How To Interview SAP Talent
Implementing an SAP system is a complex endeavor that requires a team with diverse and specialized skills. Hiring the right talent can make the difference between a smooth implementation and a delayed project that runs over-budget.
This week IgniteSAP brings our community a guide to making sure the SAP interview process secures a happy and successful SAP team.
We will discuss how hiring managers can give candidates a winning experience across the interview process, and SAP consultants with upcoming interviews will also find some insights here which can guide their interview preparation.
Define Required Roles
Consider carefully the key roles you need for the SAP team and create detailed descriptions of the required responsibilities, skills, and qualifications for each position. Typical roles include: SAP Project Managers, Business Analysts to assess the requirements of the customer, SAP Functional Consultants to configure specific modules, SAP Technical Consultants to deal with the infrastructure, databases and interfaces as well as any custom coding, and Change Managers to create training programs and ensure customer engagement with the project.
By understanding your roles and requirements before beginning any search for SAP talent, you can improve and simplify the whole process of selecting, interviewing, and evaluating candidates.
Create An Interview Guide
Create a guide for those on your team who will be interviewing candidates. The guide should cover all the necessary areas of assessment and ensure consistency of the process.
Outline the key sections of the interview, and in each area provide examples of questions that the interviewer may use based on the candidate and the required role. These sections should include the following:
Introductions, including some way to break the ice, along with some simple questions to put the candidate at ease. When the candidate is comfortable they will be able to think more clearly and engage with the interviewer more effectively.
A review of the candidate’s career in SAP services. Though much of this information is listed on their resumé (CV), ask about their educational and professional history to determine if they meet basic qualifications, and double check this information aligns with what they have already stated. Ask for detailed descriptions of the candidate’s experience of SAP, and about their contributions to previous SAP projects.
Technical questions should be presented to the interviewee to assess their practical knowledge and work, including questions about past SAP projects that have technical similarities to their specific role in the upcoming project. Go deep into the details of their expertise.
Situational questions about real challenges in implementation projects will give candidates a chance to show their adaptability. Ask candidates to walk through how they would handle challenges in different scenarios. This will enable assessment of analytical and problem-solving abilities.
Soft skills are a crucial aspect of SAP implementations. Explore with each candidate how they’ve collaborated on teams, interacted with their peers and managers across departments, delivered presentations, and managed conflict and other challenges.
Ask the candidate about their motivations: about their career goals and interest in this particular role. Try to measure how passionate they are about their daily work and how their individual dynamic would fit with the rest of the team.
Look Beyond the Resumé
Those are the primary areas of the interview process, but it is best to prepare interview questions specifically for each candidate. Also it is a good idea to ask about their life outside of work, during introductions and at the end of the interview. This information is useful for providing the context to their motivations for working as an SAP consultant.
While you will have to screen candidates initially based on their background and the experiences listed in the job description, try to draw the candidate out on the kind of information which is not easily expressed on paper. The interview is your chance to go into detail and is the means by which you will discover the ideal candidate, so follow the basic interview guide but get as much relevant information as possible.
As well as getting to know them as a person, ask for more specifics of their SAP module configuration, technical coding, or project management experience, that cannot be summarized on a resumé, and ask for examples of this experience in the context of past projects.
If possible ask for examples of their work from past projects as evidence of experience, and have competent and experienced SAP specialists review and assess the quality of their work.
Assign Appropriate Interviewers
Interviews should be conducted by people who understand the role’s technical and managerial requirements and can adequately assess the candidate’s responses. It is often necessary to have more than one person present at the interview so that these technical aspects of the candidate’s background and experiences are fully understood.
The project’s hiring manager should be present to evaluate, leadership qualities, and team fit, and for SAP roles. Include on the interview panel team members from those functions like project managers, module consultants, or technical consultants to provide an expert opinion on the candidate’s level of competency.
Non-SAP specialists on the panel can provide perspective on the interviewee’s communication style, cultural fit, and their ability to build relationships with the business.
Using the same interviewers on the panel for all candidates allows you to compare notes and calibrate assessments of candidates across the different roles.
Reviewing Work Samples from Candidates
Hands-on work samples offer invaluable insight into a candidate’s abilities. These examples of their work will differ according to the role they will be filling.
Candidates for the role of Project Manager should be able to provide examples of a project plan, successful adherence to a budget, a risk analysis, and a communication plan. Business Analysts should provide examples of customer requirements documentation and process flow analysis.
Functional Consultants should be able to give examples of custom configurations they have created, and Technical Consultants should provide system landscape documentation, and interface specifications from projects they have worked on. Good Change Managers will have examples of training curriculums and adoption plans.
Provide candidates with the context of your project before the interview date, and ask them to submit samples of past work that closely match what they would produce in this role.
Engaging And Revealing Interview Questions
Generic and vague questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” do not provide sufficient insight into a candidate’s fitness for a role. Always tailor your questions with regard to the role they will play in the upcoming project.
Specific, behavioral, and situational interview questions reveal far more about their ability to contribute to a project’s success.
Questions that instigate detailed responses often begin with a request for information, but have a second sentence inviting the candidate to provide more clarity.
Examples of useful questions to ask a prospective Project Manager:
Explain how you prepared the project plan, budget, and timeline for a recent SAP rollout you managed. What were some risks identified and how did you mitigate them?
Tell me about a time you had to manage project delays or scope creep. What tactics did you use to get back on track?
Describe your communication style when working with executives and other stakeholders during an ERP implementation. How did you ensure alignment?
Some questions that will be relevant to a Business Analyst role:
Explain your process for conducting requirements workshops and documenting business needs for an ERP implementation. What techniques do you use to establish and organize customer requirements?
Tell me about a time you had to resolve conflicts between different departments’ processes and requirements. How did you analyze the tradeoffs and build consensus between those departments?
What approach have you taken to map legacy business processes to updated processes in SAP? What challenges typically arise, and how do you address them?
Questions To Ask Functional Consultants:
Walk me through how you have configured a particular module in SAP for businesses in for a relevant industry. What customizations were required?
Give me an example of your troubleshooting process when an issue with SAP was causing inaccuracies in reporting. How did you isolate the root cause?
What types of interfaces have you built between SAP and peripheral systems like customer experience, or employees experience, or similar? What integration tools were used?
Evaluate Communication Skills And Other Soft Skills
Soft skills are applicable to all roles in an SAP project. Create some questions and interview activities that can give the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of communication, collaboration, flexibility, leadership, problem-solving, and their work ethic. Here are a few examples:
Present a complex technical concept or recent project and ask them to explain it in layman’s terms (to a customer), then assess their communication ability.
Ask the candidate to discuss a time they made a mistake or failed and how they reacted. This reveals their attitude towards accountability, and how they learn from mistakes.
Ask about their preferred leadership style, and for examples of how they motivated others.
Discuss a challenging cross-functional project they were part of, and how they brought alignment between departments (demonstrating effective collaboration).
Explore their decision-making process and how they handle ambiguity (This gives insight into their level of objectivity and critical thinking abilities).
Observe the candidate using soft skills during the interview process as well as asking about them. Take notes on how they communicate, solve problems, and respond to pressure, and use this information when considering how all the members of a team will work together.
Questions About The Candidate’s Motivations
SAP project team members who are motivated are valuable and can drive success. Ask questions that determine what drives a candidate’s interest in the role and your SAP implementation project, such as:
Why they want this job and what about it appeals to them. See if they can give compelling reasons beyond just needing a job.
What are their future goals, and how does this role align with their career aspirations? Look for opportunities for growth and long-term team building.
Discuss what excites them about being part of an SAP project team and ask them for examples of previous successful cross-functional collaboration.
Ask them about their values and work style, and explore how this aligns with the culture of your organization.
Make the Interview Process Interactive
While communication is a key skill in SAP projects, some aspects of a candidate’s fitness for a role will be best demonstrated using exercises that allow candidates to show abilities beyond just answering questions.
Interactive exercises provide an opportunity to simulate real-world situations and for candidates display their skills in a way that is more immediate and easier to assess. These activities will require preparation, but give the interviewers a chance to observe analytical and critical thinking.
Sales and Support Consultants can be asked to role-play a client scenario to showcase consulting skills.
Project Managers can walk through a sample project plan or timeline you provide and perform a risk analysis.
You could give Business Analysts sample of legacy process documentation and data, and ask them to map it to future instance of SAP.
Technical consultants can be presented with pieces of custom interfaces or code and asked for their feedback.
Standardize Scoring Criteria
In order to maximize the objectivity of the interview process, scoring criteria for each candidate’s performance should be standardized so that potential hires for each role can be compared.
The categories and criteria will be different according to each role. Provide each interviewer on the panel with the same criteria for each role so that they can give the candidate a score for how they performed answering technical and situational questions, or during the interview activities.
Create a consistent rating scale (such as 1 to 10) to score candidates according to these, and other criteria:
Technical Expertise: How well did they demonstrate practical knowledge?
Leadership: To what extent do they show strategic thinking and ability to motivate teams?
Communication: Did they clearly explain complex concepts and actively listen?
Analytical Thinking: How logical and creative are their problem-solving skills?
Cultural Fit: How closely do their work style and values align with the organization?
Motivation: Do they express genuine passion and interest?
Use this formal rating system will make it easier for each interviewer to compare candidates consistently for each required role in the SAP project team.
Request Feedback from References
Get references from those who have directly supervised the candidate and can confirm their abilities. Ask these people to verify the candidate’s past roles and responsibilities, for insight into the interviewee’s technical expertise and soft skills, their strengths, and areas for growth.
The references should be able to provide a first-hand assessment of the candidate’s working practice, and supporting information about their ability to work under pressure and make decisions when faced with ambiguity. They should also be able to confirm the reason for the candidate’s departure from their previous role.
Speaking to people who have previously managed the candidate provides the best indicator of what they are like to work with, and how they approach their work.
Make an Offer that Secures Top Talent
Once you’ve identified your chosen candidate for each role, make sure your offer is compelling. SAP consultants are consistently in demand and the compensation offered should reflect this.
The salary should be competitive and consistent with industry standards.
When making the offer make it clear that there are opportunities for: skills development and training, travel, advancement in the organization, and career growth.
Share information about your company culture and any community initiatives they can get involved in. Going beyond just appealing to them with compensation shows you have a long-term interest in their success on your team. Make the work attractive but also the work’s lifestyle.
Onboard New Hires for Success
When your new team members join, focus on onboarding them quickly.
Assign them a mentor from current staff to help them orientate themselves to the organization, and support them when they have any questions.
Schedule workshops to share past work, products, and insights, followed by a project orientation session in which the company outlines the project roadmap, goals, and how each team member fits that overall vision.
At these sessions introduce new hires to cross-functional teams and project’s communication strategies. Assign first tasks they can tackle easily and successfully, and check in with new hires regularly on progress, offering frequent feedback.
An intensive onboarding process gets new hires engaged and productive more quickly so they can fully contribute to the project.
Provide A Winning Experience Across The Interview Process
It is important to understand that SAP talent is in extremely high demand and this pressure on the hiring process is likely to increase over the next few years.
While the interview process is designed to compare candidates in order to ensure that the SAP team is set up for success, hiring managers are also ambassadors representing the company for which they are hiring, so they need to give candidates a winning interview experience in order to help secure them for the team.
The hiring process can be stressful for candidates because they are being challenged and assessed, and this is their first experience of your organization, so it is necessary to mitigate some of the stress of the process and show all candidates that they are respected and valued, regardless of whether how likely they are to be hired.
Candidates should come away from the process feeling like their own expectations were exceeded. They may well be potential candidates in the future, so always provide them with considered and personalized feedback.
Hiring managers should use an applicant tracking system to ensure all candidates are managed considerately. Providing them with one source of information regarding their application’s progress will avoid any confusion.
Overall the candidate experience should provide clarity so each potential hire understands what is expected of them and why. Candidates should feel that they have had a fair opportunity to demonstrate their fitness for a role, and that they were given prompt updates regarding the progression of their application.
At the end of the process it is still up to the successful candidate if they want to take the offer provided by their prospective employer, but following a rigorous and consistent interview process will help you build a great SAP team combining technical abilities, team players, and the right cultural fit to drive your project’s success.
If you are a hiring manager looking for help fulfilling your SAP consulting services needs then IgniteSAP can get you access to our exclusive talent pool.