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The Interviewer’s Perspective

For seasoned SAP professionals, the interview process is a familiar terrain, yet some subtleties are often overlooked. Navigating SAP interviews requires demonstrating your expertise but also understanding the mindset of those who hold the gateway to your next position: the interviewers.

In this article, we explore the perspective of the interviewer in SAP recruitment.

While SAP consultants are well-versed in articulating their skills and experiences, a nuanced understanding of what goes on across the table can be very useful.

This week IgniteSAP will aim to help you bridge this gap, offering insights into the interviewer’s point of view, their expectations, the pressure they work under, and some underlying psychological principles that may guide their decision-making process.

By comprehending the interviewer’s viewpoint, you can adjust your approach: ensuring that your performance resonates with the subtler, unspoken criteria that influence hiring decisions. This will guide to a more informed, strategic, and successful interview experience.

The Pressure on the Interviewer

In searching for the ideal SAP consultant, interviewers are often navigating treacherous waters. This challenge is accentuated by a persistent issue in the industry: the SAP skills gap.

Despite a growing market and demand for SAP expertise, there is a noticeable gap between the skills available and those needed. This turns each interview into a high-stakes game, where the cost and time incurred by mis-hires can be a setback for the organization.

For interviewers, the responsibility is twofold. First, there’s the organizational aspect: selecting a candidate who can fill the current skills gap but also contribute to the organization’s ability to provide SAP services in the long-term.

The cost of hiring an under-qualified candidate extends beyond financial implications. It costs time, resources, and the lost opportunity of having a fully functional expert on board. In the SAP arena, where projects are time-sensitive and complex, the repercussions of hiring the wrong person can ripple across multiple business units, affecting project timelines, client satisfaction, and revenue.

Secondly, on a personal level, interviewers bear a significant burden. Their decisions reflect directly on their professional abilities. Choosing the right candidate is a testament to their understanding of both the SAP ecosystem and the needs of their organization.

Interviewer Expectations

By the time you sit across from an interviewer, your CV has already worked in your favor. It has successfully met requirements and positioned you as a potentially ideal candidate. This is merely the starting point of a more nuanced evaluation process.

Interviewers look beyond the technical expertise evident in your CV. They must determine how well you know your field, and also how effectively you can apply this knowledge. Among these attributes are problem-solving abilities, leadership potential, and cultural fit. Along with technical or functional competence, these elements form the basic context within which interviewers assess potential hires:

Consultants must possess strong problem-solving abilities, and be able to demonstrate their methodology for navigating complex challenges, their creative resolution strategies, and their resilience in overcoming obstacles.

Leadership potential is highly valued. The ability to guide teams confidently and steer projects to success is a critical attribute.

Cultural fit within an organization is also required. Interviewers prioritize candidates who align with the company’s unique culture, recognizing that such individuals are more likely to be valuable contributors in the long-term.

Communication Skills in SAP Interviews

Communication skills is another core competency of successful candidates, and the interview setting provides a stage to demonstrate how well you can convey complex ideas in a clear, concise, and engaging manner.

In the context of an interview, storytelling involves weaving your professional journey, your challenges, and successes into narratives that engage the interviewer. Great storytelling in an interview illustrates your skills in action, and creates a memorable impression.

A core aspect of an SAP consultant’s role involves explaining intricate technical subjects to those who may not have the same level of technical understanding. The ability to distill complex concepts into digestible information is valuable. During your interview, demonstrating this skill can significantly elevate your candidacy. It requires striking a balance between technical accuracy and simplicity, ensuring the interviewer comprehends the depth of your knowledge without getting lost in the jargon.

A structured approach can immensely aid in conveying your experiences and skills effectively. The STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) helps break down your narratives into clear, concise, and focused responses:

Situation: Set the context for your story.
Task: Describe the challenge or goal you were facing.
Action: Explain the specific actions you took to address the task.
Result: Share the outcomes of your actions, focusing on the positive impact and what you learned.

When narrating experiences, choose scenarios that are most relevant to the SAP role you’re interviewing for.

Practice explaining complex SAP concepts in a way that someone outside of your field could understand.

Use the STAR method to structure your responses, but ensure they remain natural and conversational.

Remember, the goal is not just to inform, but to engage and convince the interviewer of your suitability for the role.

The Interviewer’s Needs

While candidates face their own pressures and challenges, it’s crucial to understand that interviewers are also under significant pressure to ensure a positive outcome. Their decision-making process is influenced by a myriad of factors, some of which are deeply rooted in psychological principles.

One useful way to understand interviewer motivations is through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory, proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow, suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced needs. This allows people to prioritize naturally. In the context of an interview, an interviewer’s basic needs might include the immediate requirements of the role: skills, experience, and knowledge. As these needs are satisfied, the interviewer considers more nuanced aspects like the candidate’s potential for future growth, and their ability to contribute to a positive workplace environment. Understanding the structure of interviews on this basis helps you to quickly position yourself during the candidate process as worth considering in depth: moving the conversation on to what sets you apart from your peers.

No matter how professional they are, interviewers use unconscious criteria to assess candidates. These can range from cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, where the interviewer naturally looks for information that confirms their preconceived notions about the candidate, to effects like the similarity-attraction tendency: where people usually prefer individuals who are similar to themselves.

If you subtly match your interviewer’s body language (“mirroring”) and use similar spoken language you may find your interviewer feels more comfortable talking with you. In practice, because we are all subject to this effect, you may find yourself doing this anyway.

Organizational psychology also points out that interviewers, consciously or subconsciously, look for candidates who align with their personal values and biases. This might express itself as an unspoken preference for candidates who exhibit natural leadership qualities, or those who seem to fit well within the existing team dynamics.

First impressions are important because people are subject to psychological principles like the Halo Effect (where an interviewer’s overall impression of a candidate is influenced by specific favorable traits) or the Horns Effect (the opposite, where negative aspects dominate perception). Understanding these biases can help SAP consultants tailor their approach, ensuring they highlight their strengths quickly in a way that confirms the interviewer’s positive assumptions about you.

The Psychological Landscape of the Interview

Sometimes, the effect of these principles can work in your favor, aligning with the interviewer’s expectations. However, there are instances where they need to be recognized and actively countered.

For instance, if an interviewer has a preference for candidates who demonstrate strong leadership skills and this is a forte of yours, it can naturally work to your advantage. The key is to recognize these alignments early in the interview and to reinforce them through your responses and examples.

On the flip side, you might encounter biases that don’t work in your favor. For example, if an interviewer exhibits loss aversion (the tendency to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains) they might be more risk-averse and skeptical of candidates who appear to have unconventional career paths. In such cases, it’s important to acknowledge these biases and address them, perhaps by emphasizing the stability and consistent success in your career, even if it has been unconventional.

Psychological research provides valuable insights into how these biases and assumptions manifest in interviews. Studies have shown that, due to time constraints and other pressures, interviewers often make quick judgments based on limited information, influenced by cognitive shortcuts known as heuristics. These snap judgments can significantly impact the outcome of an interview.

Tactics to Overcome Bias

Aim to establish a positive first impression right at the beginning of the interview.

You will get an intuitive sense of your interviewer’s personality as the interview progresses. Use concrete examples and stories that align with your perception of the interviewer’s preferences as well as the requirements of the role.

If you sense a bias, don’t call it out directly as this is far too confrontational. Address it indirectly by emphasizing aspects of your experience or personality that counteract it. For example, if you feel there’s a bias towards a particular type of experience you lack, highlight the transferable skills or unique perspectives you bring.

Share diverse examples that show a range of skills and experiences. This approach helps present a well-rounded picture, encouraging the interviewer to see beyond any initial biases.

Be adaptable in your approach, ready to shift your emphasis based on the interviewer’s reactions and questions.

Building Rapport

By recognizing and skillfully navigating these psychological undercurrents, you can increase your chances of being viewed favorably, turning potential biases into opportunities for connection and understanding.

It is important that your intentions are to establish a genuine connection, and you use your perception of their social preferences and psychological attributes to build a bridge, allowing you to be seen as you actually are, rather than create a false impression.

Achieving this balance requires a combination of self-awareness, strategic communication, and empathy. Most of us have built up a reservoir of skills around building rapport through our lives, but it helps to stop and think if we are missing something.

Pay close attention to the interviewer’s remarks and questions. Active listening shows respect and interest, laying the foundation for a positive rapport.

Mirroring the interviewer’s language and tone can create a sense of familiarity and comfort. This doesn’t mean mimicking, but rather adapting your communication style in a way that aligns with theirs.

If during your research or conversation you find shared interests or experiences with the interviewer, subtly incorporating these into the conversation can strengthen the connection.

Demonstrating empathy can be powerful in building rapport. Show that you understand the challenges of the role by aligning your answers to reflect not just your skills but how they can be applied to solve specific problems faced by the organization.

Think carefully and ask thoughtful questions. This demonstrates your genuine interest in the position and the organization. Asking questions in interviews rebalances the social dynamic to be more of a conversation between equals.

Research the company culture prior to the interview. Understanding the company’s values and culture can provide insights into what the interviewer might be looking for in a candidate. Frame your experiences and skills in a way that aligns with the company’s values and the specific requirements of the role.

Conclude the interview with a summary of your key strengths and how they align with the role. Express gratitude for the opportunity to interview and reiterate your interest in the position.

Counteracting biases and building rapport in an interview means creating a genuine connection, understanding the interviewer’s perspective, and presenting yourself as a multifaceted candidate who can fulfill the role and also contribute positively to the organization’s culture and business objectives.

Working With The SAP Interviewer

Reframing your interview approach, armed with psychological insights, can significantly enhance your interview performance. Use this knowledge as part of your normal interview process. Don’t focus on psychological aspects during the interview, but be aware of their influence as you run through any questions or activities that the interviewer requires.

Guided by your awareness of the interviewer’s mindset, you can make a good impression and build rapport as you show your depth of experience, strategic thinking, and alignment with the interviewer’s expectations: presenting yourself as an asset for the future.

Remember that the interview can be seen as a collaborative process in which you both work towards solving the interviewer’s need to secure the perfect candidate. You just need to help them to confirm that you are the one they have been looking for!

Our team at IgniteSAP are extremely experienced at guiding candidates through all stages of the candidate process, including preparation for interview and how to make the best impression during the interview.

If you are an SAP professional looking for a new role in the SAP services ecosystem our dedicated recruitment consultants can help to match you with your ideal employer and negotiate a compensation package that reflects your extremely valuable skills, so join our exclusive IgniteSAP community.