SAP Consultant Screening
Whether you are a business or a consulting firm, get what you’re actually paying for by avoiding the fakes, frauds, and cons with great looking resumes. Software consulting fraud is rampant, widespread, and overwhelmingly involves H1B fraud.
High salaries with few “entrance requirements” make SAP consulting a prime software consulting fraud target.
SAP implementations are crucial for competitive advantage in business. Some of the competitive advantages are efficiencies, integration, and automation when SAP is properly implemented. To achieve these benefits, you entrust your business, your company, your enterprise, and your employees to a group of SAP or ERP consultants and business “gurus” believing these experts will help you achieve your goals.
In such a critical business endeavor you need the best software and the best ERP consultants that money can buy. As a result an SAP consultant is often among the highest paid of the business software professionals in the technology sector. With one or two full SAP implementations ( or with about 2 to 4 years of experience) it is not difficult to get a full time position in industry or consulting paying senior management wages. For a decent contractor, that amount can easily be double or more. The U.S. average salary for a doctor or lawyer is around the amount of the full time position. However, unlike doctors and lawyers, there are no hard “entrance” requirements except claims of experience and the ability to get through the interview process.
Because of the potential “goldmine,” SAP consulting is a target for software consulting fraud, IT fraud, and H1B fraud. Armed with fake resumes for SAP experience there are countless frauds and cheats who claim to be SAP consultants. Worse yet, there’s an entire cottage industry organized to help write fake resumes, coach potential applicants, and even do initial phone screens to help these individuals engage in software consulting fraud on your SAP project.
Add to this that there are way too many recruiters and staffing firms who are more interested in making a buck than in working to police or stop the fraud and it is a mess. Unless you use a genuinely reputable staffing firm or placement agency that has a solid reputation for doing actual background checks, employment / contract verifications, and some type of skills evaluations then you are wasting your time and money.
Actual Experiences With Software Consulting Fraud, Fake SAP Consultants, Fake SAP Resumes, and Frauds
Having done SAP work since 1994, and being a project manager or team lead on many projects, I am often asked to screen and interview potential candidates for SAP consulting work. I’ve certainly had some memorable interview experiences.
Real-life SAP bait and switch – Make Sure the person you interview is the one that shows up for the job
As a project manager for a mid-size national consulting firm, I got a request to screen a few potential candidates for an SD (Sales and Distribution) role. The client requirement was very specific, to handle some reasonably straightforward pricing condition setup work. The design was already done, and the requirements were already laid out, there was nothing complicated, no unusual requirements, really it was nothing special. I would have done it myself if I weren’t up to my eyeballs on another project.
I contacted the applicant for the interview and the phone screen went great! This candidate knew SD inside, outside, and upside down. Great communication skills, clear, straightforward, relaxed–, no struggling or fumbling for the answers. He pegged everything and it was very clear he had been working on SAP for many years, just as his resume said. He’d be starting at the client the following Monday as a contractor.
A week and a half after that Monday start date, I got a call from the project manager at the client site. The SD consultant was saying that everything they needed to do was going to require a programmer because what they wanted couldn’t be done with standard SAP. The SD consultant I thought I had interviewed got on the phone and his English was HORRIBLE! You could barely understand a word of what he said, worse yet, the little I could make out, this guy was totally clueless. He didn’t even know how to do the simplest pricing related setup (using the SAP “condition technique”) and it was painfully obvious that this was NOT the same person I had screened on the phone. A similar thing happened again to someone else in our company, the “bait and switch” in SAP consulting is alive and well. While lots of people “pad” their resumes, there is a new breed of TOTAL CONS! Watch out for the con artists!
SAP consulting is a target for software consulting fraud, IT fraud, and H1B fraud. Armed with fake resumes for SAP experience there are countless frauds and cheats who claim to be SAP consultants. Worse yet, there’s an entire cottage industry organized to help write fake resumes, coach potential applicants, and even do initial phone screens to help these individuals engage in software consulting fraud on your SAP project.
Lesson learned – ALWAYS screen and interview a second time in person, with different questions. I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve done where it was obvious by the delays and the keyboard clicks in the background someone was doing an Internet search, or an SAP help search during the interview. During the second screening, make sure to have some fairly simple IMG task for the applicant to do. Then log into a development system and ask them to show you how to do “x.”
Beware the SAP software consulting “fraud factories” – teaching them to lie, cheat, and steal – can you trust them at your company?
At a moderately large client site as the team lead, I was working on SAP’s R3 / CRM Internet Sales B2B application. We needed a developer and it was a critical time in the project. Because the enhancements were significant, it *had* to be someone with real experience, not a blowhard. They needed ABAP, Java, and CRM or R3 Internet Sales experience. This candidate had to be able to deliver on a compressed timeline and this was a critical path item for the entire project. Because a significant portion of the company’s customer base was already using the web for all ordering processes, this was a mission critical, go or no go development effort.
In come the mountains of resumes. I probably did 30 or more technical interviews, and please keep in mind, I’m a functional consultant without all of the coding skills, but I can usually find someone who has the experience necessary to get the job done.
I learned a LOT about the fraud, the cons, and the “games” out there around the “SAP consultant factories.”
During this long, painful screening processes, there were probably 4 genuine candidates who had spoken to questions and requirements clearly, concisely, and explicitly enough that I was certain they had “been there and done that.” Those interviews showed they were the real McCoy. Then the oddest thing happened, after some measure of assurance they were genuine, I followed my own suggestion from prior lessons learned and asked when they could come in for a second screening face to face. One consultant just simply said he couldn’t, no explanation, just refused. A second one tentatively agreed then called back a few days later and said he accepted another contract offer. The third one just never showed. At least one, probably two, and possibly all three were the classic “bait and switch.” They had someone else do the phone screen for them, and then they would show up with NO experience and potentially jeopardize the go-live date. And because of the mission critical nature at this client, they would potentially jeopardize the entire project.
One of the candidates (not among the 4 with real experience) I was given to screen was the most revealing candidate of all. I was handed a resume, with a LOT of the *identical* projects, descriptions, and timelines as many of the other resumes I saw. Except this one was different. This one had a project listed at a company where I knew literally everyone on the project team. I hadn’t worked on the client, but as the SAP Knowledge Manager for the consulting firm that has a great, long-term relationship with the client, I personally knew everyone on the project. Because of my position, I also knew many of the contractors that our firm used and this person’s name was not one I recognized.
This phone interview revealed the “SAP software consulting fraud factory” to me in ways I’d never considered.
Since I knew the project manager at that client, and the technical lead, both of whom had been there for close to 3 years, I decided to ask a few key questions. In a rather friendly manner, when the candidate got on the phone, I asked him if he’d worked at that particular client before. Of course he replied he had. I then asked “So, how’s Jack doing there these days?” to which the candidate said he didn’t know any Jack. And I said, “Sure, you know, the project manager, how’s he doing?” Still he said he didn’t know a Jack and then said he worked in a technical area away from the rest of the project. So, I asked how was Sri doing? As a side note, Sri and I are personal friends who go back many years and have worked on several projects together. He is probably one of the most talented ABAP / Java / Portals / CRM / SAP gurus you can find anywhere. Still he insisted he didn’t know any Sri and that he worked in a different area. When I pressed and insisted that Sri had been there for several years, that he was the technical lead, and that I knew him personally, this candidate wouldn’t relent. Even after I told the candidate that I knew everyone on the project personally, and that Sri was responsible for all of the SAP related CRM and Portals development work, he still insisted he had the experience and had worked there but didn’t know Sri. Knowing he was lying (he had no way to know how well I knew the project participants), I called my old friend Sri on his cell phone, and did a three way call to get him on the phone. At this point in the interview the candidate finally admitted the truth…
He lied, he had some service out there put a fake resume together for him, with legitimate SAP projects (probably gleaned from SAP resumes out there today), and had gotten coaching on how to lie his way through the interview. This candidate actually had the nerve to ask if he could still come onto the project even though he had just admitted he lied about his experience and that his resume was a fake!
Lesson Learned – a resume is a piece of paper, just because it has all of those “cute” SAP terms and buzzwords on it doesn’t mean much. An SAP resume should only serve one purpose–, to consider whether or not to interview the individual. NEVER base a hiring or contract decision on a resume and a “personable” interview alone. Even if the interviewee comes across as knowledgeable and authoritative, remember my example above, this guy actually had the temerity to still ask for the job even after admitting to be a fraud!
How do you screen or interview to find good SAP consultants?
At first this statement will sound counterintuitive, but let me make the statement first and then explain. The goal with every interview must be to qualify an applicant, not to disqualify them (but do NOT be afraid to dump a fraud immediately).
The following background is important because depending on how you screen, you may miss the absolutely best qualified, skilled, and experienced candidates and hire some of the worst.
Why current SAP screening and interview methods miss good candidates and let the SAP con artists in.
SAP is so massive with so many industry specific solutions, that a good “con” can sound like they know what they are doing. The depth and breadth of the application is so big that even though I’ve been doing SAP projects since 1994 I still learn new things on every project.
A liar, with some coaching, or industry exposure, who has spent some time online doing a little research, can sound pretty convincing. My interviewing experience for technical consultants showed that on a good day maybe 1 in 3 resumes are valid. For the functional consultants, it’s still less than half.
The number of fakes, frauds, and cons trying to get into SAP to help design YOUR business solution is incredibly high. When considering the stakes to your business, and the overall expense of a full ERP implementation, the cost of those fakes is too high no matter how convincing they may be. If it means “eating” the expense of a few airline tickets for the second screening, then so be it. It is a cost that is well worth it to know for sure.
After experience since 1994 with SAP, numerous full cycle, extensive scope projects with both SD and MM, and after exploring and configuring a substantial portion of the application in areas of SD, MM, LE, and some FI, I will be the FIRST to admit during an interview that there are some things that I have not done before. That list is getting smaller as the years go by, but I still learn new things on EVERY project. This in spite of the fact that I have received written accolades, formal recognition, and even client initiated bonuses as a contractor!
There’s one or two things I’ve learned along the way about screening or interviewing applicants. One of those lessons is that different personalities and different communication abilities make it almost impossible to genuinely determine the amount of experience. For example it is difficult to determine if someone like me, who started with SAP in 1994 actually HAS that much experience! However, the following screening method will enable you to determine if the applicant has real SAP experience, it just can’t be used to determine how much experience they may have.
Screening and Interview Rules for Finding Real SAP consultants, experienced, qualified, high quality SAP consultants
• YOUR GOAL IS TO QUALIFY AN SAP CANDIDATE (but DUMP THE FRAUDS IMMEDIATELY)!
If a candidate can’t answer every question or deal with every issue it does not mean they don’t have experience. What you are looking for is a high comfort level within yourself that the candidate really does have SAP experience in the area you need. That does mean you really must check with their prior clients. If you go in with the perspective of disqualifying a candidate, you can always find something that wasn’t answered or dealt with to your satisfaction.
• Before you even decide to waste your time with an interview do an old-fashioned HR check with the prior companies.
Many company’s HR departments will do a simple validation of contractors. Even if they don’t have direct records, they are more than willing to check with the project manager or others who might know. And most companies list an HR contact or hiring information contact online to send an e-mail to. What I do is copy the section of their resume related to that company, send it to the HR manager, and ask them if that person was in that role or had the listed responsibilities at their company. Basically I just want them to verify that the information is true. If the resume lists companies in foreign countries, or organizations that there is no way to reasonably verify them then disqualify that experience from their resume. It is not that it should be necessarily considered fake, but it SHOULD BE COMPLETELY IGNORED as if it didn’t exist on their resume at all. It is a very common tactic to list several foreign SAP implementations which are completely fake.
• As an alternative to the HR check, or possibly in conjunction with that check, you may wish to ask the candidate for a specific contact who is STILL AT THE COMPANY they worked with.
Even this has to be carefully verified. I’ve been given bogus phone numbers and e-mails that are not at the company being used for a reference. Be sure it is a legitimate phone number and e-mail address. Also try to verify that the internal company reference is the person they claim to be. I had one situation where an internal company reference was provided that was supposed to be the project manager, it turns out the individual was an ABAP programmer and a personal friend of the person trying to sneak the fake resume through.
• Look for “giveaways” that the SAP “consultant” lacks the experience they say.
If their resume shows 6 -10 years of experience and you have a very difficult time understanding them that’s a pretty significant red flag. After all, just exactly how did they participate in the numerous meetings and requirements gathering sessions? Just how did they handle writing a blueprint? How did they manage and work issues when they can hardly be understood? Even if they babble all of the “buzzwords” how did they work through business issues and actually transfer any useful knowledge if they “talk the talk” but it is not understandable or in plain, common terminology that everyone can understand? In other words, beware when during the interview, OR on the project when they try to “baffle you with feces.”
Although they may be legitimate, beware of resumes that match too closely to a highly detailed requirement or unusual requirements. Some unscrupulous consultants, ESPECIALLY those who managed to start their SAP careers as frauds have no problem producing fake resumes with fake experience and fake qualifications for any position they seek. After all, if it worked for them before they continue to do it.
• Does their resume show they started SAP at 16 years old?
I’ve also received resumes that show 8+ years experience in SAP and the person who showed up was in their early 20’s. That means they would have started doing SAP work at 16?? You get the picture. If the person is obviously in their early 20’s and they have 5 – 10 years of experience listed on their resume that’s a dead giveaway that they are a fake and a fraud.
• Do your homework about SAP interview questions.
Go online and find some of the resources for interview preparation. There are lots of sites and lots of SAP forums out there to “help” some of the cheats. AVOID those questions in your screening process. However, if you must use them, take the time to rephrase them so they make sense but do NOT use any “SAPspeak” terminology or any SAP specific phrases that they might have been “trained” on.
• Develop a specific interview script to use on the phone, and a separate one with different questions for the in person screen.
Again, if possible, avoid “SAPspeak” in that script, and above all else, be careful to avoid questions that give the answer away. If a candidate has trouble understanding the question, carefully re-phrase it in such a way that doesn’t directly give the answer away. (e-mail me for examples, if I can verify you are a legitimate end customer or reputable consulting firm I will provide you sample / example questions with absolutely no obligation!).
• Establish key baselines for the SAP interview, even if it is already stated on the resume.
Be sure to quantify how much experience in time, number of implementations, or how many years before beginning any screening or questioning. Use these as baselines and note any avoidance of committing to an amount of time or number of implementations and explore the avoidance. If someone claims experience on their resume and then reiterates they have done X number of full-cycle implementations, or they have Y years of experience, and then backpedals, or doesn’t demonstrate that level of experience, or starts to make excuses for the lack of experience they are likely a fraud. Move on.
• Press for specifics, press for specifics, press for specifics, press for specifics. During the interview process, do not accept vague or evasive answers!
If the candidate doesn’t know the answer, they should say they don’t know. Vague and evasive answers should generally be considered a red flag (although there are occasions that there may be a misunderstanding, so remember, the goal is to qualify, not to disqualify a candidate). Also, be careful if they “sound” like they might be answering the question but you really don’t know what they are saying. After all, if they really have the experience and are a qualified consultant they should be able to translate SAP speak into plain business language that anyone can understand. How else are they going to develop a blueprint, or write position papers, or resolve problems / issues so that they can be understood?
• During the Interview ask for details related to actual SAP configuration settings.
Someone may not remember the *exact* settings, but they should be able to speak to it in enough detail that an experienced consultant will leave you with some assurance they have been in those IMG settings before. Be careful not to “give the answer away” in the questioning process. So carefully craft your questions so that they are clear enough to understand the what you are trying to have them configure without using the specific terms that you see in the SAP IMG. Also be attuned to questions from the applicant that are seeking more understanding and those that are actually trying to get you to give them the “answer” that they can parrot back to you in a different way. There is no way that anyone, even after many years, is going to remember every value, or every setting of the thousands of possibilities from memory. What you’re looking for here is enough specifics to help you understand that they actually have done configuration before.
• Define a couple of business challenges or scenarios that you had to solve in the past, or are trying to solve now then and ask the candidate for specific ideas and methods for how to address the issue.
With many things in SAP there are several methods or approaches to resolve the same issue, if you get the same answer that you have used in the past, great! If you don’t get the same answer, listen very carefully because you may learn a new and possibly better way of doing something from a real SAP consultant or you may discover that they are making it all up. Probing in this area, around issues you have already solved, or issues you are facing is a great way to find out if someone actually has the experience they claim. In a nutshell, can they solve your business problems or apply the correct SAP solutions to the issues you face?
However, BEWARE HERE, I HAVE HEARD MORE BOGUS, SILLY, AND RIDICULOUS EXPLANATIONS THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE! Make sure you read the follow up piece to this one because it is absolutely critical to understand the applicant (Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2). Part of the critical skills you are looking for is the ability to translate the complex and technical into the simple or at least understandable. If they lack that basic skill then they will be unable to to “consult” you on your project. If no one can understand their “gibberish” then how can they consult?
• ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be willing to have them come in for a second, face to face, technical SAP interview with different questions.
When you consider the amount of money you will be paying a month for this person’s services, some potentially lost air and cab fare is pretty cheap. After a good phone screen, to avoid some of the obvious cons, come right out and tell them that you will have them come in for a second face to face screen with different questions and that you will have them demonstrate some configuration tasks at that time, keep the tasks simple, but do not tell them what they are. Some of them will never show up and you can avoid the wasted time and expenses. If they show up, pay careful attention at how comfortable they are in finding the configuration locations and in navigating in the IMG. Consider it a red flag if they come in with an agenda of what they are going to show you, unless they can easily demonstrate the skills you request. That can be an indication that they got coaching to con you and are going to try to take you through their own “scripted” demonstration that some friend showed them.
• If you are a consulting firm who routinely recruits SAP talent, change up your questions and interview techniques at least a couple times a year.
This will help to ensure that if the questions or other information is leaked, they will become obsolete by the time any significant circulation happens.
This is part of a series which explains the widespread FRAUD involved with SAP, Oracle, or other business software consulting. I have no issue with H1B’s, student visas, etc., but these folks should be willing to work their way up just like many hard working folks rather than wreck your business and damage the industry through fraud. For more extensive insight into the problem, AND specific methods for dealing with it, please see some of the other posts:
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