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Tanya Duncan

Preparing for Your First SAP Interview

Posted by Tanya Duncan in tanya.duncan on Jul 22, 2011 9:52:11 AM

Preparing for your first SAP interview can be stressful with few online resources that provide SAP relevant advice. I was unprepared for my first SAP interview because I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of SAP questions. Looking back now, I'd like to think I know a thing or two about interviews. My last interview was less than six months ago for my current position as a SAP Consultant with Deloitte, the world’s largest professional services firm. I've previously interviewed with a number of companies throughout the past few years for full-time positions, internships, and I led and participated in mock interviews. I would actually enjoy a position as a career mentor or counselor. Editing resumes, prepping for interviews, and choosing classes is exciting to me while overwhelming to others.

If you want my secret to a successful interview, it's this: play a game with the interviewers. Sounds tough right? First you enter the interview nervous, sweaty, overwhelmed with memorizing facts about the company, and now you can't just simply answer the questions? The most valuable advice I've been given about interviewing is make the interviewers want you. I think most people view interviews as a question and answer session where the interviewee has little control. Instead, think of it as a time to highlight your achievements and skills while making them relevant to the position. This mindset will change your approach from responding to questions to taking control of what the interviewers learn about you. 

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

Enter the room with confidence. Have confidence in your experience, appearance, and ability to make conversation. Gain confidence by reviewing the company's financial statements and website. Use keywords from the job description in your interview to demonstrate you have the skills they're looking for. Ask insightful questions about the past, present, or future of the company to show you’re interested. Shake hands firmly with all interviewers, state your name and ask for their name. Notice I say interviewers; you will likely be interviewed by several SAP managers and a Human Resources employee.

Sell your education. Interviewers in the Midwest are well aware of the value of Grand Valley’s Management Information Systems program. However, when I interviewed for my current position in San Diego, I had to give context to the program at Grand Valley to have that same impact. I started by mentioning that GVSU is a SAP Alliance University, which means I had hands-on SAP experience. Share the value of your relevant courses and how you excelled in a particular project or assignment. Make your degree more than a line on your resume. Remember to set yourself apart from other graduates from your school. 

Tackle SAP interview questions. Be prepared to discuss your previous project experience in coursework or internships in detail. I have never been asked technical SAP questions about a specific module like you hear about engineering interviews. Interviewers are trying to weed out the interviewees that have real SAP experience and those that talk up their skills. The trick here is to prove that you know what you're talking about. Be honest about your SAP experience! Here are a few SAP questions I’ve been asked:

What SAP modules do you have experience in? – Mention the modules you’ve used in projects and those that you interface with. Be honest about your level of experience with each module. Give examples of tasks you’ve completed in these modules. For example: I am experienced in FICO. In my previous role, I executed product costing, created cost centers and cost elements, etc.

What modules would you like to learn more about? – This is a great opportunity to express what you hope to learn in this position. Answer the question as if you were in the role you’re interviewing for. In my previous role I had the opportunity to interface with the production planning and plant maintenance teams. I would enjoy learning more about these modules to increase my breadth of SAP knowledge.

What methodologies have you used? - If you've used the ASAP or another methodology describe how this project used and benefited from the method.

What has been the biggest headache for you in your previous deployments? – This is an easy opportunity to lose it so be careful that you don’t bad mouth specific people or teams. This is how I have answered that question: My biggest headache has been data because the amount of work involved in extracting, loading, and transforming data can be easily underestimated. In answering that way I’m not bad mouthing previous coworkers and I acknowledge that I understand the impact of data in projects. That’s an easy way to show what you’ve learned from your experience.

Demonstrate your experience. In addition to SAP specific questions, be prepared to answer questions that aim to understand your behaviors. The best way to answer behavioral interview questions is the STAR technique: Situation or Task, Action, and Response. Start by describing a situation or task that relates to the question. Then briefly describe the action you took to resolve or succeed in the situation. Conclude with the result. Look over your resume and reflect on your coursework to think of several examples you can pull from in an interview.  You don’t want to stare dumfounded at the interviewers because you can’t think of a good example on the spot.

For example: Tell me about a time that you overcame conflict in a group setting. ‘In a course last semester, my team members decided that it would be easier to plagiarize our 15 page final paper than write an original (SITUATION/TASK). I thought about why my team had given up on even attempting the assignment and decided I could alleviate some of the stress by suggesting we break apart the work (ACTION). The team worked well once the paper was broken apart, and it came together cohesively. Our professor nominated our paper to be published in a management journal but the class voted for another group to have that honor (RESULT).’ I like this example because the word ‘plagiarize’ has some shock value! This is actually a true story.

Avoid talking numbers. Don't mention anything about how/when/what amount/on what terms you will be compensated. If the interviewer asks how much you currently make or what you expect to make, politely state that you are sure you can come to an agreement on salary when you discuss an offer. If the interviewers are not HR people, they likely won't mention salary. Recruiters can be sneaky and aggressive in order to get you to say your current salary. Remember once the number is on the table, they might try to low ball you or dismiss you as a possible candidate if you make more than what they’re prepared to pay.

End on a strong note. Thank the interviewer for their time and ask for the next steps in the process. Will there be another set of interviews? When should you expect to hear from them? If the interviewer asks if you have any questions, ask at least one to show you are very interested in the position. Once you leave, write down the questions you were asked and reflect on your answers. Save this list to prepare for future interviews!

Best of luck to you in your first (or second, or third) SAP interview!  Please share your advice and experience with readers!

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