomes. Show off your technical prowess!
- Prove your leadership qualities: A large part of the role is leading a team, driving everyone forward in the right direction while ensuring that what’s being developed/built is performant and scalable. Gravitas, composure, and technical seniority are all traits you should keep front of mind as you answer questions.
Thanks to Gemma Blezard, Tom Bassett, and Andreea Doroftei for sharing their insights to make this piece a reality.
Section 1: Real-life Experience
1. Explain the role of a Salesforce Architect in a project-context.
Describe what you do at each stage of the project lifecycle – from identifying stakeholders, discovery, and solutionizing, through to building, data migration, deployment, and driving adoption.
In short, Salesforce Architects are delivery leaders and can be are involved in several remits (depending on the type of architect they are):
- Business: How the business operates around Salesforce (i.e. the operating model).
- Data/Integration: The structure and integrity of data flowing into, and out from, Salesforce.
- Solutions: The data model and processes happening within the Salesforce platform.
- Technical: How Salesforce fits into your business’s wider IT stack.
2. How many projects have you led? Can you describe some of the projects most relevant to architect-level responsibilities?
This is to demonstrate what you’ve successfully achieved, as well as how you measured success. Providing examples, or walkthroughs, is essential in this answer.
You can also mention your agile, or waterfall, project management experience (we’ll mention agile later in the “leadership qualities” section).
While architects aren’t always hired based on their industry-specific experience, you could score extra points with the interviewer, when perhaps:
- The company’s industry requires a data model/processes/integrations that are very different from other industries.
- You are interviewing for a role at a larger consultancy, where you’re likely to be aligned with an industry.
Even if you don’t have experience working on projects specific to the focal industry, you can still demonstrate that you are capable of pivoting in your answer.
3. In your experience, what are the key components of a successful project?
This is an opportunity to move away from the theory and prove how you’ve supported a successful implementation. Take the points listed below, as well as others that come to mind, and support these components with examples from projects you’ve worked on:
- Alignment was established from the outset with relevant stakeholders. Proper discovery, requirements gathering, and project scope/sprint planning all happened and were signed off by stakeholders.
- Collaboration between team members was smooth – particularly important as remote development teams are more common than not.
- As the architect, you shared recommendations (not just a range of options) with the client.
- Project risks were reduced, and undesirable outcomes, like technical debt, were considered.
- User adoption was considered as a key stage of the project, especially when dealing with multiple business units/departments in an enterprise-level organization.
- Constructing a roadmap for ongoing Salesforce changes and enhancements, so that the client can continue realizing their organizational objectives and maximizing their Salesforce investment. Of course, not everything they desire can/should be tackled all at once, which is why the roadmap is so important for taking ongoing project phases into consideration.
4. What’s the most innovative solution/build you have made into a reality?
Once you learn to spot a STAR question, they’re easy to answer. Describe the Situation (to set the scene), the purpose of the Task, the Actions you took, and the Results.
5. What was the most difficult software development project you have been involved in?
Similar to the previous question, use STAR to describe the Situation-Task-Actions-Results.
This is an opportunity to showcase your problem-solving skills and competence. Don’t use an example where a project went wrong unless it was something you fixed!
6. Have you been involved in presales?
Not essential for every architect out there – it depends on the organization you are hoping to work for. Architects will get involved in the sales processes, such as the conversations to uncover dependencies, scope out the project, and estimate time and effort.
7. To gather a client’s requirements, which questions should you ask?
You can talk about a clear method for discovering what clients need. One example is the 5WH method:
- Why: Identify the benefits the client (stakeholders) hopes the project will deliver.
- Who: Know who interacts with, and will benefit from, Salesforce.
- What: Identify the business and technical requirements. These will direct how Salesforce needs to function for the users.
- Where: Understand if there are localization considerations that may impact how Salesforce and other platforms are used in different geographical contexts. There may be unique data regulations, device, and integration considerations.
- When: Define the project deadlines – what is the most important factor?
- How: Understand the as-is state – how processes currently function (which will indicate their readiness for change).
8. When presenting a proposed solution to management, what would you present in order to seek their alignment?
You will want to reframe the “what” and “why” of the project before moving on to the main body of the presentation. Management, especially executives, are busy people, so can often forget the project details.
Stripping back the conversation to facts and presenting something visual are both good approaches. Salesforce Reference Architecture Diagrams show the recommended data models/integrations/usage of Salesforce platform products, easily communicating the best approach to designing Salesforce.
Also be aware of which executives/managers you are addressing. Of course, different people use certain terminology, and have different motivations and interests to protect. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) won’t be interested in how the marketing team can score Leads, for example.
9. How would you assess, record, and present risk in a project?
This question could be interpreted in different ways. Start by clarifying which of the two interpretations they are expecting you to answer (or both!).
a) If they are referring to project risks, you will need to talk about, and give mitigations for, the following:
- Timeframe: Expect the unexpected. Mention that there will be known unknowns that can affect the project schedule. To mitigate, get the whole team (+ client-side team) involved in the planning and scoping phases, resulting in early and constant feedback that you can address in discussions with stakeholders.
- Scope creep: Requirements appear that aren’t part of the agreed-upon project scope, becoming a never-ending shopping list. To mitigate, discuss how you can maintain focus by keeping stakeholders, users, and the development team close to the project, for example, via regular stand-ups or double-checking requirements with the stakeholders.
- Employee Turnover: When people leave the organization, valuable context about the project and business operations often leaves with them. To mitigate, focus on generating documentation frequently throughout the project – often, a little documentation is better than waiting for the final “hurrah” and potentially losing a knowledgeable individual before you reach that point. Documentation is no one’s favorite job; collaboration tools, such as Slack, can help you collate key snippets to inform your documentation.
b) If they are referring to managing risks within the Salesforce platform, you can talk about compliance standards, such as how you can define and implement controls for access, integration, security, and privacy, while managing operational risk. You could mention enhanced security features, such as Salesforce Shield to encrypt sensitive data, automate security policies, monitor users’ app and data usage, and run compliance audits.
10. Have you ever worked with clients who are resistant to change, perhaps protective over a solution that they’ve built? How did you overcome that initial resistance?
You should use your “people” skills to be personable and approachable. Open the conversation with curiosity, asking non-threatening questions to find out why the solution has been built in the way it has. Never criticize, only listen. Following these conversations (and once you’ve built trust), set up a separate meeting for you to gradually explain your alternative approach, having been fully informed of their business context and objectives, of course.
11. How would you handle an additional requirement that is raised towards the end of the project lifecycle?
While you may be tempted to push back on the curveball requirement at this late in the project, saying no isn’t necessarily the architect’s job. First, it’s best to inform relevant project members, namely the project manager, about the incoming request, even before you assess the request. Is the request priority? Will not actioning the request significantly curb user productivity? Are there limitations against completing the request? Does the request come with any dependencies that would result in even more requirements?
Following your own assessment, meet with the project sponsor (executive sponsor) and development team to access the impact.
The conclusion could be one of several. Either the requirement isn’t technically feasible right now, or ever. You could suggest postponing to address it as part of a future project. The executive stakeholder could have pushed back, especially if fulfilling the request would have pushed up the time (and/or budget). The requirement may not have been necessary all along.
12. How would you measure the adoption of Salesforce once it goes live? From the point of view of an architect, what would you suggest?
Helping clients with adoption – uptake of certain features or part of the system – shows you can be a coach, a mentor.
Much of encouraging adoption can be theoretical, for example, suggesting that the client installs the Adoption Dashboards from the AppExchange into their org. As an architect, you will need to think about the bigger picture in your answer to this question, adding extra detail to your answer by throwing in key considerations, especially when dealing with multiple business units/departments in an enterprise-level organization.
13. Name three things you’d advise clients to be prepared for (in the context of their Salesforce org) that may have a future impact.
Show your awareness of:
- The Salesforce roadmap (and where you would access it).
- Features and enhancements (including feature retirement) in the most recent/next release.
- System downtime, both expected and unexpected.
Most important of all, you should emphasize that the client needs direction from you in order to know what to look out for that’s relevant to their specific org. Salesforce releases contain so much information, which will be overwhelming for the client if they don’t have these pointers. You can also advise them to keep up to date with Salesforce news sites.
Section 2: Technical Knowledge
You have to know what you’re talking about – from a broad range of functionality across the Salesforce platform. While the questions in the other sections are not straightforward to answer (as each individual’s experience will determine the response), these example technical questions will allow the interviewer to make a clearer judgment call on your technical prowess.
Considering how popular certifications are in the Salesforce ecosystem, interviewers could ask questions that appear in the exams. Certification exams give a baseline to test knowledge, but you shouldn’t hesitate to develop these answers further with your hands-on experiences.
14. Could you draw [insert some solution] on the whiteboard?
An interview is a two-fold test to see where your technical knowledge meets communication skills. You could be the most solution-savvy architect out there, but you need to communicate clearly. So, brush up on your whiteboard technique (both physical and virtual whiteboards).
- When in person, avoid positioning your back to the audience and maintain eye contact as much as possible.
- Explain what you are drawing, as you go.
- Make elements large enough to see, and use clear, legible writing.
15. How would you approach customizing an out-of-the-box Salesforce product/ functionality to better suit the business’s needs?
This could either be referring to a specific product/functionality (if the interviewer knows what they’re looking for) or your thought process, generally speaking. How would you assess the organization’s current implementation and if/how out-of-the-box functionality could be leveraged, or replaced?
Another opportunity to use STAR to describe the Situation-Task-Actions-Results. Choose an OOTB functionality (hopefully you have a real-life example), outline the business challenges (situation), briefly explain how it was done technically (task/actions), and which challenges were solved.
A nice example is Lead conversion. Lead conversion is a manual user process, yet there are programmatic options (Apex) to automate the process. An architect should know that, depending on the use case, leveraging a third-party tool could be the best (most appropriate, scalable) option. Below are two example AppExchange apps that achieve this:
16. How would you judge whether a client has exceeded Salesforce’s standard capabilities, and therefore, needs to use an alternative tool to support their requirements?
This is similar to the previous question, but takes a step back. Here, you would need to take both the initial customization effort, ongoing maintenance, and any potential downstream impacts into consideration.
A nice example is very advanced forecasting. How far should you push Salesforce forecasting, and how would customizations hold up if other Salesforce modules/integrated platforms needed to change?
17. [Niche question] We are hoping to introduce a Data Warehouse to complement our Salesforce org. If, for example, we wanted to store invoices in the Data Warehouse, we would need to consume data from different Salesforce objects (Orders, Products, Quantity, Pricing, etc.) in order to generate an invoice. Would you raise any considerations or concerns to this approach?
You meet with the Project Team to discuss the pros and cons of each system being the master for different types of information.
18. [Niche question] We would like to use B2B Commerce, CPQ, and Partner Communities. What is the “best practice” way to connect B2B Commerce to CPQ (according to Salesforce)?
The role of an architect requires your knowledge to have a decent breadth across the Salesforce platform. The (official) answer is that you would install the CPQ B2B Commerce Cloud Connector, although you may be aware that the connector does have limitations that would make it unworkable for some organizations (limited support for complex pricing models and bundles, which could require custom development on top of the connector). As these are both Salesforce products, an educated guess is that there would be a connector available.
While you may not know the exact answer to this question in the moment, you can describe the process of a) researching available connectors that require no integration work, b) assessing Salesforce integration tools, like MuleSoft, and c) building a custom integration using Salesforce’s APIs.
This question proves how important it is to gain an understanding of the organization’s current Salesforce technology stack, as well as what they are planning in the short-term, as well as the long-term. Even if a project is over a year from kick-off, the hiring manager may still be interested in how you would handle a project that has a lot of business value.
19. [Niche question] Have you ever come across a requirement to classify and secure Salesforce field data due to (regulations or mandates, such as) GDPR? What would you advise the admin team members to do? Would there be any implications?
Firstly, Salesforce Admins can easily mark standard and custom fields as “Confidential” using the “Data Classification” metadata fields (on the field configuration).
You could then dig deeper into what the security requirements of the organization could be. This is especially important if they are in a highly regulated industry, such as financial services or healthcare. Should they be encrypting data instead? This could be the time and place to put forward platform encryption, using Salesforce Shield.
20. [Niche question] Have you ever worked with Big Objects? What are some key considerations to make while solutionizing?
A couple of points here will suffice. Custom fields can be added to big objects; however, not all field types are supported. There can be a maximum of 100 big objects per org.
21. You have been tasked to import two million records. How would you ensure both the performance and success of the operation?
Data loading is so critical, and can account for up to 25% of a typical Salesforce implementation. It’s also easily the culprit of additional expenses.
Ask if a solution is scalable and what happens when you try to put a hundred thousand records through it. Is it going to break, will you hit limits? Are there problems with the technical part of it?
For example, loading opportunity records, in all stages and forecast categories, into your Salesforce production instance. Here, you should confirm that the sales team has the correct roles assigned and make sure that “Grant Access Using Hierarchies” is enabled.
22. How could you solutionize to avoid creating technical debt?
Technical debt is unavoidable, but there are measures you can take to reduce it as your design solutions and plan projects.
- Get involved early. You don’t want to end up in a situation where the solution is already built, and is going live the following week.
- Dedicate time for you/another team member to assess the maturity of the org.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Why build something custom when there is an out-of-the-box feature that will achieve the desired outcome?
- Will the solution stand the test of time, or will it have to be changed significantly in the near future?
If time isn’t on your side (i.e. you weren’t involved early enough in the process), ask questions to find out why the solution was built like it has been. This means that going forward, you can have an action plan in place. For example, we should remove these four objects, create one new object in their place requiring these fields, and automation will adapt like this, and the Apex trigger will need to be removed.
Section 3: Leadership Qualities
23. How should an architect work with client-side teams and internal teams?
A ‘one team’ approach is the best approach. Describe how you communicate with clients – how often, which channels, and why. Describe the same with your internal team. Explain how these communication cadences bring everyone together from both sides. Use examples from projects you’ve been involved with.
24. How would you balance priorities when working with multiple clients, stakeholders, or projects?
As an architect, you have to adapt quickly – whether that’s working as part of your core team, multiple teams, or embedding yourself in client-side teams.
You can mention the number of clients you work with simultaneously; it’s not uncommon for an architect to oversee three clients at a time. Acknowledge that each client organization will have a different tech stack beyond the Salesforce “cloud” products.
The interviewer will want to be reassured that you have the rapport to manage expectations – not to be at their beck-and-call – but the skills to communicate your availability in a courteous way.
25. What is your preferred approach to project management?
As we mentioned earlier, talking about how you’ve worked in an agile or waterfall way will give color to your experience – how you can operate a project, day to day.
Agile, especially, is an interesting topic. Holding daily scrums – to discuss what you did yesterday, what you’re doing today, and what’s blocking your work – naturally showcases your ability to lead a development team in the right direction (in a “high-touch”, communicative way). The same can be said for ceremonies, where you plan sprints, backlog refinement, where you go through the backlog and estimate how long tasks will take.
Retrospectives (meetings to ask “what can we improve on?”, “what can we learn?”) can reveal positive traits. After all, it takes a mature person to admit that there’s something that they could have done better, or admit that they didn’t take the right approach. No one likes to admit they were wrong, but “falling forward” (i.e. framing it a positive learning experience) is key to running a successful, transparent team.
This also reflects the “client change request” question from earlier. Adapting to the situation is highly “agile”.
26. What would be your priorities when first starting at the company – for example, in the first month?
At this stage, you may not have all technology-related details to explain your plans in-depth. You can, however, emphasize the importance of embedding yourself in the team, and understanding how Salesforce users in teams across the organization operate with Salesforce.
It’s essential to familiarize yourself with company objectives. Your first month won’t be to dictate what needs to be changed; just like you would in a client context, listen and absorb instead of going in hard by pointing out what’s “wrong”.
27. What are some positive traits you’ve seen in business analysts, project managers, and/or admins?
We’ve included this question as it demonstrates your acknowledgement of the value each team member brings to the table, while encouraging those individuals to work to their strengths during projects.
- Business Analyst: Of the roles listed, the biggest overlap tends to be with the architect and business analyst (BA). BAs support by understanding the challenges and walking in the shoes of the customer. For example, why are their service agents so wound up, or what’s making their sales process so inefficient? Being able to analyze and map out the “as-is” and the “to-be” processes is the sign of a competent BA.
- Project Manager: Organized, deadline-, and budget-orientated, project managers are highly communicative and keep their finger on the project’s “pulse”. They are another set of eyes and ears to identify and flag project risks.
- Salesforce Admin: Providing the foundation of knowledge, admins can give clarity as to how Salesforce should be configured with a more “zoomed-in” view of the org. Without a savvy admin, you are at risk of reinventing the wheel – building something custom when there are out-of-the-box features available. Read more core admin skills here.
28. What advice would you give to a Salesforce Admin/Consultant who wants to advance into the architect career path?
This would be a great question for you to, once again, prove your qualities as a coach and mentor.
First of all, this is a fantastic choice! Becoming an architect allows individuals to progress their careers in a technical domain (as opposed to a managerial route).
Working as an architect is very different from being an admin/consultant, which you will know already from your own experience.
Be realistic with the work involved in moving into the architect domain, and also emphasize the importance of nurturing soft skills. This isn’t a career switch that will happen overnight.
While you should set expectations, don’t completely discourage the individual. You can highlight the transferable skills/qualities, and even pick out a couple of “architect-like” responsibilities they may already be doing, without being fully aware.
29. How would you train/enable other team members?
Architects are driven by their passion for Salesforce to share their knowledge and help others grow. Examples include sharing tasks, and allowing others to shadow you, etc.
Employers are keen on having architects who could potentially help others in the team develop their skills – especially if there is a lack of experienced professionals on the team.
30. Where do you see your career heading?
Hiring managers are interested in where you’re planning to go. It’s a sign that you are ambitious, and will continue striving forward.
The answer doesn’t need to automatically be CTA – not everyone wants to reach that level. Whichever type of architect you are, there is always room for gaining further experience, specialization, and new technologies to master.
Inside the Mind of an Interviewer
Unlike other Salesforce roles, interviewing architects isn’t so straightforward; there will be far fewer “textbook” questions and answers, requiring you to provide meaningful considerations within your answers, and bring the interviewer along with you in your explanations.
To continue researching, you could look at the advice hiring managers are receiving. How to Hire Salesforce Architects “On Demand” provides a good introduction to how the interviewer will be thinking.
“Must-have and nice-to-have attributes include technical skills – clouds of expertise (CPQ or Service Cloud, for example), industries, etc. – and professional soft skills. Do they have a strong command of Salesforce development? Have they managed a data migration? Do they need client-facing experience? Will they be interacting with specific internal stakeholders? These details create a blueprint to guide you to the architects with the right technical, soft, and core skills.”