What should you be prepared to answer in your next procurement interview?

What should you be prepared to answer in your next procurement interview? Author: Tom Graham Published: 4 January 2019

The New Year is a time we reflect on our experiences of the past 12 months and plan for those ahead. Aside from the personal goals or targets we may have, a new year often brings a wave of fresh thinking to an individual’s career and can pose the question: what next?

For some, the thought of considering a new role is a daunting one – particularly if they have not gone through an interview process for some time, and do not have sharp and clear answers to likely interview questions.

So what should you be prepared for during an interview? CPOs and procurement leaders have stated that procurement needs to change its perception as a back office and reactive function, to a business enabling one. Soft skills, particularly stakeholder management, are therefore critical, and it is important to have adequately prepared. You should consider the below:

1)   Know your stuff. An all too common mistake committed by interviewees is the inability to clearly answer questions on their previous experiences and successes. The struggle to clearly communicate (with substance) facts, figures and dates on a CV, can often leave a hiring manager questioning credibility. If it is on your CV, ensure that you can elaborate on the points and if it is not, be prepared for questions asking you to delve deeper.

2)   Strategic thinking vs the ability to deploy it. Writing a strong, well thought out category strategy is clearly important to any business, however an ability to deploy it is a different matter. If you are going into an interview, ensure that you are able to explain how you won the hearts and minds of your stakeholders, what worked well and what did not. Self-awareness and reflection is important; the ability to critically analyse what you did well and what could be done differently can demonstrate growth potential.

3)   The ability to influence and manage relationships. A recent survey of around 80 CPOs found that leadership, change management and influencing skills were more important than technical expertise. Without buy-in from the business, a category strategy may fail at the first hurdle. Therefore it is important to provide examples of finding solutions to pushback, balancing resilience vs being inflexible, and the ability to understand what the business wants. 

4)   Acting not reacting. Unfortunately, procurement can often be seen as a governance tool, placing process ahead of pragmatism. Whilst ensuring that there are ‘rules’ in place, procurement needs to be seen as enabling a business to be the best it can be. Whether it be helping suppliers bring innovation to the business, or managing risk, the ability to show ‘bigger picture thinking’ is crucial.

Tom Graham specialises in recruiting senior Procurement and Supply Chain leadership roles across all sectors.
 

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