Supply Chain Council of European Union |

How to identify and recruit top procurement talent

We welcome this advisory post from Daniel Ball, business development director at Wax Digital.

Good news, your procurement team is growing, and you need a new team member. Recruitment can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s imperative that you employ the right person so that the time and money spent on hiring is invested wisely.

Here are some of the most common things you’ll have to think about when recruiting for procurement roles.

What sort of qualifications should I look for?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and it really depends on the seniority of the role you’re recruiting for. For senior and mid-level roles, many businesses look for Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) qualifications, however, while they’re the industry standard, other skills should not be overlooked. Look for experience or expertise in areas such as finance that candidates can transfer into this role.

For graduate or entry-level roles, qualifications in subjects such as business studies, economics or mathematics will translate well into a procurement role. That said, there’s nothing wrong with hiring somebody without any higher education if the applicant shows enthusiasm and a desire to learn.

What experience should procurement candidates have?

No matter how senior the role you’re recruiting for, the candidate must have experience of interpreting and understanding data. That includes using Microsoft Excel functions, such as VLOOKUP and macros.

Any experience with ERP systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce, and eProcurement tools, such as web3 and SAP Ariba will also be useful. With more procurement teams turning to technology to transform many of their manual processes and integrate them with ERP, these skill sets will be sought after.

What soft skills I should look out for?

From dealing with suppliers, to advising employees on buying processes; interpersonal skills are core requirements for a procurement role. Here are some key personality traits to look out for in potential candidates:

  • Negotiation skills: the ability to influence, persuade and negotiate is a must. A competent procurement professional should be able to confidently arrange a new contract with a supplier and convince the wider organisation to accept this new supplier. As negotiation often means compromise, look for a candidate’s ability to find middle ground.
  • Good communication skills: given that procurement involves dealing with multiple internal and external stakeholders at all levels of seniority, candidates need to be confident talking to a range of different people. It’s important to test both written and verbal communication skills in the interview process using situation-based interview questions. Look for their ability to clearly convey messages without waffle and straight to the point.
  • Leadership skills: from junior procurement professionals to CPOs, all candidates will need to take ownership of projects and make important decisions with confidence. For example, CPOs lead the whole procurement function for the business, while a category buyer might be responsible for negotiating new contracts. In the interview ask them to give examples of times when they’ve demonstrated this capability.
  • Curiosity: expressing an interest in the business and approaching situations with an open mind is a sign of a good procurement professional. If a candidate questions the status quo, processes and protocols, there’s a good chance they’re the right fit for the role.

Should I look for specific skills to fit both direct and indirect spend roles?

Technology has facilitated a change in procurement processes and both types of spending have become similar. For example, both direct and indirect spending requires good stakeholder management skills, as well as being proficient with a suite of IT-related tools.

What kind of questions should I ask when interviewing procurement staff?

Competency-based interview questions are the best way to assess a candidate’s suitability for the job. It forces the interviewee to draw from their experience and demonstrate their ability to manage certain situations. Here are some sample questions:-

  • Tell me about a time when you had to explain something complex to a colleague. What challenges did you come across and how did you overcome them?
  • Talk me though the biggest change you have had to deal with in your previous employment. How did you deal with it?
  • Describe a time when your team’s performance needed to improve. What challenges did it bring and how did you address them?

Should I set a task before or during the interview phase to assess candidate suitability?

Only set a task if it relates to the job the candidate is applying for. Saying to candidates: “sell me this pen,” or asking them to build a tower of paper cups won’t tell you whether they’re suitable for the job. For example, if you’re hiring an analyst, get them to interrogate a set of data in Microsoft Excel. Or if you’re hiring somebody senior, give them a pretend budget and ask them to present their vision for procurement in your business – this will demonstrate their approach and communication skills.

Many job roles use skills that can be transferred to a procurement role. Dealing with numbers, negotiating contracts and using IT effectively is part of many peoples’ jobs. The key to finding the ideal candidate is identifying their aptitude, enthusiasm and capability for the role during the application, screening and interview processes.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Spend Matters.

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