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Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant

A few weeks ago I wrote my first article for the new ASUG News which I would recommend you keep an eye on as they have been producing timely, very high quality content since the day they launched. The article was called 3 Ways to Sabotage Your Next SAP Consultant Hire and it was based on a trimmed down version of a “Seven Tips to ensure you hire the Right Consultant” article that I created for ASUG. Since this is such an important topic, and one that I am very passionate about, I thought there would be interest in the SAP Community in seeing all seven of the tips.

A successful SAP implementation is determined by a number of factors, and these days it often requires bringing in an outside expert to help achieve your goals. Selecting the right consultant is critical: It can mean the difference between success and failure, and those projects that realize business benefits and ROI – and those that fail miserably. The following seven tips will help ensure you hire the right consultant for your SAP project.

1. Seek the Right Skillsets – The first step in finding a consultant is to understand the specific skill set you are looking for. The SAP product suite is broad, and consultants tend to have very narrow areas of expertise. One of the common traps I see SAP customers fall into is that they always assume that large software integrators or their preferred vendors will have the SAP expertise that they need. While this is typically true in the core areas of SAP, it is not always true when it comes to the newer SAP modules, the latest product releases or for industry-specific modules, when you are typically better off to work with a niche consulting company, independent consultant or SAP directly.

Bottom Line: Ensure you know what you are looking for and don’t always assume that your existing vendor has consultants with that skill set.

2. Where to Search – There are many successful, albeit unconventional, methods that I would recommend to help find the right consultant. One example includes tapping your personal network, your company’s network, existing consultants that you trust, ASUG, SAP Community Network, Linkedin, SAP Expert publications authors, industry experts, industry analysts and SAP Mentors. The SAP industry can be small when you are looking for consulting resources, and most of the true industry experts will be very happy to help you find the right consultant if you reach out to them.

Bottom Line: There are a lot of different ways you can find the right consultant, and you should use several of them to ensure a good candidate pool.

3. Review the Resume – An SAP resume should be used only to determine whether an individual is interview worthy. Although it is easy to fall into the trap of finding the perfect candidate “on paper,” you should never base a hiring decision on a resume alone. There are a few basic steps you should follow when reviewing the resume:

        a. Does the individual have the skill set and experience you are looking for?

        b. Is there any inaccuracy or inconsistencies within the resume?

        c. Does the resume match the individual’s LinkedIn or other online profiles?

        d. What information does searching on individual’s name turn up via search engines?

        e. Is the individual asking questions on SAP’s Community Network or answering questions and contributing?

        f. Do you know anyone who has worked with individual in the past and can provide some feedback?

Bottom Line: A basic review of the resume will help ensure that you are only interviewing candidates that are well qualified.

4. Check on the Consulting Experience – Consultants working on your SAP project must have previous implementation experience and the proper skill set you are looking for. Experienced SAP consultants should be able to translate between business language and “SAP speak” in such a way that everyone can easily understand. If they have difficultly doing this, you should be concerned and question their experience.

Bottom Line: It is important that consultants have the experience you are looking for, since the last thing you want is to pay for someone to learn on the job.

5. Set Up a Technical Interview Doing a technical interview can often be a daunting task, since the reason you are hiring a consultant is because you don’t have internal SAP expertise in the specific area. Here are a few basic steps you should follow:

        a. Involve business and IT members on your interview team.

        b. Set up an internal pre-interview meeting, lay out the specifics of the engagement and offer a script for everyone to follow.

        c. Involve a technical IT resource or consultant that you trust to ask some specific SAP technical/functional questions.

        d. Only ask questions that you have an understanding of the right answer.

        e. Ask how they would solve an actual issue that will be part of the scope of work.

        f. Never use any of the SAP interview questions that are easily found on the internet.

Bottom Line: The goal of the technical interview is to get a comfort level that the consultant has the necessary SAP technical skills and business understanding to be a valuable team member.

6. Look for Good Communication Skills – Communication skills are a critical aspect of any engagement, though they are often overlooked. The consultant should be able to express himself clearly as well as understand what both the business and IT team are saying. You will want to find a consultant who avoids technical jargon, is easy to understand and has good listening skills.

Bottom Line: Good communication skills will be needed during requirement gathering, the implementation, in meetings, presentations, training, knowledge transfer and several other important tasks.

7. Always Check References – It is surprising to me how many consultants get hired without any reference checks. You should always check the references for any new consultant, even from a preferred vendor, as there are too many consultants in the industry who don’t have the necessarily skills to be successful.

If you don’t hear back from the references, then that should be a red flag: In my experience, customers are happy to give references for good consultants.

Bottom Line: Reference checks should always be done to verify the consultant and there’s an added benefit: They can be a great way for you to network with new companies using SAP.

Finding the right consultant is not rocket science, but it does involve some extra work on your part. Make no mistake: Hiring the wrong consultant will ultimately cause a lot more work and trouble for your organization in the long run. If you follow the seven tips above you will greatly improve your odds on finding a good consultant. What do you think are the best ways to ensure that companies hire the right consultant?

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    • Not to mention that the industry would be a much nicer place to work!

      One note contra the previous experience requirement: It is important to realize that a consulting partner does need to develop its people. As such, be open to a consulting partner proposing to place a less experienced consultant (or a consultant experienced in another area) in an appropriate role at appropriate rates.

      • Hello Jarret

        Hiring is an interesting topic.

        Point 1:
        I agree with Ethan that people do have to develop their skills and they have to start somewhere, I don’t think it’s neccesarily an issue given the consulting partner is honest on this and provides enough information and adjust pricing accordingly.

        Something in the lines of, we don’t have an expert available on that topic at this moment but we have a promising junior (or senior) profile that is willing to perform the operation. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion, the customer has the opportunity to say yes OR no and look for an expert elsewhere or wait longer until the expert has time.

        Sending a so called expert with no specific knowledge on the topic is not a good idea.

        Point 2:
        Social media will have a more important role in hiring in the future. It’s already being used by some firms (checking linkedin, facebook, twitter or community websites such as SCN) but their is still a majority who base themselves on a single piece of paper and a too limited talk.

        Point 3:
        I would call your point 3 “Get to know the consultant” and it would be closely connected to point 2. I don’t really like curriculum vitaes.

        I tend to do lots of things and I prefer non repetitive work so what do I place on my curriculum vitae then? I can’t make it 10 pages long because thats not good etiquette. On the other hand if it’s only one page and I stick to the narrow area in which I have lots of knowledge it can also kill the opportunity to learn and experience something new.

        Instead of giving reasons why they should hire me the curriculum vitae tends to give reasons why they shouldn’t.

        Point 4:
        Checking the consultants experience by talking to him is very hard. Some are masters at the blabla but then don’t have what it takes to perform the boomboom. I’ve seen people who can talk in a way that everyone thinks it’s an expert but in fact the sentences that come out are meaningless, it takes them ten minutes to say something that could have been said in 5 seconds.

        On the same note, if candidate X is smarter than candidate Y it doesn’t mean X will perform better than Y. The same counts for degrees. Steve Jobs didn’t finish school.

        Point 5:
        A simple talk is not enough, I think we can all agree on that. For a technical job, an interesting question is how one would handle a problem situation so I definitely like bullet point e. Even better would be to be able to actually see the candidate do some work. Break something on a demo system and request the candidate to troubleshoot it for example.

        Point 6:
        Good communication is important and I think you can also place a good interaction on that point. A good connection with a customer is a powerful thing. It gives energy for the consultant to go work in such a pleasant environment and it makes the customer happy.

        Point 7:
        In my opinion recommendations on linkedin are more valuable than my curriculum vitae, of course if a company would look at those, they would also have to contact the person who wrote the recommendation thus checking the reference.

        It might not be rocket science but I do think it’s harder than one would think. There are still pitfalls and as long as they exist you will see bad hirings.

        Kind regards


        • RE: #4.  In general, I agree but I think if the interviewer is strong enough they should be able to root out the prospect’s ability.  This might be classic overconfidence in one’s ability, but (here goes) there’s NO way someone is getting past me. If the role is a hands on development or functional role, I know the questions to ask in order to see if they have that ability.  If it’s a design/architect role or a team lead role, then there are different questions that should reveal the candidate’s prowess in those areas. 
          • I couldnt agree more and I help some of my clients do technical interviews in areas of SAP where I have limited expertise but I still know the questions to ask to find out if the person would be a good fit.
        • Thanks for the detailed post Tom and I agree with many of your points.

          I think that social media (ie twitter, linkedin and SCN) will continue to play a larger role in IT hiring decisions in the future and it is important that consultants have a presence.

          I am suprised with how active you are (enjoy your blogs) that you havent joined Twitter as I think you would enjoy the SAP community that is using Twitter.

      • That is the key at appropriate role and rate but I have seen time and time again that not to be the case. Good consulting companies understand that the long term relationship is important and do the right think but sending a good mix of senior and junior consultants. That said my definition of senior consultant and the big 4 is quite different.
    • Thanks Luke and I am hoping this article is read by decision makers at SAP clients but unfortunately I dont think many at that level are regular users of SCN.
  • I see customers routinely ask yes/no questions during the technical interview when they need to be asking open ended questions.

    Bad:  “Have you worked with aggregates?  Do you know what they are?”

    Good: “explain what an aggregate is and under what scenarios it should be used.”

    • Follow up… I’m not sure I agree with #3 at all.  It seems that SAP resumes in the past 5 years (give or take) have become so outrageously inflated that I don’t know if they’re even a valid screening tool much less an indicator of the consultant’s/employee’s ability.  It’s reasonable to expect that a resume will have some of the items trumped up a bit…  if you don’t account for that as part of your analysis then you’re naive…  but the degree of misrepresentation renders most of them meaningless.  Probably half of the resumes out there are completely fraudulent…  nothing more than a copy-paste from some product page at  I’ve seen resumes from folks where English is *obviously* not their first language yet they have bullets such as “Architected a streamlined and robustly scalable BI data model ensuring customer reduced TCO”.  Say what?

      I’m struggling to think of exceptions to this.  It also means that #2 is even more important.  I would overweight someone’s presence on LinkedIn and SCN over their resume.  If they have a strong profile and are active in the SAP community then it’s probably a better indicator of their actual performance than whatever they’ve typed up in a Word .doc.

      • I always check to see if the resume/CV match what is on Linkedin, do they have recommendation on linkedin and if so who is giving them (ie consultant vs client) and also check to see if the person is asking vs answering questions on SCN.

        You will suprised what you can learn with a few simple searches.

        On a side note some people in SAP actually have a resume that understates their experience as if you support customer remotely for example in addition to a full time client it is hard to show that effectively on a resume.

    • Nathan…thanks for the comments and I couldnt agree more that client make the interview process to easy. Good consultants like a tough interview as it gives them a chance to shine.
  • Hello Jarret,

    This piece is not only useful to the recruiters but also to the SAP practitioners to groom themselves to find the right match with the right opportunity, a win-win situation for all.

    One observation that I would request your opinion on. There should be a mangement round which should comprise of all the soft skills judgement of the consultant. Because, in the end its a satisfied customer that marks a Winner/Achiever. In this discussion, people from the management should be a part of, giving the consultant different situations to know from him/her how best the situations are handled. Technical knowledge is a predefined/hands-on grasping of the consultants. But how he justifies across different types of customers, different situations makes him a real benefit to himself and the recruiter.

    Let me know your thoughts on it.

    Kunal Gandhi

    • Hi Kunal

      Soft skills are a very important part of selecting the right consultant and I think that anyone a company can include in an interview process to ensure it is a good match will be a win/win.

      Thanks for the comment.


  • Hi,

    Its good to have a better approach for finding a good candidate, but we have to look at the business and industry as whole and can put a question “Is the business world structured properly” we will definately find some imbalances. So the same way, as the industry is growing we will face a crunch of resource. Now the real skill comes of nurturing the people according to the requirements, instead of mapping with all the skillsets and move ahead. Else, we will be losing the opportunity on the business front.

    Comments welcomed on this note.

  • Hi,
    How about whether the person is having quick learning skills and is passsionate about learning?
    Can we always hire a person having all the relevant skils?
    How about if an existing employee is quick learner and does not know the new scenario which a new project demands?Would you go for external hiring or provide training to existing employee?
    • I think that if it is explained to the client the skill set they are getting is someone with guick learning skills but no experience than it is reasonable although in most cases this does not occur. All to often, consultants are thrown in and are expected to learn on the fly and the results arent always good.

      If an existing employee has shown a track record of success, the ability to learn quickly and is familar with the business process I would definitely include him on the project team.  Depending on the project timeline and many other variables outside expertise might still be required.

    • Hi Kumud,

      Quick learning skills are important when you are working on an assignment where you need to deliver more than you have learned.

      Not a person who is starting from zero or start line. This will screw the work.

      And it necessarily does not means that good learner are good consultant.Consultant is specific species for which you should have Good Domain knowledge, Good Communication skill, Management Skills, Leadership skills.

      With Warm Regards

      Mangesh Pande

  • Hi Jarret, You have really good flair for innovative ideas,else where too we had discussion, good work keep going-

    1, To understand whether a candidate has good learning abilities-Check resume how many times he changed his domain- I personally feel learning abilities will actually create an urge to try new domains.
    2.Interview procedures:
    a) In the initial HR interaction,Try to know what he knows about the Industry sector He is going to work.Not to check his knowledge on that industry but the way he is liking that subject.   b)the client interview:if the are interviewing the candidate as client do not try to find yourself in the candidate, The expertise in your industry is not a necessity, a fairly well experienced consultant can handle any industry.
    c)Look for the genuine eagerness not made up eagerness.d)Don’t look for”yes”man if you do then you are buying disaster e) Start an argument on some issue and check his response and approach.f) remember the person who cant say “No” to you can’t really brings any value to you g)if you are expecting “yes” for every thing then probably you your self can do that job instead of hiring some one. theses are a few to note

  • . Does the individual have the skill set and experience you are looking for?
    – In my experience I have seen many recruiters search by “Key word” provided by the client in the job requirement. And also clients are happy to see the “key word” in the resume and reject the resume if that is absent.-unfortunately there is no standard resume template.there may be 1 out of 100 resumes who uses that “key word” in resume because all problems are not same in the remaining 99 you will get better resumes.look for close match on the subject and get them shortlisted by an SAP senior SAP consultant

            b. Is there any inaccuracy or inconsistencies within the resume?

    – A fairly experienced resume will not normally have these things,except may be some gaps in the employment period. that is Ok if candidate continued in the same skill set

            c. Does the resume match the individual’s LinkedIn or other online profiles?

    -this is very genuine point But , if an Individual have multiple profiles on the Social network, then which profile to be matched?

            d. What information does searching on individual’s name turn up via search engines?
    -Good one

            e. Is the individual asking questions on SAP’s Community Network or answering questions and contributing?
    -This is not necessary, may be it will help interviewer to prepare on what questions he should put.hardly 10% of SAP consultants are in SAP’s Community Network  and out of that 10% only actively contribute because of various reasons  

            f. Do you know anyone who has worked with individual in the past and can provide some feedback?

    – I have seen some times biased, because of various reasons.You can try but it will pollute your brain if the info is adverse, you are the best judge.

    a. Involve business and IT members on your interview team.
    – I suggest only one-either Business or IT- this is like appointing two commanders on one soldier- and inviting conflict

            b. Set up an internal pre-interview meeting, lay out the specifics of the engagement and offer a script for everyone to follow.

    -Don’t plan mischievous things, like Ok I’ll get  the consultant to solve issue”A” and later after getting him on board get the work done for free for Issue “B”and “C”and “D” if you are then you are trying to jump in to bowl of Hot soup:)

            c. Involve a technical IT resource or consultant that you trust to ask some specific SAP technical/functional questions.

    – But if you know that this guys is really “perfect” remember no one is 100%”perfect” in SAP

            d. Only ask questions that you have an understanding of the right answer.
    -This is debatable, if u know the answer then why not to do it your self 🙂

            e. Ask how they would solve an actual issue that will be part of the scope of work.
    – No one will answer this question, there are so many clients out there wants solutions for free.And also if that were so easy, then why we need a consultant in first place? all consultants will give only one answer-“I need to check/see the system” there will be lot of internal selling, convincing , explanation,POC. before any thing is solved . With this question candidate is forced to defensive stance, because if he says something then you ask it to be delivered when on board, so he/she wont give a clear answer unless he has sufficient information about the system and internal politics.

            f. Never use any of the SAP interview questions that are easily found on the internet.
    – then from where you get questions? after all those questions are from SAP, not out of SAP

    • Hi Krishna

      Thanks for the detailed comments and the kind words.

      While I dont agree fully with all your points you bring some good perspective to the discussion.

      Thanks again.


      • Thanks you Jarret,

        I want some one to not to agree 🙂

        That’s why you are a hero 🙂
        Quality come from disagreement


  • Nice blog.

    Just a thought on “Point 4- Consultants working on your SAP project must have previous implementation experience.” Wondering who would have been in the SAP industry without their first project ever …

    • I think in this context it’s important to have experienced consultants. There is nothing wrong with bringing juniors onto projects, as long as the client is made aware of this fact. Quite often they are offered at reduced rates or for free. Certainly when I started out I was never offered as anything but what I was because my company were honest.

      • Great point Luke and when I started for my first six months the client only paid my travel expenses and a nominal fee as they were told up front that although I was SAP certified I would be learning on the job.  All to often today consulting companies will place junior resources in key roles to maximize profits and that is something clients have to be wary of.

        So you went from free to SAP Mentor in 5 years…..not a bad career trajectory 🙂 and a good lesson for others in what hard work and doing the right things can get you.

        • It certainly isn’t 🙂

          But it shows that honesty helps. The client was able to guide me and it made my working environment a high learning one – not one of high expectation and high disappointment.

          Hard work always pays off. But work smart, not hard 😉

    • Thanks Mukesh for the comment and in #4 I said “Consultants working on your SAP project must have previous implementation experience” with the key word being CONSULTANT. There are many routes to get experience such as SAP training or ideally at a customer using SAP or a combination of both.  The other option is to join a consulting company that clearly lets the client know that you have no SAP experience and will be learning on the job and ideally charges a minimal billable rate for you to learn.

      Would you pay top $ for someone to work on your car engine if they didnt even know how to open up the hood 🙂

  • Nice blog with Interesting points which helps to the client per my experience i saw many consultants having less experiences with more productivity skills and having more experience has less productivity.

  • Even being a few years old, the information is even more relevant today with cloud applications, and the mix of consultants entering that environment.  I hope clients are doing their homework to find the right consultants to help them with successful projects.  Unfortunately, I’m hearing many that didn’t research enough up front.

  • First any consultant shud work on the support projects  and later  they gain gud knowledge on the SAP business process and then automatically they will gain knowledge …atleast they have to do some dummy real time projects then only they will get gud knowledge