The role of Procurement in the supply chain has changed, and with it brings the need for a new interview strategy. But what interview questions should you be asking, and what do they reveal about the capabilities Procurement professionals must possess today? Before we dive deeper, Head of DSJ Global APAC, Matthew Monaghan, details how Procurement has evolved in recent years:
“From its early days of navigating business deals, finding ways to save costs, and using aggressive negotiation tactics with suppliers to secure the best outcomes, Procurement has taken on a new role that extends far beyond just financial management. A clear sign of this shift is that Procurement often now reports to Operations rather than Finance.”
“Taking a look back at the last three years, many Procurement professionals found themselves tasked with resolving critical supply-related challenges, facilitating timely solutions, and essentially ensuring the survival of certain organizations. Procurement functions have demonstrated their value to businesses out of necessity, so the present moment is a great opportunity to maximize the influence that Procurement has gained. However, this hinges on hiring the right talent for your organization.”
So, what does this new concept of Procurement mean for a company, and what qualities should you seek in potential new team members? Matthew shares the questions hiring managers and CPOs should ask when interviewing prospective Procurement candidates, and which key attributes, strategies and skills to look out for in their answers:
1. “Can you explain the distinctions between price, cost, and value?”
It's crucial here that candidates understand the price of a product doesn't necessarily reflect its true cost. It also doesn't always indicate its actual value. Price is merely the monetary amount. Nowadays, suppliers and the products or services they offer are evaluated based on a variety of criteria, including parameters like sustainability, reliability, and innovation. Importantly, exceptional Procurement professionals are consciously assessing their suppliers using multiple criteria and are not afraid to dynamically adjust the ranking of these criteria depending on economic variables.
2. “How do you effectively identify and address risks with your suppliers?”
The COVID-19 pandemic offered us a unique perspective on supplier relationships, effective Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), essential partnerships, and situations where value or cost went beyond mere price. During times of abundance and relatively smooth logistics, suppliers providing non-unique services or products could be pushed for price reductions, shorter lead times, or improved product quality. However, in tougher times, what would be the true cost?
A successful and cost-efficient Procurement professional doesn't solely focus on securing products at the lowest price; rather, they concentrate on building strong, enduring relationships that contribute to business operations and reduce risks during uncertain times.
3. “What factors do you consider when evaluating a supplier's quality? What makes them a 'good' supplier?”
The world is only getting faster. Markets move quicker, decisions are made sooner, and urgency is prevalent. “Agility” and “agile thinking” are the current buzzwords, but truly these should be applicable for a 'good' supplier relationship. If we accept that global markets are fluxing more often than in prior times, then a strong Procurement professional will look for those suppliers who negate these impacts and provide prioritized solutions. What is the point of a cheaper raw material that doesn’t arrive on time, goes to a more preferred customer, or is of poor quality?
4. “How do you establish and maintain collaborative relationships with colleagues within the organization?”
Procurement has sometimes received unfavourable views within certain businesses, especially when perceived as a hindrance rather than an aid to spending money. However, this reputation doesn't stem from the function itself, but often from the specific Procurement professionals involved.
In its essence, Procurement acts as the intermediary between the company and its suppliers. In such a middleman role, it's challenging not to take sides inadvertently. The best Procurement experts position themselves as partners to suppliers and see the business as their clients. They collaborate with suppliers to meet the organization's needs, offering solutions that yield tangible results and create value.
5. “If you were to join our company, what would your strategy be in the first 6 months?”
A simple shift in mindset has given rise to a new generation of Procurement talent that's poised to elevate the function. Instead of starting with the budget or category and then crafting a 2–3 year strategy to present to the company, the most adept Procurement professionals begin with the business and work their way back to spending and supplier considerations. They invest time, effort, and patience into fully comprehending the business requirements and then collaborate with their supplier partners to devise solutions, whether this be linked to price, cost or value – which as we’ve established, are not the same.
For those businesses that once saw Procurement as a barrier to spending, the perspective is shifting. It should now be regarded as an enabler – a growth facilitator and a crucial partner in success.
6. “Could you share a situation where you had to urgently solve a business need?”
The Great Depression, The Dotcom Bubble, The Great Recession, and COVID-19. Global economic events will always have impacts on the supply chain and more will come. The world has become simultaneously more local and more linked, and these impacts are felt more severely and often more instantly than before. Through effective collaboration internally and externally, the best Procurement talent can solve problems and, perhaps more importantly, be comfortable with changing strategies. They make uncertainty an ally to their growth and don’t look for ways to eliminate it, but rather embrace it. With 80% of the information required can they make a critical decision, or do they shy away from the risk? The best talent will be brave in shaping the future of Procurement by taking leaps but planning for the consequences.
Matthew Monaghan leads the DSJ Global Asia Pacific team from our office in Hong Kong, having recently relocated from the London branch of the business, where he had been helping exceptional Procurement talent join exciting organizations for 8 years. Matthew is passionate about the dynamic and business-critical supply chain Procurement function and is always open to advising on this space.