Hurdles and pitfalls in the SAP job interview: Good preparation, genuine interest and honesty lead to an SAP consultant contract.
It is well known that SAP consultants are in great demand on the labour market and that their work is correspondingly highly paid. However, the job title is not per se a door opener for companies. They look very closely and check whether the potential SAP employee is suitable for the company’s special requirements. If this is the case, the companies are prepared to offer suitable candidates a correspondingly high salary. But until that happens, a multi-stage selection process has to be gone through and, in the end, successfully passed. Along the way, an applicant can do a lot of things wrong. So what do they have to consider and what pitfalls do they have to avoid in order to land their dream job? Dr Thomas Biber, Managing Director of Biber & Associates, an HR consultancy specialising in SAP positions, describes the usual application process and gives tips for the interview.
As a rule, the recruiting process for an SAP job involves three phases: First contact by telephone, followed by a telephone interview with the line manager and thirdly the personal interview. The first telephone call is conducted by an SAP recruiter. Although it is rather informal, this conversation already helps to decide whether further interviews will follow. If you feel caught off guard, it is better to arrange a callback or an appointment so that you can concentrate on the interview. The call-back should then take place as agreed, because a serious recruiter will not recommend unreliable applicants for a top SAP job with his client.
It is also possible for a job-seeking SAP professional to proactively attract the interest of a recruitment consultant who specialises in SAP jobs. The content of such an interview with the recruiter, which lasts about twenty minutes, is about the rough data of the CV and the SAP know-how as well as the career ideas. After consultation with the applicant, the recruiter then sends the documents to the target company. Helpful tips for preparing the application documents of an SAP consultant can be found at /templates-examples-for-a-job-application-as-sap-consultant/.
SAP application: Focus on the essentials on the phone
Once the applicant has cleared the first hurdle, a second telephone conversation follows with the line manager for a specific vacancy. In rare cases, someone from the personnel department conducts this conversation. The company’s goal is to determine whether the applicant has the necessary technical SAP knowledge and whether the consultant basically fits the advertised position. During the telephone conversation, which lasts a maximum of one hour, SAP applicants should let their contact person lead the conversation. It is advisable to concentrate on the essentials and stay on topic when answering questions in this interview setting. Short, precise answers about your qualifications and experience are best received.
If this second round is also successful, the applicant can look forward to an invitation from the SAP consulting firm or the SAP user company to a personal interview. On the company’s side, there is usually a responsible human resources manager and the possible future supervisor in the room. It is not uncommon for the managing director or a representative from the management level to take part in the interview.
SAP application: Do your homework before the interview
If the applicant has made it to the third round, he should not ruin his chances by going into the interview unprepared. Any applicant who is really interested will do a lot of research on the potential employer beforehand. A good place to start is by visiting the company’s website. The applicant should understand the company’s business model or, if they have questions about it, clarify them during the interview. If you have questions before the interview, you can also talk to the recruiter in charge. But too much knowledge can also be harmful!
Preparation also includes things that go without saying, such as complete application documents or a pen and pad for notes. A truly interested applicant also shows his or her interest by bringing along meaningful questions, for example, asking for more details about the position or about the organisational integration of the job. And punctuality is not only the proverbial courtesy of kings, but also applies without reservation to applicants for an SAP job. You show your appreciation for the interviewer by dressing appropriately. Applicants should always appear at job interviews in a business outfit, regardless of what kind of clothing is customary in the future workplace.
On the other hand, asking questions about conditions too brusquely often raises doubts about the applicant’s serious interest. Demands for complicated or unusual special arrangements regarding holidays, home office, reimbursement of expenses or salary have no place in the first interviews. Equally taboo are exaggerated claims for the payment of expenses, such as moving costs or travel allowance, or the question of a company car that is not needed for the job. Negotiations about such additional benefits take up valuable interview time and leave an unpleasant impression. It is essential to keep a sense of proportion here. For the sake of fairness, companies must offer all their employees roughly the same contract structure. The realistic scope for negotiation can be clarified in advance with the SAP recruiter.
SAP job interview: No tactical games
Tactical games are not worthwhile. If you convey the attitude that you can change job, but you don’t have to, you are not strengthening your negotiating position. On the contrary, you catapult yourself to the sidelines. Such an attitude does not convey a genuine interest in the offered SAP position. With some luck, the applicant will receive a half-hearted offer, most likely none at all.
Very few employers will go out of their way to make a first-class offer to a candidate who does not show genuine enthusiasm. Rather, the candidate deprives himself of the only clear basis for decision, the contract offer. Only on this basis can an SAP consultant assess whether it is worthwhile to exchange the new job for the previous one. Applicants should therefore stringently focus on the goal of the interview, namely to receive the best possible offer of employment. If the offer is not attractive enough for the applicant, he or she can always turn it down.
The career path of the applicant is generally known to the interviewers from the documents submitted. Nevertheless, the individual stations or projects are a topic in the personal interview, on the one hand, they help to clarify any ambiguities. But above all, the conversation about the facts now serves to find out what kind of person is hiding behind the information. HR and business decision-makers want to understand whether the SAP consultant fits into the team and the company culture and whether a longer-term cooperation is desirable on a human level. That’s why HR managers probe into certain details and ask „in depth“ questions. This allows them to get to know the applicant better and to assess his or her motivation.
In the course of preparing for an interview, you should think of experiences from your own project history that pointedly illustrate how you solved a particularly difficult technical or interpersonal problem as an SAP consultant in the past. How, for example, did the applicant tackle a technically complex requirement, successfully handle a complicated customer, or skillfully defuse a critical conflict in the project? Such expertise can be brought into the conversation at the appropriate point. Experience shows that this helps a lot to get the SAP job interview going and at the same time to sell oneself as a professionally and personally interesting interview partner.
SAP job interview: Explaining setbacks
In today’s professional life, constant change is no longer a rarity. Very few people stay in the same job in the same company until they retire. Change can also mean setbacks. In an open and factually correct manner during the interview, the applicant must be able to deal with unpleasant events, such as dropping out of a course of study or being dismissed. This begins with the application documents and continues in the subsequent interview. The first rule is to always stick to the truth. It does not disqualify anyone if they have had to change their career plans. Explanations should be honest and plausible. Telling fibs, exaggerating, or making a fuss about professional setbacks leaves a bad impression. And, of course, decency forbids talking disparagingly about a former employer. Good interview preparation includes being able to react confidently and answer truthfully.
After the interview is before the job. So the SAP applicant should keep in touch with the potential employer, preferably by phone. Communication by e-mail is generally more prone to unnecessary misunderstandings than a direct conversation. A short call to the line manager or the HR manager to thank them for the interview proves that there is still interest in the position. Unresolved questions about the content of the contract, expectations or any misunderstandings during the interview can also be clarified in a subsequent telephone call.
Companies are willing to pay for a competent and suitable SAP consultant. However, one should not be under the misapprehension that they will therefore also agree to compromises in staffing. And it is by no means the technical SAP skills alone that lead to a decision in favour of a particular candidate. The soft skills of the applicants and the motivation they display during the application process play a significant role in who ultimately gets the job.