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10 crucial interview questions for ERP job candidates in 2024

The job prospects for ERP remain bullish. In fact, with the continued need for remote workers, heightened cybersecurity, and shipping and distribution logistics, demand for ERP analysts, engineers and developers is likely to continue to grow.

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

Here are 10 questions you need to know how to answer.

1. What is your cloud experience vs. on-premises experience?

ERP was, for the longest time, strictly an on-premises solution. In recent years, all major ERP vendors have shifted their focus to cloud-based systems. Going forward, their emphasis and efforts will remain there.

Therefore, be able to accurately state that you are well versed in the cloud versions of Oracle, SAP and other major ERP solutions.

2. With what ERP systems are you most familiar?

If you have a breadth and depth of experience with Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP, 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 from 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 any challenges and how you overcame them. If you have experience working on several platforms, mention in detail when you applied 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 remain relevant in the new position with another programming language.

3. Tell me about a successful ERP implementation in which you participated

This is your opportunity to 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? Maybe you completed the implementation under budget and on time. Maybe you successfully worked with different business units, despite their contradictory business processes. While the technical details differ between SAP Business One and Infor implementations, the soft skills -- for example, project management, teamwork and leadership -- are transferable.

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 about those, too.

4. What are the core components of the average ERP system?

Anyone who's asked this question is expected to know the components of an ERP system, or they wouldn't have landed an interview in the first place.

However, interviewers are specifically looking for the ease with which you can explain to nontechnical 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 yourself. How did you go about training those on your staff or in your department? How did you convince nontechnical people of the merits of your approach?

Don't stop there, though. Be prepared to speak with similar authority on the different modules the interviewer's company is probably using, such as HR or supply chain management (SCM). You should also be able to explain the differences among major platforms, such as SAP, Oracle NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Epicor.

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

5. What was your most difficult interface challenge? How did you deal with it?

No one likes talking about a disaster at work or in their professional life, but it is a good measure of how you handle failure, how you recover from it and what you learn from it. Fear of failure can paralyze. However, embracing failure as a learning opportunity and sharing what you have done differently since then are, perhaps, a clearer reflection of you than your successes.

One of the hardest aspects of implementing any ERP system is negotiating the requirements of different business and support units of a company. Each has its own, often contradictory, demands. A successful ERP candidate needs to show resourcefulness, project leadership and great communication skills. Even if you will not be leading the ERP implementation, share 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. If you faced challenges and objections from peers or managers, explain how you cleared those hurdles. If you learned any hard lessons, illustrate what they were and how you would do things differently given a second run. But be careful not to assign blame to others, nor to be too self-deprecating.

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

6. 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 functions. This trend is partly 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 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 with 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 PaaS options? Did you investigate using integration PaaS 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, which can create massive headaches in data sets when cloud computing vendors update their offerings.

7. How will technological advancements affect ERP?

Data that robotics, IoT and other methods are funneling into ERP systems requires new analytics tools. If your interviewer hasn't already asked about data mining specifically, it might happen in this part of the interview. ERP candidates should be familiar with the trends in AI, machine learning (ML) 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 want to think about how such technological advancements can benefit the company and its ERP system, in particular the blockchain, which is increasingly used for secure business transactions.

8. How well versed are you on AI and ML?

AI and machine learning have become key components of ERP systems. In 2024, expect ERP solutions to increase AI and ML usage for things like predictive analytics, demand forecasting and routine task automation. This integration helps improve accuracy and enables organizations to make data-driven decisions more effectively.

Many people fear that AI will take their jobs. But an emerging consensus is that AI won't take your job; someone who knows how to use AI will take your job. Therefore, add AI and ML tools and practices to your job skills.

9. How familiar are you with mobile and IoT ERP?

The modern workforce is increasingly mobile, and more people work from home than ever. ERP vendors are responding with emphasis on mobile-first ERP solutions, offering users the ability to access critical business data and perform tasks from their smartphones and tablets.

IoT is transforming industries across the board, and ERP systems are no exception. In 2024, expect to see more ERP solutions integrating with IoT devices and sensors. This integration enables real-time data collection and analysis, better decision-making and improved SCM.

10. What certifications do you have?

Resume padding is one thing, but you can't fake a certification. ERP certification formally recognizes an individual's expertise and knowledge and is, therefore, of great importance to employers. And, because certification is done on a per-vendor basis, the already-established vendor verifies your skills in its software, giving you an edge among employers looking for those skills.

In addition, certification ensures that ERP professionals stay current with industry standards and best practices since certifications require periodic renewal.

Andy Patrizio is a technology journalist with almost 30 years' experience covering Silicon Valley who has worked for a variety of publications -- on staff or as a freelancer -- including Network World, InfoWorld, Business Insider, Ars Technica and InformationWeek. He is currently based in southern California.

Kevin Ferguson has written about technology for many years and for many publications. He is a regular contributor to TechTarget. He has also produced radio and film for NPR and PBS. Ferguson holds a B.A. in journalism from Rutgers University and an M.P.A. from Harvard University.

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