The Point is an original series of insightful articles, challenging how and why we do what we do in our professional lives. The series is designed to be thought-provoking, controversial at times, but ultimately helpful to the career-minded professional with an eye on self-development, and with a leaning towards Procurement.
Edbury Daley is delighted to feature this series by our guest contributor, The Secret Procurement Leader (SPL).
Who is the SPL?
We can tell you this person has an outstanding track record in procurement. He has held several procurement leadership roles in major organisations. He has also been a senior manager and leader in international procurement and supply chain consulting, where he created and led major change programmes in Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies.
His experience and knowledge is comparable with anyone in the profession and we are delighted that he has chosen to contribute to this new initiative, in parallel with his new direction, giving his time voluntarily to health care, and the rehabilitation of those with life-changing disability.
We have chosen to keep his identity anonymous so that he can really address some of the more contentious points affecting the profession and career development in general.
His articles will span a range of topics, from nurturing your professional legacy to the impact of technology in the digital age.
We will be inviting feedback on the articles, which we may seek to selectively include in subsequent articles, or to summarise in a manner that captures the range of reactions.
You can leave your comments, positive or negative, by logging into our site and posting them alongside each article or join the online debate via our Twitter account – @TheSecretCPO
Here’s the first article: Managing Your Career – Are You A Leader, Maverick, Manager, Or Doer?
We are pleased to share a very useful article written by one of our long standing partners Iain Stewart, director at Medinrun Limited.
A client recently asked me how to approach the process of re-applying for her job, as a consequence of a major re-organisation, with a new boss who she does not know.
She told me that although she hires people quite regularly, she has no template for interview preparation, and has not herself been through an interview for many years.
Here is what we defined as her approach, which, as a generic preparation tool, I want to share with anyone who needs to sharpen up their process, either as an interviewer or a candidate.
First of all, as a candidate, consider the interview as a competition you intend to win – only when you have a job offer do you need to make a final decision about accepting the role or not, a decision which should by then be informed by your due diligence, and the quality of the offer.
Prepare for the prospect that a good competent interviewer should be testing the candidate on three critical, go/no-go questions.
- Could this person do the job?
- Could this person be an effective member of my team?
- Could I work with this person?
Subordinate areas of the interview will focus, in more detail, on the candidate’s competence in the three areas of:-
- Content Knowledge relevant to the job
And, in addition to having credible answers ready for the interview, the candidate should always be prepared to provide evidence, to support their initial answers – make sure that your answers have precision and conciseness.
Content Knowledge is reasonably self-explanatory, but be sure to have a clear definition of the role, and an excellent understanding of what would be required to satisfactorily undertake the job, from the perspectives of resources, processes, tools, and governance, striking the right balance between theory and practice.
Leadership is often mistakenly considered to be synonymous with Management.
Everyone has had an attempt to define Leadership, but let’s simplify it here.
Management is about the organisation and deployment of resources in order to create outcomes which meet organisational goals, for example achieving production outputs, or customer service levels.
Leadership, on the other hand, involves knowing what good management looks like, but additionally organising resources and people to make the enterprise achieve its strategic goals, and to be competitive and durable; for example identifying the need for additional capacity, or new products and services, and facilitating the successful implementation of these developments.
Not all leaders are great managers, and not all great managers are wonderful leaders!
Knowledge and leadership ability need to be augmented by, and deployed through the application of appropriate Behaviours.
Some of these are innate, others are learned, and everyone has a subtly different make-up from the next person.
However, in the interview setting, some behaviours, which could almost be classed as values, will always be important.
These include integrity, honesty, decisiveness, relational skills, energy, ambition, cultural sensitivity, political awareness, attitude to risk, reasoning ability, and many other ‘soft’ attributes.
In all of the behavioural areas, the interviewee is just as responsible as the interviewer for assessing the level of fit between their personal style and the environment of the recruiting employer.
There is also a school of thought that interviewers are seeking their potential successors – that may be true, although in some cases, organisations are looking for content specialists or experts, who may never have the breadth to succeed their boss.
A decent interviewer is however likely to be studying a good candidate, and wondering if the candidate is:-
…their potential successor, or
…someone they need in their team as a specialist, but not their potential successor, or
…someone they should not hire!
In any event, do not appear in the interview as though you want the interviewer’s job…yet!
There, then, is some generic structure for the preparation for interviews, and engaging in them.
Of course, do the preparation and the research, on the organisation, and the individuals who you will be meeting.
Of course listen carefully and observe body language, and tailor your responses to questions and situations in a considered and appropriate way.
As a crude rule of thumb, if it feels right, then it probably is, and if it doesn’t feel right, back your instincts – it probably isn’t!
The Christmas holidays and early January are traditionally times when people reflect on the previous year and begin to think about a potential job move. Recent research indicates that many people will use their new electronic devices to start looking for a job from Boxing Day onwards.
It’s important to note that a number of factors make January a time when recruitment activity rises. They include the emotional factor of seeing in a new calendar year and contemplating what the future may hold … but in addition there are sound financial reasons why the early part of the year is a busy one for job moves.
Many people receive their annual bonus payments in the first quarter of the year, so this is a factor in terms of when they want to resign from their current position.
Evidence also indicates that many organisations begin to recruit as their business plans and headcount budgets are confirmed early in the calendar year. This fuels a rise in both advertising and recruitment activity in general.
So it’s going to be a competitive market, whether you are hiring the best available talent or trying to find an exciting new role. We hope our advice will help you achieve your goals in 2017.
1. Updating Your CV
There are many varying viewpoints on what constitutes a good CV. It is actually very subjective and CV formats vary from sector to sector and across different job functions.
It is often recommended that you should tailor your CV for every role you apply for and whilst this is good advice it can be very time-consuming and not practical if you are in a busy job. An alternative therefore is to think carefully about your key strengths and achievements and create a general document that promotes your best skills and experience. Then you merely need to highlight the skills and experience important for each role rather than a comprehensive review each time.
Focus on the skills, knowledge and competencies that are strengths or those that you enjoy and want to highlight to develop in your next role. The CV is effectively your advert so make it the best you can and use it for all roles. Get feedback from others before you send it out. Make sure that the first page gets across all the key points you wish to highlight – it is true that unless a reviewer finds something interesting on the first page they will rarely read the rest.
Don’t do a long list of responsibilities or just repeat your job description – it is boring and frankly people will assume you are an average candidate. Reviewers look for clarity and relevant experience and the transferable skills you can offer a new employer and want to use/develop in new role.
Yes, describe the roles you undertook but make it brief and make certain you show what problems you solved and how.Companies want to hire people who can change things, improve results, develop teams or improve processes so you need to show you can do this.
Also be careful not to use too much internal jargon. Most organisations have their own structures and terminology but think what people outside may or may not understand. Often a junior HR person may be sifting the CV first – will they know what SRM means for example?
2. Networking And Positioning Yourself To Get Approached Or Head-hunted
Most research concurs that the majority of professional jobs are not advertised. So unless you network effectively your job search will take longer and you may miss out on many of the better roles altogether.
Most roles are filled via a number of different networks, whether this is your own personal network or particularly that of recruiters, but it can be via colleagues, old bosses, stakeholders, or even suppliers.
Many people underestimate how many roles are found through social media with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook all featuring strongly – so if you are not using these then you need to consider them. For professional procurement roles, LinkedIn is the most important.
Recruiters, whether they are in-house or at an agency, widely use these sites as ‘research tools’ to find people with the skills and experience they are looking for. If your profile has little information about what you do, or you don’t make your profile ‘open to view’, then you will not come up in a search so will not get approached.
Your LinkedIn profile is effectively an online networking CV and it needs to reflect your actual CV. Similarly, to create a good profile you need to do the full sales pitch and use many key words relevant to your role or industry, as this is how recruiters search for suitable candidates. Many people use their internal job title, but consider what your job is called most commonly, as this is the term that gets searched for.
You also need to extend your network as the more connections you have the broader your network becomes. However, be discrete as your boss and colleagues will use LinkedIn too, so connecting with ten recruiters at once may raise eyebrows!
Do add ‘recommendations’ on LinkedIn but try to get them from senior people you have worked with – a recommendation from the cleaner (with no disrespect to cleaners) doesn’t look as good as one from a Director (or an old boss).
To bolster your network in a focused way to decide on the kind of role and sector you wish to work in and focus your efforts there – look at the companies in the sector and see if you know people and connect to them. Join groups that are relevant to your role as this also makes you more visible and if you feel confident comment on posts to enhance this or click that you ‘like’ the posts of others, as again this raises your profile and people will notice you.
Talk to recruiters to see what their client base is and what sectors they focus on so that their network compliments your own. Tell them the kinds of organisation you will consider or the values and environment that you prefer.
Most of all remember that this all takes time; finding a job often takes at least 3 to 6 months – so be patient and don’t expect immediate results – connecting or helping someone now may get a pay back years down line. Building a network is an ongoing process and if you don’t respond to ex-colleagues, contacts or recruiters when you aren’t looking, they are less likely to jump to help you when you do decide to move.
3. Choosing Which Recruiters To Use
Selecting your recruitment consultancies and which ones can seem like a question without a definitive answer. So let’s take the two constituent parts separately.
Firstly, how many? As many as possible maximises your coverage but that comes with serious caveats. It takes time and effort in establishing contact, briefing the consultant on your career situation, discussing your ideas for your next career move and the relevant financial and geographical parameters. For each additional recruiter you engage with you need to repeat this exercise.
It is also worth keeping in mind that within a specific field of employment, such as procurement, many hiring companies will place their vacancy with several preferred recruiters. If you are registered with a large number of consultants expect to get several calls about the same position which can be frustrating and a waste of your time.
So some middle ground on number of recruitment consultants is appropriate. If you are actively seeking a new position three carefully chosen consultants should give your job search good coverage without excessive time spent briefing consultants or crossover with the same job when it arises.
Secondly, which consultancies? A recommendation from your network of a good recruiter is an ideal start but if you don’t have this luxury then an internet search on recruiters in procurement will give you a long list. Visit each company’s website and check out their credentials. Are they really a specialist in procurement? Do they advertise the sort of jobs that would interest you? Can you see the backgrounds of the individual consultants who would be helping you in your career move?
Trust your instincts here. Good recruiters are knowledgeable about procurement and prepared to give you helpful advice on your worth in the job market. The best listen carefully to what you are looking for and keep those criteria in mind when speaking to you about a position they are working on. Be wary of those that over promise, are scant on detail or always seem to be pushing job opportunities.
4. Applying For New Roles
Many companies successfully hire procurement professionals directly. Often this is done via an in-house recruitment team who may approach you in much the same way as a third-party headhunter would. This may happen if they have found your details on a social networking platform or you have applied to the company in the past.
However, if you want to be a bit more proactive you may want to consider some direct approaches to desirable employers. This may be in the tried-and-tested format of simply applying to an advert. The majority of recruitment advertising is now online either on major generalist or industry specialist job boards. In addition, a number of companies advertise their vacancies on their own websites.
It is helpful to add a short covering email to your online application expressing some specific detail about why you are looking for a new position and why the position you are applying for is of interest. It is so much easier to apply for jobs online than by post so employers are often swamped with irrelevant applications. Make sure yours stands out from the masses.
You may have companies that you admire and would be interested in working for. If that is the case you could approach them directly even without an advertised vacancy. Typically you would need to try to identify a senior member of the HR or recruitment team and contact them to explain your interest and what skills and experience you have to offer. This is speculative by nature and so generates a low success rate, however, it may at least create a dialogue which leads to you be considered in the future for suitable jobs.
Often persistence is key when applying for a position directly. If you haven’t received a response to your CV then make contact by email or phone to ask for progress and any feedback. Even if you are not invited for interview you may learn something positive about another opportunity in the company or at least the reason why you weren’t successful.
5. Criteria For A Move
It sounds obvious but think carefully about why you want to move. Write down which aspects of your job you are looking to improve on. This helps to take out some of the emotion of the wish list for a new position. It also helps to prepare you to articulate these reasons when asked in an interview situation
Turn any negatives in to a positive as it is important to deliver your requirements in interview in the right manner. For example “I am looking to further develop my negotiation skills” will be much better received than “I don’t get any training where I am.”
With regard to salary package, consider if there any elements of your package which are particularly important to you and consider how likely it is that you are going to get a similar benefit elsewhere. For example, you may benefit from a very generous pension scheme with your current employer.
On the one hand you may be able to negotiate an improved basic salary to compensate for a lower pension contribution. However, there may be a point at which such a negotiation prices you out of the job you want. Put simply, the new company may not be willing to find, let’s say, another 10 percent on the basic salary to compensate for your loss of a generous pension scheme. The message here is work out which aspects of your remuneration package you are willing to be flexible on and by how much.
When assessing your potential new employer make sure they can meet the majority, if not all, of the reasons you are seeking to move. Use common sense as well as what you are being told at interview. If it’s an SME, do they really have the defined long-term career path you are seeking? If they are a global business can they offer you the access to the senior stakeholders you are looking for?
It’s also important to keep you eye on the company news. Just a few minutes online will reveal the financial health and public perception of a company. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t join a firm that has suffered some recent difficulties, just go in with your eyes wide open and be confident that the situation will improve.
In summary, be clear in your own mind about the reasons for moving, be able to articulate those in a positive way at interview and do your due diligence on your potential new employer. In other words check the grass really is greener!
6. Interview skills
There are many books that have been written on this subject and it takes practice to become really proficient. However even if you haven’t attended an interview for many years there are a few things you can do to help, but the key thing is being fully prepared.
It is often the case that the best prepared candidates are the ones who are successful at interview rather than those who arrive unprepared thinking that they can ‘wing It’.
If you are nervous remember that the interviewer is probably nervous too – very rarely is someone trying to catch you out – they merely want you to show that you can do the job and solve their problem. They want you to succeed so bear this in mind.
It is impossible to prepare for every possible question, however your preparation should include the following:
- Doing your homework on the job and the company
- Research the people you are meeting on LinkedIn
- From the above think of what you can talk about in the opening ‘meet and greet’
- Be ready to give detailed examples of your experience and skills (competency-based interviewing)
- Think about cultural fit and why you want the job
- If you know somebody in the organisation ask them for hints or tips on the process or the people you will meet
If you don’t know something or haven’t faced a specific situation before it is much better to be honest about it as it is generally obvious when someone doesn’t know as they either start to waffle or quotes best practice rather than giving a specific example.
There are also some typical topics or themes that will be explored in procurement interviews which you can prepare for such as:
- Relationship & stakeholder management
- Procurement best practice
- Role-specific expertise – i.e. leadership, management, strategic sourcing, category management & expertise, etc.
So being prepared and having detailed examples is key.
Also recognise that trained interviewers (often from HR or Resourcing) will be much more formal and less likely to engage in small talk and you need to be prepared for this. They need to ensure they cover the questions and ensure the process is the same for all candidates making this a more formal scenario.
However, no matter how rigorous the process there is still a very strong element of personal chemistry involved in any interview situation. It is true that first impressions count, so do arrive on time, do smile and prepare something to say for the 1st few minutes such as a common connection or a common company or interest.
The Procurement task is pretty straightforward, for a focused, intelligent and engaging professional.
Despite what you read in the job brief or the role description, and regardless of how complex your company tries to make the task sound, let me paraphrase it for you.
Your job is to identify, engage, and manage the best available suppliers, in order to meet or exceed your company’s appetite for external goods and services, as effectively as possible, with the minimum exposure to risk, and to do so better than your company’s competitors.
In doing so, you need to build and continuously develop solid and bilateral relations with your stakeholder colleagues, you need to ensure that your company benefits from market and process innovations, and you need to have the utmost regard for your company’s sustainability objectives.
Finally, whilst practising and honing your skills as a leader and a colleague, you also need to identify and develop your successor.
There. How hard is that?
Well the procurement scientists in the big consultancies will declare that view ‘superficial’, and, of course, ‘the genius is in the detail’, of which there is a considerable amount in the procurement role!
However, in your new role, or new company, just define your strategy to ensure that it meets the company’s goals, build a plan to deliver the strategy, and implement, coping with the normal managerial ambiguity, challenge, and fluidity, as you go.
Why are so many procurement professionals still missing some of the fundamentals, failing to build enough momentum, falling short on competitive edge, missing out on innovations, exposing their companies to undue risk, and failing to win a seat at the top table, to use that hackneyed old cliché?
The answer has been a mystery to me throughout my practitioner and consulting careers, but I think the penny has dropped.
Procurement is about managing multiple challenges and resources, all the time, about spinning as many plates as you can handle, and about continuing to challenge existing practice.
Those who fail, or those who fail to excel, just do not push hard enough, just do not use their intellect and experience to see past the most recent and most pressing urgency. Others become hooked on adopting core systems and practises that inhibit their momentum.
Think of any winning team – a sporting analogy works for most people – and think about the way in which the team leader has to continually experiment with new or modified tactics, to deliver their strategy and ensure that they stay on top and win – think of Mercedes’ recent success, or of some of the stellar achievements in the recent athletics events.
Doing what you or the company has always done is too conservative and pedestrian; slavishly following precedent and history is not enough.
Take the example of our business, where many years’ success as a pure-play procurement consultancy has served us, and more importantly our clients, well – we have numerous examples of companies and procurement people who have prospered under our process expertise, application guidance and outstanding delivery, achieved through the growth of their capabilities and behaviours.
We saw a shift in the market though, and concluded that having all our eggs in the same basket was not enough for the future.
Just like you, we dislike paying money up-front for a service that may or may not bring us a benefit.
Just like you, we get frustrated when we have to pay suppliers’ prices that may or may not be the best we can achieve – but we don’t really know.
And just like you, suppliers who fall short on their promises, exasperate us.
That is why we have applied our expertise in procurement, and our knowledge of supply markets to develop an additional service from our new company, Purchasing-Expert Limited (P-E), to provide a cash-positive, risk-free service, to help our clients focus on the big-ticket items, with confidence that they have delegated a cost-saving task to experts with long experience and success in their field.
P-E takes the burden of managing suppliers for value and cost-effectiveness away from the client, drives savings, without any adverse impact on quality, service or reputation, and provides the client with the benefits.
We recently worked with one client to reduce their business and IT consumables spend of £18,000 by around 30% per annum…then we spotted that their field service engineers were spending the same amount of money on the same type of items…we found 50% savings there too, reduced risk, and improved quality.
One less spinning plate for the client to worry about!
As a procurement professional, you too should be thinking about how well your strategy fits with today’s environment.
One client with whom we have just developed a global strategy to take them towards 2020, told us that he and his team had found our guidance and counsel through the process to be invaluable, and that they could not have done so without us.
We throw down the challenge to all procurement leaders to test whether their strategy is good enough, and whether they are spinning enough of the right plates.
Iain Stewart – December 2014
Iain is a Director of 105 Consulting Limited and Purchasing-Expert Limited www.purchasing-expert.co.uk
2014 has seen Edbury Daley make senior procurement appointments across the UK, Ireland, Continental Europe and Latin America. Here is how we provide global procurement recruitment solutions from a single UK office:
International database of procurement professionals – working with an existing network of talented, geographically mobile candidates
Leading edge technology – utilising on and offline technology solutions for virtual meetings and video interviewing
Global market knowledge – understanding regional market dynamics, candidate availability and salary expectations
Multi-lingual research capability – communicating with clients and candidates in their native language
As a product of global commercialisation the world gets smaller and major procurement functions increasingly move to international structures. We have adapted our capability to apply our superior level of recruitment consultancy effectively in international markets.
We now have a truly international network which spans all the key business locations in Europe and beyond. This enables us to consistently outperform local suppliers in cities as diverse as Dublin, Munich and Mexico City. Recent successes include:
- Appointed the European Procurement Director in Dublin for a Fortune 500 Company based on the East coast of the US
- Recruited an Albanian national as Global Category Leader based in Switzerland with the hiring manager based in the UK.
- Identified an excellent short list of Marketing Procurement Specialists in Mexico for a global banking group. Read the case study here.
- Sourced three Polish nationals for Category Management roles for a British company with offices in Warsaw.
If your procurement function has an international dimension we can ensure you attract the very best procurement people, wherever you need them.
Contact our team for further information:
Andrew Daley +44 (0)161 924 2385 email@example.com
Simon Edbury +44 (0)161 924 2384 firstname.lastname@example.org
Raluca Pirvu +44 (0)161 924 2387 email@example.com