I was helping my client with hiring resources for an SAP PI project. It made me think a lot about how we are hiring people for projects.

I’ll not explore personal fit, just how you figure out if the person you are hiring has the right skills. In the test I’m referring to experiences or questions that I could get the idea of asking a potential candidate in regards to SAP Process Integration (PI).

I guess it is the Agent Principle game. Where the Agent has some skill or knowledge that the principle does not, but it is the principle that has to make the decision. How can the principle with limited knowledge about the field be able to figure out if the agent is qualified?


The agent can be any future employee, freelancer, contractor or consultant which or which company wants the agent to join the team. It is therefore the agent’s job to be as confident as possible and sound as good as possible, without lying. I clearly remembered the first time I wa s going on an SAP PI (XI at the time). I also had to seem like I knew a lot. Since then it has been a lot easier to interview, because I had some background.

The Principle could be a (project) manager how want to get a goal achievement and the only way to achieve the goal is to get a person more on the team.

We can all say that we are super experiences in SAP PI and have worked with it for a period. It does not tell anybody how much we know and have done. I can have worked with SAP PI for 8 years but may just have done three simple scenarios and most of my

other work has been on something else.

The skills will only reveal itself after a period has been spent on the project and the skills for the project is not there. If it’s like hiring an employee, it can be very costly. I can remember what it cost to hire a person or a freelancer, who was not qualified or the wrong person. A guess can be 10.000$ – 100.000$.


So what kinds of options does the principle have?

  1. 1. Ask questions to reveal what they knew about the subject.
  2. 2. Test them

1) Questions

The principle does not know about the subject in a deep enough way to make the agent reveal if he know the subject. It was my task to help with the process. I was going to ask some questions that reviewed how well the agent knew the subject. There will be a post on some of the questions in the SAP PI space, but here it is just generic.

I had to create a question that was able to specify how deep the agent knew about the tool. I think I found a good question but it may be difficult to see if you are using the right question and if it works. It has to be somewhat general so it may be something that the person has experience before.

If you don’t have the skills it may be a good idea to find a person just to help with the interview and asses if the person knows the subject well enough. It will be worth the investment if you find a good senior person, how does not have any investment in the project.

In question you can also ask and see how well they can reply with your solution. Since you don’t know the subject they may be able to just say some nonsense, which can sound like they have read the slides for the product.

2) Test them

Away can be to make a small test that will take 30 minutes to solve. It needs to be something that the agent can prove that he can understand a business or technology requirement and turn it into something that works. It is not a way to get free consulting, but more a way to get an idea of how well the agent understand the presented concepts and what is available.

For PI it could be to create a few field mappings for to configure a web service scenario.

To make a good test you would have to have somebody who knows the topic can assess if the solution is good. Notice there can be many solutions to a problem, so it may be a different way than you had thought of.

Testing can be as the Facebook puzzles. I heard that Facebook would post a puzzle and everybody how can solve it can come to a job interview. In this instance, we are focusing our efforts to solve some problems in real life that may occur in the end goal.

I just saw a job description for a PI job where the goal was to do support of some different B2B interfaces and here could a good test be to make some small modifications in the mapping. To show they understand the setup and complexity.

I hope that this gives some idea next time you are in a hiring position. Please share what other kinds of test you apply when dealing with a hiring process.

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7 Comments

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  1. Jörg Thiesmann

    Hello Daniel,

    I like your meta-thoughts about the topic. I have been in a hiring position for PI people, but I already had the knowledge. However, the problem is still similar. How can you assess in short time that this person has the right skills? I also tried to apply a mix of fact questions and some more complex problem letting the candidate expose how he/she would tackle it. This could be something like “How would you apply a SOA strategy to a company using PI?” or “How would you integrate a 3rd party system in a different country?”, for example. My experience is that it is less about listing all the kinds of technologies he/she has used in the past, but rather methodology and self-confidence of the candidates that matter. In most cases you don’t hire people for a special task, but on a long-term perspective. The more flexibly you can employ them the greater the use for the company.

    For external consultants, this is different, of course. Here I would check much more on skills.

    Regards,

    Jörg

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    1. Daniel Graversen

      Hi Jörg

      What is important is how easy they have with adapting and learing new technologies. And be able to use the tools that has been delivered.

      I do like the skills of communication.

      And the idea was started with hiring a consultant for a project. And there is a difference in that and getting an internal consultant. The employee can you put on a course where the external need the skills.     

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  2. Iñaki Vila

    I think the right question is to ask what it is the real necessity to hire the employee. Jörg sayd for example generic questions, and he uses architecture examples, in part, i disagree because may be you only need a PI programmer and not a consultant for a large company. From my point of view, the first thing to do is to know if the candidate is telling the true and to ask directly practical questions about the knowledge that he assume to have. For example, does file adapter support SFTP?, is necessary in file adapter the ESR development?, what steps do you do follow if you find the exception EXCEPTION_DURING_EXECUTE?, etc. There is a lot of stuff to ask about each adapter or generic problems that you have in your everyday work.

    I don’t like the 30 minutes testing, people can be nervous in the interview, give them more time pleaseJ! 🙂

    The PI consultant is in the middle of everything, I think is important to evaluate his personal communication skills, capacity to work in the team, and his good mood because he will be in contact with some people selfish or rude. These personality qualities are quite difficult to evaluate but if you have some candidates, put them one entire day to work together and to let them ask between them or you, i wonder if someone to never ask for help is really better that someone that ask for help every time.

    Truthfulness, technical knowledge and interpersonal abilities are the three main points.

    Regards.

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    1. Daniel Graversen

      Yes it can become a bit difficult to do the testing. Both evaluate the result and creating a good test case. But if you are as good as you say then it will be easier to show off than on a telephone.

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