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6 Crucial Interview Questions for ERP Job Candidates in 2020

The job prospects for enterprise resource planning (ERP) are bullish, the pandemic-induced economic downturn of 2020 notwithstanding. In fact, demand for ERP analysts, engineers and developers is likely to grow incrementally with the increased need for remote workers, heightened cybersecurity, and shipping and distribution logistics.

Are you ready for your ERP job interview? You'll likely hear specific questions and you'll need to have answers at the ready. Competency-based questions will likely include both hard skills (technical knowledge) and soft skills (for example, communication and management proficiency).

Here are six questions you need to know:

1. What ERP Systems Have You Worked With?

Yes, it's the most obvious question. But if you have a breadth of experience with Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning, SAP ERP, Sage X3 or other ERP platforms and modules, now is the time to speak up. Even if your experience is not an exact fit with the job description, it's good to explain your involvement. Were you on hand for the implementation start to finish? Did you work with key individuals across the company to identify the crucial business information from each business unit?

Be sure to describe your experiences with each platform, including the challenges and how you overcame them. If you have experience working on several platforms, it would be useful to mention whether you were able to apply lessons learned from one implementation to another. This includes your experience with Java, C++, PHP, Ruby or other programming languages. If you've worked with a proprietary programming language, be prepared to explain how your skills will be relevant in the new position with another programming language.

ERP trends
A list of 2019 ERP trends to watch in 2020

2. Tell Me About a Successful ERP Implementation You Were Involved With

This is your opportunity to really shine. Thousands of other applicants have the same general skill set as you. What makes you stand out? What benefit did your past employers gain from having you work on their ERP systems? It may be because you were able to complete the implementation under budget and on time. It may be because you successfully worked with different business units with contradictory business processes. While the technical details differ between a SAP Business One and Infor implementations, the soft skills -- for example, project management, teamwork and leadership -- are transferrable.

Describe the formal training you've had on ERP platforms or modules. Were they online classes, in-person or a combination? Did you receive certifications for your work? If you were involved with providing the training or establishing the project budget, go into detail as well.

3. What Are the Core Components of the Average ERP?

Everyone gets asked this question, but there's more here than meets the eye. You would be expected to know the components of ERP or you wouldn't have landed an interview. What interviewers are looking for is the ease with which you can explain to non-technical audiences how the database, workflow management, reporting tools and analytics work together. Think of the apocryphal quotation ascribed to Albert Einstein that if you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well enough. How did you go about training those on your staff or in your department? How did you convince non-technical people of the merits of your approach?

Don't stop there, though. Be prepared to speak with similar authority on how the different modules the interviewer's company might use such as human resources or supply-chain management. You should also be able to explain the differences among the major platforms, such as SAP, Oracle NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, and Epicor.

Expect to be asked specific technical information about any platform with which you worked. For example, if you've worked with SAP, you'll be expected to explain how transparent tables, pooled tables and cluster tables work. You'll want to explain the importance of standardized master data and transaction data management when implementing an ERP system; the reason for creating separate tables; the ins and outs of working with base tables.

4. What Was Your Most Difficult Interface Challenge? How Did You Deal With It?

One of the hardest aspects of implementing any ERP system is negotiating the demands of different business and support units of a company. Each has its own demands, often in contradiction with one another. A successful ERP candidate needs to show resourcefulness, project leadership and great communication skills. Even if you are not leading the ERP implementation, you should show how you've worked with those who have led such projects. Regardless of your role in past projects, you should be able to clearly communicate what worked and what didn't. And whether you faced challenges and objections from peers or managers, explain how you were able to rise to the occasion and overcome those hurdles. If you learned any hard lessons, explain what they were and how you would do things differently the second time around. But be careful not to assign blame to others or be self-deprecating.

Explain how the previous ERP implementation benefited the company. If you believe the ERP system you implemented improved the company's reporting and planning, describe the time savings the company experiences by having sales orders reproduced in the financial system without rekeying or the reduction in erroneous product orders.

5. How Did One of Your ERP Projects Integrate With Other Software Platforms?

Many enterprises are moving away from consolidated ERP systems to collections of targeted cloud modules that offer ERP functionality. This trend is driven by non-IT departmental buyers subscribing to narrowly defined SaaS offerings before consulting with IT. Business managers later realize that these narrow applications also need data from other sources within the institution or need to send data to other systems. As a result, IT is left trying to integrate or connect these applications or starting over from scratch.

Did you lead an ERP integration strategy or work on a team that did? What approach did you take? How did you manage APIs? Did you use vendors' integration tools, or did you seek out third-party platform as a service (PaaS) options? Did you investigate using integration platform as a service (iPaaS) offerings, such as Dell Boomi or MuleSoft Anypoint? Are you experienced in integrating on-premises applications with cloud-based platforms?

You should also explain what plan was in place to maintain these integrations. This ongoing maintenance is often overlooked. That can create massive headaches in data sets as cloud computing vendors update their offerings.

6. How Will Technological Advancements Impact ERP?

Data that robotics, IoT and other methods are funneling into ERP systems require new analytic tools. (And if your interviewer hasn't already asked about data mining specifically, it might happen at this portion of the interview.) ERP candidates should be familiar with the trends in artificial intelligence, machine learning and other transformative technologies that use big data structures. Even if you are not asked this question, consider broaching the subject yourself to show how forward-thinking you are.

At the same time, you'll want to think about how such technological advancements can benefit the company and its ERP system.

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