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A few weeks ago SAP Mentor Jarret Pazahanick posted a blog titled ‘SAP Consulting Fraud – Disturbing Example’.  It described a bold attempt by a prospective consultant to co-opt somebody to sit a phone interview on their behalf.  The blog drew an astonishing number of views – over 8000 after three weeks, with over 100 comments.   Printing the blog along with comments in PDF format generates a 40 page booklet.  This is on the extreme end of skills misrepresentation, but the issue of skills in the marketplace is a topic close to my heart.   

The real-life experiences that community members posted as comments to Jarret’s blog make for compelling reading.  If you don’t wish to read the 40+ pages of comments, here is a summation …

  • Several examples of resumé fraud, with people finding copies of their own resumés under other people’s names circulating in the industry
  • Frustration by several commentators that customers don’t take enough accountability to check the quality of candidates. For instance Nathan Genez makes a heartfelt comment … “I swear, the customers don’t seem to care.  They hire these folks, and then even if they realize that they’re no good, they don’t kick them off”
  • Finally the commentary re-ignited frustration with SAP’s own certification programme, with a view by commentators that it is perceived more as a revenue earner for SAP than as an authentic attempt to lift the general quality of skills in the marketplace.  As Jarret states in his blog comments … “In a perfect world SAP certification would be like Cisco where customers could use it as a way to help validate a consultant’s skills…”

So I invited both Jarret as well as fellow SAP Mentor Jon Reed (who had a previous life as a recruiter) to share their latest thoughts in a recorded Google+ Hangout conversation.   I must say these two are really passionate about this topic, and I hope it shows in the discussion.

A breakdown of the conversation follows:

00:00            Introductions

01:28            Jarret Pazahanick’s recap of his blog

04:25            Jon Reed’s initial thoughts on the issue

06:25            Importance of technical interviews by customers

08:00            The bait and switch problem

09:05            Multiple levels of fraud

10:58            Testing applicants

12:35            Social persona as a fraud screening device

16:42            Outrageous examples of fraud

18:32            How do people legitimately break into the SAP consulting industry?

23:15            Value of certification?

24:45            Final thoughts – what can customers do better?

PS.  Sorry about the rather abrupt ending – the recording software on my computer crashed during the hangout!

We spend much of our mindshare in the SAP community focussing on the latest SAP products, tools and techniques.  But one thought that occurs to me is that SAP’s future success may be as much determined by the attitudes and quality of skills of SAP practitioners (whether they be in-house, or professional service providers), as by the quality of SAP’s own product innovations.  If customers, recruiters, and system integrators simply improve their efforts to ensure the quality of candidates they engage, then we should expect to see better implementation outcomes.

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32 Comments

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  1. John Moy Post author

    As an addendum, here is a great blog from the perspective of a prospective consultant.  It is a seemingly honest account of the challenges and difficulties faced by those seeking to enter the SAP consulting profession.

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  2. Jarret Pazahanick

    Great job with this and if anyone doubts John’s passion on the topic we filmed this at 12am on Friday night his time.

    It is such an important topic and some keys to fixing longer term includes education and realizing there is a problem.

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  3. Rana kumar

    Here is something Very Interesting and see what extent anyone can go..  Its just worth of $500  only…………..

    I know many cases, A global lead for SAP HCM who is leading the Global payroll implementation since 2 years in a Multinational Tire company in AKRON OH “Good year”  also uses the same practice. She has placed her Husband and relatives as SAP HCM consultants in the same project and many other people on the projects

    Because of these people Consultants who are experienced loose their Jobs and rate. Instead of talking about all these policies, guidelines, efforts, atleast if we talk about the truth about whats happening, we can see lot of good Professionals,

    http://www.corp-corp.com/JS/JS_view_job.aspx?js=1756026&rs=VP340005

    Posted Date  :  Today (May-01-12)   [Hot Job]          CA-Fremont-Senior, Architect-NEED PROXY     SAP;   SAP HCM     SAP HCM Functional Proxy    

    Location : Fremont, CA
    Domain :
    Experience Level : Senior,Architect
    Pay Rate : $500 for Interview
    Duration : Longterm

         Work Authorization : US Citizen     Security Clearance      GC      EAD / TN      H1B      Need H1B      Others       Employment              : Corp-Corp     W2-Permanent          W2-Contract     1099-Contract   Contract to Hire     Need H1B      Neeth(at)dssofttech(dot)com 

    Hi there, 
    We have an end client Interview for my consultant. 
    My candidate will not be able to handle the interview due to health reason. 

    I am DOING THIS POSTING to know if you are comfortable to handle this end client interview on SAP HCM 
    I can pay $500 for handling the end client interview call on my consultant behalf. 

    Please let me know your preferences.    

    Contact Details
    Neeth C
    DS Soft Tech, Inc, Fremont, CA
    http://www.dssofttech.com
    Ph(W):  +1-510-894-6220
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    1. Rana kumar

      Dare attitude of this company.  Called them and they said they are looking for some to take the interview tomorrow. Shall update once I complete the interview

        NOT Available/Deactivate My Resume  

      Ref.: Corp-Corp.com
      Attn.:

      Please submit resume for the following requirement.

      CLIENT NEED FOR PROXY

      Please send the resume with response to neeth@dssofttech.com
      Neeth(at)dssofttech(dot)com

      Hi there,
      We have an end client Interview for my consultant.
      My candidate will not be able to handle the interview due to health reason.

      I am writing this email to know if you are comfortable to handle this end client interview on SAP HCM with my client as PROXY.
      I can pay $500 for handling the end client interview call on my consultant behalf.

      Please let me know your preferences.

         Apply to this job                              Not interested in this job    

      Please feel free to contact us, if you have any questions.

      Thanks
      Neeth  C,
      DS Soft Tech, Inc, Fremont, CA
      Ph(W) : +1-510-894-6220
      Ph(M) : +1-510-894-6220

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        1. John Moy Post author

          Hi Rana,

          Thanks for sharing this.  I must admit, whilst I have seen fraud in the consulting industry, to see this online, as well as the previous post in Jarret’s blog, just takes it to a new level. If I try and take a positive view, here is real evidence for any customers who are in denial about this.

          Thanks for sharing

          John

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    2. Jarret Pazahanick

      Wow Rana…thanks for sharing as this is hard believe and be curious to hear more details once you go through the process.  More and more examples of why customers have to be alert as outright fraud like this as well as overstating skills are a lot more common than many believe.

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    1. Mark Yolton

      Raphael: I like your blog as far as it goes. I’ll bet there are other “best practices in hiring SAP consultants” that could be added by others. I can imagine someone will start/write/curate a very comprehensive blog here on SCN as a collection of such actions customers can take as defense against identity fraud and as an offensive move to get the best-skilled people on the right projects in order to accelerate their progress and increase their success.

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    2. John Moy Post author

      Hi Raphael,

      I’m glad you were inspired to create your own post (I’ve already read it and it was nice to see you give some tips).  I myself was inspired by Jarret’s post of course.  This is clearly striking a chord with the community and it is the community at work to bring this to the attention of those who may not be aware of it.

      Regards

      John

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  4. Mark Yolton

    This is a good cautionary “buyer beware” story. Customers and Partners who hire consultants and other SAP experts need to be conscious that this type of behavior exists in the market by unscrupulous individuals. They need to then take measures and actions to double-check or triple-check references, claims, identities, and backgrounds. 

    One step in this due diligence — beyond the basic verification of the phone candidate’s identify as a baseline — is to verify SAP Certification if it is claimed by the interviewee / candidate.  SAP Certification is verifiable by any customer or partner who wants to see the certificate – they exist in SAP’s records, and any customer who wants to find the truth can do so if they make the effort, but they must ask. 

    As with any candidate interview, check with references, previous employers, previous projects, claims of skills and achievements.

    M.

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    1. Jarret Pazahanick

      Our hope is by the combination of these blogs, videos, podcasts that customers will be more aware of the risk and take the necessary steps to ensure they dont get a poor or worse case fraudulent consultant.

      I was not aware that customers could verify certification as it is something I have been after for quite awhile. It might be a good idea to have the education team publish a blog on the process customers can use to verify that a consultant has certification.  cc

      Jon Reed

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      1. Mark Yolton

        I will try to track down the specific phone number or email or other contact info that hiring managers can use to verify SAP certification…

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        1. Martin English

          Hi Mark,

            Since you’ve volunteered to collate this stuff… 🙂

          You can get your SAP Certification transcript (of those certificates you’ve sat in Australia / New Zealand) by sending a request via  http://www.sap.com/australia/contactsap/index.epx and specifying your S number and name, i.e. you have to request it yourself.

            I would imagine, due to privacy laws, that this would be the case in most countries.

          hth

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    2. John Moy Post author

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comments.  It would be great to understand how hiring managers can verify certifications.  My experience several years ago (about 5 years ago) when I approached SAP about this for a real scenario in checking the credentials of an applicant was that there was no process for verifying certifications – something about privacy issues. Of course, that was half a decade ago, so it would be excellent if that problem has now been fixed.

      Regards

      John

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      1. Mark Yolton

        John:

        I misinterpreted the response from the SAP Education lead about the ability for customers and hiring managers to verify certification.  Here’s the follow-up answer:

        • We do not offer this service (the ability for customers to validate consultant claims of certifications) today. A consultants certificate presented to the customer is the only proof point.
        • If customers approach us in the market units (this happens only in exceptional cases) we can validate it in our records if needed in exceptional cases – of course with the approval of the consultant (privacy issues). Just like every educational institution. But this process is not scalable.
        • We are planning – for September – an external portal where consultants can track their certifications and provide customers access. This would be scalable. However, given current tight cost controls this could delay, but it is still on track.

        So, in short, it looks like the privacy issues still remain, but SAP Education is planning a way for consultants or other SAP experts to share their valid certification with potential employers.

        M.

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        1. Jon Reed

          Mark, thanks for this.

          I didn’t talk about certification validation in this video though I did touch on it in the podcast I did on the Insider Learning Network on this topic.

          It’s a good point and since Jarret and Bill Wood and others have raised the importance of online certification validation I have talked with SAP Education leadership on this, and the good news is they too see the importance of it and I feel confident there will be an online solution to this at some point in the not too distant future. I wish we had that kind of consensus with SAP Edu on other issues but we do seem to all agree on this one so it will happen.

          The only thing I would say is that in terms of certification validation, I don’t buy into the idea that if you’re not certified, you can’t do the work. Sometimes this conversation heads in that direction. Many very capable consultants have expired certifications or no certifications that address the area they are contracting in.  But: if a customer finds someone has misrepresented their certification, that speaks to their overall trustworthiness and how they present their skills and that, to me, is a real warning sign.

          Thanks for the update!

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        2. Jarret Pazahanick

          Thanks for the clarity Mark as this is something first discussed over a year ago with Sue Martin on a blog I wrote so while I am happy there “appears” to be some progress am pretty disappointed with the snails pace especially since we are hearing how fast the education group was to develop HANA certification for example so we know the speed is there when something is deemed important.

          Longer term why this is an important issue is transcript verification means less fraud in certification which combined with advanced certifications (need to be built) and restoring credibility with customers could ultimately position certification as a means for customers to avoid some of the overall fraud in the consulting industry which would be good for all.

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        3. John Moy Post author

          Hi Mark,

          Thanks so much for the clarification.  I second Jarret’s comments that the ability for customers to verify certifications can’t happen soon enough.  But further to that, we would have liked SAP Education to re-engage in with the community on these topics rather than someone at your level needing to act as a proxy to chase down the clarification.

          Thanks again

          John

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          1. Frank Koehntopp

            Not sure validating certifications will really help much – I’d much rather see the ability for customers to leave feedback on SCN profiles about the work someone did, that plus the SCN activity IMHO would be a much better indicator.

            But in the end it comes down to really working with someone – if you’re in doubt I’d recommend starting with a two week contract to see if there’s a match, in technical ability as well as in human compatibility.

            Frank.

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  5. Bishwanath Sahoo

    This is a classic case where people are spoiling the market by getting ready to work at lower rates and polluting everything. The companies should use modern technologies like video conferencing for hiring. If they hired some other guy, then it would show up on work results. At that point of time they should diligently get someone from referrals or use consultants from reputed firms.

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    1. John Moy Post author

      “companies should use modern technologies like video conferencing for hiring”

      … seems like this is a common thread and recommendation which is surfacing from the discussion.  Interestingly, in my workplace anything with streaming video is blocked by default, and I presume it is at many other customer sites.  Although that said, it is possible in my workplace for individuals to apply for exemptions to those restrictions (I have).

      Thanks for your comments

      John

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  6. Luke Marson

    Hi guys,

    This is a great video call. A number of great points throughout.

    Particularly I agree with John’s comments (around 12:00) about face-to-face interviews. Behavior of individuals is much easier to read in person and those trying to dodge questions or who feel under pressure will show in this scenario.

    It would be good if companies made better use of technology such as Skype or G+.

    I definitely agree with Jarret’s comments (around 22:00) about experience. I think having business process experience is certainly the biggest skillset. You can learn the technology as long as you understand the processes that it supports. Certification on its own is worth very little. I see people coming into SAP who worked in a HR department and learned SAP during an implementation or during their day-to-day work. This provides understanding on how the technology fits the processes. Just learning the technology doesn’t offer clients any value. The client can get a SAP Press book, but they want consultants who can bridge the gap between business and technology.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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    1. John Moy Post author

      Hi Luke,
      Thanks for your comments.  I’ve only started using G+ hangouts in favour of Skype in recent times, and noticed that when both parties are connected on fast internet, the quality is excellent.  I would feel completely comfortable conducting interviews using this medium.

      Regards

      John

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  7. Kevin Grove

    Thanks you Three “Mentor-teers” for a good discussion following up on Jarret’s blog post.

    One further note from my inbox this morning: SAP Project Manager 6 mo. contract in Houston, TX $48/hr. I can assure you that the recruiting firm and the client are internationally known companies. Speaking only for myself, I would not expect the person taking that position to fit my criteria of an SAP functional or technical manager.

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  8. John Moy Post author

    Amazing what stories you can receive via the back channels on email.  Here is an example I received of a customer doing appropriate due diligence to check on their SI consultants.  The email thread went like this [edited to remove identities] …

    “Read your blog with interest and listened to your video.  Totally concur with sentiments…….   It has been a continual source of frustration and amazement my whole career that organisations will often put more due diligence on purchasing office supplies than they do with selection of expensive consultants / contractors.   I noted in the video there was discussion of SI tailoring CVs to match the customer requirements.   The SI did this big time for our project.   I checked every person on Linkedin and compared CVs.   The discrepancies were amazing.   Also made extensive checks through network.  This allowed us to filter quite well.   We then put the candidates being proposed by the SI for key roles through a very tough selection process … “

    In this example the customer was not afraid to reject candidates and hold the SI to account to provide appropriate resources.  It’s simply about taking responsibility for purchasing decisions.  As the emailer says … “organisations will often put more due diligence on purchasing office supplies than they do with selection of expensive consultants / contractors”. 

    Enough said

    John

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    1. Frank Koehntopp

      Great story, John.

      This drives home my point – in this day and age you can’t hide behind a Potemkin resume, you will be found out eventually. Funny to see Douglas Adms’ concept of “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things” come to life 😉

      Frank.

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  9. Sujith E M

    Good Job John ,

    Wish these blogs act as eye opener against fraud resumes….. ( Triggering by Individuals or Institutions )

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  10. Jarret Pazahanick

    Check out this real world story which is sad and I believe cases like this are extremely common and ultimately lead some people down a path of fraud or embellishing their resume.

    DOs & DON’Ts for SAP Career (Certification) on the basis of my on going journey from an Accountant to SAP FI Consultant.

    On a side note it is crazy to think there are jobs out there where people have to PAY to act as a “consultant” so they can get go-live experience on their resume.

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