How to Write an Effective SAP Resume
How to Write an Effective SAP Resume:
Revisiting an SAP Career Classic

Jon Reed's new introduction, 2008: I wrote this important piece on writing an effective SAP resume years ago, and it has disappeared from the web. We are now publishing it as it was originally written. Over time, I hope to update it further, but there is plenty of useful info in this version that you can put to use right away.

In today's SAP hiring market, whether you are applying directly or through a third party, the resume plays a vitally important role. Usually you are judged on paper before you have the opportunity to "make your case" over the phone. Structuring a compelling SAP resume is hard enough if you have all the right experience- if you don't, it can be even more difficult. Let's look at the strategies that make for a good resume on a point-by-point basis.

1. There is no one correct format. The nature of the experience is more important than the style of font that it is relayed. There is also no correct number of pages to a resume. Limiting yourself to a one page resume may work against you in many cases, as the important details may have been unwisely deleted.

2. Usually you will need to customize your resume for each position submitted, or at least for the genre of positions submitted. For example, a hands-on SAP project manager will have a different resume for full time project management positions and another resume designed specifically for FI/CO contract positions.

3. Lead with your strongest card. The standard U.S. resume begins with your most recent job experience, and then works its way back in time, position by position. If this recent experience is not SAP related, it should still go first, but in brief, because you need to have some solid SAP experience listed on your first page. The key is to tie in your SAP experience to specific projects with precise chronologies. For example, if you were at a company for four years, but only worked on SAP for the last two years, the experience needs to be broken down by dates (to the month), so that we can see the precise duration you worked in an SAP environment. If you worked in technical and functional areas, you should clearly define which areas of exposure you had in each area. Some SAP professionals with strong technical and light functional backgrounds try to hide their functional weaknesses by mixing up the SAP experience in a hodge-podge of responsibilities. This is not effective. If you want to do something that is different than what you're currently doing, an objective at the top of the resume is the clean way to handle this (in other words, you might state your objective as: "seek to transition from an SAP technical to SAP functional consultant")

4. Do not mix your SAP training, education, and hands-on project experience. Assuming that you have project experience, your SAP training and coursework belongs at the end of the resume. The exception would be if you do not have project experience- we'll address that later in this article.

5. When you lead with your SAP experience, organized by chronology and project, make sure that you drill down into a deep level of detail. Sadly, many hiring managers prioritize by buzzword, such as: "does she have legal consolidation experience?" If the legal consolidation experience is not on the resume, it could cost you. Generally, you want to be able to get as deep as the specific submodules, including the versions of SAP you worked in to obtain the experience (obviously experience in 4.0 or above should be highlighted). Generally, you cannot go wrong by listing a good deal of detail on your SAP positions. However, if you are finding yourself running on over a page for one position, you may want to include an addendum which elaborates on each project in more detail.

6. A skill without a project is an orphan- tie each SAP skill directly in with a project. Don't leave the details hanging on a long list- give each one an honest home on a project. If you would like to supplement your project experience descriptions with a more general list of platforms, programming languages, etc (especially useful for Basis folks), then you can certainly also make a summary list of skills. We like to see these on the end of the resume because they are not as interesting to read as they may have been to compile. Our favorite treatment of the skills summary is not a long list but some type of chart, rating the level of experience and exposure in each area. For example, if you are a Basis person and you list the AIX platform on the resume, you will get calls for AIX jobs. If your skills in AIX are light, you're wasting everyone's time. The project chronology should address the depth of experience, but the weighted skills grid at the end of the resume can be exceeding useful.

7. The most recent project is what counts- what you've done in the last six months is who you are. There are exceptions to this, but generally, as your SAP experience ages, it is less interesting to hiring managers and needs less detail. So as you go back from year to year, you can list progressively less information on each position worked.

8. If you are a functional specialist, brag about your configuration skills. On the functional side, until you get beyond the project manager level and up into project lead and beyond, it almost always comes down to configuration skills. On each project, you need to detail the areas you configured. By all means, include entirety of the life cycle that you were exposed to, from gap analysis to end-user training, but always include each area you've configured, broken down by project and submodule. Once again, including some indication of how much experience you have in each area is very helpful. Phrases such as "heavy configuration experience in CO-PA, with some experience in foreign trade configuration" help to indicate if you were fully involved or just a "lighter" team member. This is the delicate art of listing all the areas you've been exposed to, and playing them up as much as possible but not stretching the truth. The technical interview will get at the heart of the issue, so you might as well "come clean" on paper.

9. Learn how to find words that quantify your accomplishments and showcase your strengths. This is an especially important skill for project managers and revenue producers. Tell us, in quantifiable terms, how you impacted your firm's revenues, or how your team delivered their piece of the project on a timely basis.

More and more, SAP projects are "bean counting" affairs, and your ability to get your project efficiency across on paper is an important one. Even if your overall project had problems, you can still do you best to break achievements down into your project team's objectives and what you accomplished. Companies like to know that you understand the financial bottom line that your skills will bring their organization. Hopefully you either helped to cut costs, increase revenue, or both. If you're not sure how you contribute to one of these two objectives, your SAP career may be headed for troubled waters. Usually it is simply a matter of looking at the underlying objectives of the project and then finding a way to detail your contribution. If you aided in the development of your company's client base, be specific about the revenues gained or the number of clients added. Remember though, that numbers do not lie. Be only as specific as can be verified.

10. Leadership and communication skills are best expressed in project-based terms. Everyone wants these "soft skills," but there are classy and tacky ways of expressing that you have them. Promoting yourself as a "great communicator" seems a bit over the top, but if you include certain kinds of descriptions in your project chronology, you can highlight those same skills. For example, perhaps you served as a "liason" to the technical team, or you had a leadership role during a blueprint phase of an ASAP implementation. List these duties clearly and matter of factly.

11. When you list your positions previous to your SAP jobs, filter them to show the most relevant skills for your current objectives. As we're noted before, in general you start to decrease the level of detail in each job or project description as you go further back in time. But you have to balance this with your other goal, which is to bring out the themes you are emphasizing in your SAP career.

Since the best SAP professionals combine "soft skills" with hard technical and implementation skills, indicating an awareness of the big business picture, emphasize the appropriate parts of your background. For example, if you are an ABAP programmer, you obviously want to bring out the programming and development experience in your previous positions, but it might not have occurred to you to also include some detail on another job where you functioned as a consultant in a technical support capacity that was not SAP-related. However, because you did pick up some nice consulting skills on these projects, you should detail that position with an emphasis on the consulting duties. This helps to send the message that you are not just a "techie" who does fine in an isolated cube but rarely interfaces with others.

Another example would be the MM consultant who is looking for a team lead role, despite the fact that he does not have any team lead experience in SAP. Obviously, highlighting the manufacturing lead roles in your previous positions will help to indicate that you have the ability to lead teams in that capacity. You would come "up to speed" quickly as an MM team lead and your resume indicates that as such. It should be clear now that your current job objective, whether or not you list it on the resume, provides you with a way of prioritizing all of the previous positions and helping you to bring out the most relevant parts.

Remember once again that anything you can do to quantify your accomplishments in one of two ways, cost-savings or revenue production, will give a positive impression: awareness of numbers and project goals shows that you can see that all-important "big picture." It's always surprising how many folks simply don't see their work on those terms. We had one SAP professional who singlehandedly reduced the number of outside consultants at her company from five to two, but it had not occurred to her that she could express her accomplishments in those terms.

12. Account for all of your time dating back to when you graduated from college (or if you have no Bachelor's Degree, since high school graduation. If you don't have a high school diploma yet, you may want to shift your priorities away from SAP and get that taken care of).

Nothing sends a job search in the wrong direction more than gaps in time on the resume that are fudged or not unaccounted for. If you took two years off from your consulting career to travel with a carnival then you need to account for it. You'd be surprised just how positive certain seemingly unimpressive or unrelated jobs can look on a resume if they are dressed up properly. Even "waiting tables" can look somewhat relevant if you talk about management duties and volume of customers served. Food service consulting may not be all that different than SAP consulting if it's presented properly, with your can-do attitude shining through. Many times we have seen resumes that have up to ten years unaccounted for in any way. At least indicate one line with a date to tell us what you were up to.

13. Unless your degree is particularly prestigious, it belongs at the end of the resume. This makes sense organizationally, since all the rest of your training courses and certifications are also found at the end as well. Sometimes a Master's in Business from a well- respected school looks nice at the top, but generally, as soon as you pick up solid work experience, it should go at the bottom. This applies also to PhDs. You might think that a terminal degree is something to show off, but in our experience, it is not something you want to call attention to in an SAP job search.

14. Degrees that have not been completed or awarded can go on the resume, but you must not allow any ambiguity. Nothing casts more doubt on an resume than a vaguely worded "Bachelor of Arts Program" at the bottom of the resume that does not clarify whether the degree has been awarded or not. The degree itself is not always that important, but the honesty factor ALWAYS is. The thinking seems to be: if you're vague on that part of the resume, might you also be vague in other parts of the resume as well? If you're 15 credits shy of a degree, you may want to indicate this amount on the resume. In person, you may even express your willingness to complete the degree if it is a requirement for joining the new company.

As an aside, very few folks are immune from the "I wish I'd finished my Bachelor's Degree" job search blues. It might not get you this time, but it has a weird way of catching up with you eventually. We have seen job searches go awry at very high levels over issues like these. The crazy thing is that it doesn't matter if the degree was in Medieval Poetry- it only matters that you did the work and got the degree.

15. Training and certifications belong at the end of the resume, but you can sneak your SAP certification into the top of the resume as well. Although SAP certification doesn't make a huge difference in your job search, it can be a differentiator when you are up against an equally experienced consultant, so it's fine to put "Certified FI/CO consultant" at the top of the resume. At the end of the resume, you can include the date of the certification and any other details. Lists of SAP courses are also useful at the end.

The ONE EXCEPTION to this "training goes last" principle is for those who do not yet have SAP project experience but do have the training. In this case, some detail on the training can lead off the resume, but make clear that while this was "hands-on" experience, it was still training. Many consultants seem to think that if they worked on a prototype at their firm they can simply consider that their first project. Employers do not consider this the equivalent of a "real time," pressurized project situation and neither do we. Just because you can do it in a lab doesn't mean you can do it in the field. Supposedly Shaquille O'Neal can hit most of his free throws in practice, but in crunch time, he struggles. This is one principle of SAP hiring we completely agree with. If you haven't been there, you should not pretend or think that you have. Just be honest, and let the rest of your quality background plus your training speak for itself. It's not the same as project experience, but for the right company at the right salary it could be enough.

16. Do not indicate your reasons for leaving a position on a resume. In an SAP career, where you might switch positions quite frequently, this may be tempting. In some cases, this can go on a cover letter, but reasons for leaving are best addressed personally. It is always hard to make the reason for leaving look positive on paper.

17. Be creative about your describe your bench time. At certain points in the SAP career, you may have found yourself on the bench. This time must be accounted for. After all, in most cases, being on the bench was not your fault. But what you did with your time, and how you describe it on the resume, is your responsibility. It is impressive to see the most creative examples of this "down time." One consultant described how they managed to set up a new messaging and knowledge-sharing system for consultants during an extended bench period. Another went out and got some Business Warehouse training on their own initiative.

18. Knowledge transfer and training abilities matter. The best consultants are the ones who leave stronger, more knowledgeable employees behind them. Seize every opportunity to bring out this side of your expertise on each project you work on where it applies.

19. If your recruiter has advice for you on how to change your resume, be flexible. They may know what pushes their client's hot buttons- take advantage of that knowledge. Keep your resume with you whenever you can so that you can "customize on the fly."

The rest of these principles are general resume principles, not specific to SAP, so we'll just go through them quickly as reminders:

20. Consistency is more important than action verbs. Some resume guides insist that the most positive way to express your skills is by using inspiring action verbs. We believe that the key is consistency. Try to keep the way you describe each job consistent in tense and style. Make the reader forget about the style and focused on the specific detail. For this reason, we are not fans of the "third person" resume. "Mr. Sullivan" did this, "Mr. Sullivan" did that. It is an unusual style that calls attention to itself and creates too much formality.

21. Personal interests and hobbies are not generally appropriate on a resume. It seems to come off as too informal, or perhaps as a potential time conflict with project commitments. Occasionally, "good citizen" interests like "Red Cross volunteer" look nice, but generally this is a category to avoid. The example of the "paint gun expert" still looms large. No one wants to worry about someone's hunter-gatherer side coming out on a project, or someone leaving early on "go live" day because the Beanie Babies collector set is on sale at the mall. It's sad, but employers are more interested in your competence than your personality on paper. In person, it's a different matter.

22. The "Objective" still has its place on some resumes, but it can also eliminate you needlessly. Use the objective for very focused versions of your resume during very specific kinds of job searches. In some cases, the wise use of an objective can save you and your potential hiring agents a lot of time. For example, if you seeking contract positions in New York City only, and you don't want to get any calls about great salaried jobs, then why not list this as your objective? It won't save you all the junk calls, but it will keep them to a minimum.

23. The cover letter can still be useful. You can still address some things quite nicely in a well-worded, one page cover letter. For example, the frequent SAP job hopper could talk about how they are shifting gears from a "project-based" focus to a long-term commitment track. The cover letter can be a good time to mention your flexibility on travel and location, or perhaps make a passing reference to a couple of your best SAP contacts. Remember to use the cover letter in your "job hunting tool kit" as necessary.

24. The ideal font size is somewhere no higher than 12 and no lower than 10. Choosing one or two fonts for the whole resume is important for consistency, and of course, AVOID THE EXCESSIVE USE OF CAPITALIZATION. Fancy resume formatting is still a thing of the future. In many cases, your resume may be sent as a text file, so evaluate how it looks with or without formatting.

25. Choose a professional looking email address for your job search. We never ceased to be amazed by the strange looking email addresses we get from job seekers. Some of the SAP variations, such as sapman(at)company.com, are kind of cute, but many of the personalized email addresses do not send the right message. Wolfman(at)aolhell.com is not going to cut it.

For that matter, if you are pointing people to your web site, make sure that the web site is focused on a professional presentation. Sometimes the web site can be too personal an introduction to your lifestyle than you want an employer to have. We once clinked on a web site listed on a resume, and right off the main menu we ended up scrolling through pictures of this consultant on a yacht, cavorting with young women with names like "Brittany" and "Candy." One more related tip: take off that zany home answering message you recorded as a tribute to your fraternity until the job search is over.

26. Finally, if you are an international SAP consultant looking for work in the states, remember to leave out the picture. Pictures are not the norm in U.S. resumes, so using a picture is just like putting up a sign saying "I have limited knowledge of the U.S. employment market." Yes, pictures are fun, but until they are commonly used, leave them off.

We hope this comprehensive guide to creating SAP resumes is useful to you. Hopefully you can work within these principles but still find a format that works for you and expresses your unique strengths. Good luck on the job search! - Jon Reed