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How to Write the Best Job Description to Attract Talented Procurement Candidates

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Getting a procurement job description right is key to attracting the best possible candidates to apply to the role and setting expectations about what the position will involve. But the job description should be more than a bland list of tasks, skills, and experience. Instead, see it as an opportunity to build your brand and showcase the reason why talented candidates should choose your open procurement role over others.

“Critical employers understand this is as much a marketing document as it is a job description. Beyond clarity and comprehensiveness, the position description must capture the interest and imagination of top talent, so it’s imperative companies brand themselves accordingly,” says Naseem Malik, an executive recruiter in the procurement space and managing partner of MRA Global Sourcing. “It should highlight more than what is being sought; it needs to show the things that differentiate the opportunity, such as culture, training, or growth.”

Let’s examine the main elements of a perfect job description in procurement.

1. Best Procurement Job Title

While you may feel that well-worn descriptions such as “procurement manager” may not capture the essence of the advertised position, it’s better for job seekers and for the profession as a whole if you lean toward standardized job titles.

In an article published on Procurious, Stephen Ashcroft, a procurement leader at AECOM, developed a list of 99 different titles for procurement professionals to demonstrate that overly creative or formal titles serve only to “muddy the waters.” Instead of attracting talent, these titles can actually confuse both stakeholders and prospects about the nature of the procurement role. Using standardized role titles will also make your job description more discoverable by jobseekers.

In October 2019, the most common procurement-related job titles in the U.S., according to LinkedIn:

  1. Procurement Specialist – 684 jobs
  2. Procurement Manager – 456 jobs
  3. Sourcing Specialist – 353 jobs
  4. Procurement Analyst – 288 jobs
  5. Sourcing Manager – 259 jobs
  6. Strategic Sourcing Manager – 245 jobs

2. Job Summary

A job summary should be succinct and interesting. Like the first paragraph of a newspaper article, it needs to hook the reader (who may be reviewing dozens of job descriptions) and convince them to continue reading.

Think about how to make your job summary stand out, especially as this may be the only part of your job description that will be visible for candidates trawling through job aggregator sites. Be creative, but also keep in mind that your summary should contain the key search terms (SEO) jobseekers are likely to employ. 

3. Tasks

To counter gender self-selection biases, job descriptions should not include an exhaustive list of the tasks involved in the role. According to research from Hewlett Packard, men will apply for a role when they meet only 60% of the requirements, while women are more likely to apply only if they meet 100%.

That being said, it is useful to provide some indication of what the role will involve, with the disclaimer that the role itself is likely to evolve over time. In a procurement job description, it may be useful to split tasks into tactical versus strategic procurement, or tasks requiring “hard” skills such as conducting a sourcing event versus “soft” skills such as driving change across the wider organization.  

You should also include how the role fits into the wider company strategy or vision to help potential candidates envision how they can contribute to the growth of your business. “Procurement candidates are now seeking roles in which they can add broader commercial outcomes that may not relate to savings targets,” says Christine Armadass, specialist procurement consultant at Six Degrees recruitment. “So a job description should discuss wider commercial initiatives that the role could get involved in such as technology implementation, innovation, and non-cost savings strategy.”

4. Skills, Attributes, and Key Knowledge Areas

Keep in mind that attributes are a better indicator of success than skills and are less likely to become obsolete. Rapid technological change means that not only procurement technology but also traditional procurement skillsets can become redundant as they are automated.

Take technology skills as an example: requiring an applicant to be familiar with a particular piece of procurement software (which may become obsolete within the next 12 months) will not necessarily give you the best outcome. Instead, consider listing attributes such as “digitally savvy,” “fast learner,” or “adaptable.”  

Think about the best way to arrange key knowledge areas to keep the list as succinct as possible. In this example, skills are split into tactical procurement, strategic procurement, external procurement influence, general business, and essential certification skills.

Key Tactical Procurement Skills

The tactical procurement skillset essentially follows the procurement cycle:

  • Business needs identification: Engaging with stakeholders to not only help meet their needs but to also do what’s best for the broader business.  
  • Supplier identification: Creating a shortlist of suppliers who will potentially meet your criteria. 
  • Supplier evaluation: Evaluating suppliers against your criteria, widening the focus beyond the lowest price to embrace a broader definition of value.
  • Negotiation: Seeking to create the best possible contract terms for the business while maintaining collaborative relationships with suppliers.
  • Contract development: Creating a contract that establishes the terms and conditions of the relationship.
  • Contract management: Ensuring suppliers adhere to the terms and conditions in the contract.
  • Analytics: Examining supplier performance data to determine opportunities for improvement.

Key Strategic Procurement Skills

  • Spend analysis: Analyzing spend data across the business to identify opportunities for cost savings, efficiency gains, and areas of non-compliance with spend policy.
  • Risk management: Ensuring the smooth and uninterrupted flow of goods and services to the business while mitigating the risk of brand damage through supplier ethical breaches.
  • Demand management: Following the “Just-In-Time” approach to supply chain management to reduce the amount of goods held in stock.
  • Supplier relationship management: Maximizing the value of interactions with strategic suppliers.
  • Strategic planning: Establishing long-term objectives to help determine short-term decision-making in procurement. 
  • Change management: Driving organizational change through effective stakeholder engagement on procurement change programs.

External Procurement Influence Related Skills

  • Working with social enterprises: Contribute to organizational corporate social responsibility (CSR) targets by engaging suppliers who qualify as social enterprises. 
  • Supply chain diversity: Engaging with suppliers who qualify as diverse, such as women-owned, minority-owned, or veteran-owned suppliers. 
  • Supply chain sustainability: Engaging with suppliers who meet environmental criteria to ensure long-term sustainability of the organization’s supply chain.
  • Ethics: Being familiar with and working to mitigate the risk of ethical breaches such as human rights abuses in the supply chain.

General Business Skills Required for Procurement Success

  • Finance: Commercial acumen and an ability to communicate procurement objectives in financial terms.    
  • Stakeholder engagement: An ability to identify and involve internal stakeholders who will be affected by procurement decisions.
  • Communication skills: Written and spoken communication skills, including the ability to listen to others and speak publicly.
  • Influence: Building procurement’s influence across the broader organization to help create a cost-conscious culture.
  • Agility: The ability to rapidly change direction in response to changing business needs while remaining focused on long-term goals.

Essential Certifications for Procurement Managers

It may not be necessary to reinvent the wheel when formulating key knowledge areas. Competency frameworks have been created by certification bodies, such as:

  • ISM Mastery Model: 16 competencies and 69 sub-competencies, each with levels ranging from “essentials” to “executive leadership.”
  • CIPS Global Standard for Procurement Professionals: Popular outside the U.S., CIPS offers five “themes” with 11 sub-themes, each with levels ranging from tactical to advanced professional.
  • Next Level Purchasing: Certifications in essential procurement skills, global procurement management, enterprise-wide procurement influence, and external procurement influence.
  • APICS (part of ASCM): The American Production and Inventory Control Society offer supply chain certification courses including the popular Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) program.
  • IIPMR: The International Institute for Procurement and Market Research offers the Certified Procurement Professional (CPP) program.

5. Experience and Qualifications

This section of the job description provides an opportunity to list “must-have” experience and qualifications. Be careful to avoid the following pitfalls that may discourage applicants:

  • Requiring tactical procurement experience may limit your opportunity to attract top candidates from other functions who may be interested in stepping across into procurement (two-thirds of Thomas’ 30 Under 30 program winners did not plan for a career in procurement).
  • Keep in mind that tactical procurement skills are relatively easy to train, while other attributes such as leadership or communication skills tend to be innate (and more difficult to develop).
  • Think about whether you really require your team members to have a college degree. Google, Apple, IBM, and other leading organizations no longer require employees to have a college education. Instead, employers are putting the emphasis on experience and potential when looking for new hires.

6. Work Conditions

Use this opportunity to differentiate your organization. List benefits (apart from salary) that make this role attractive, such as flexibility, remote work, travel opportunities, training and growth opportunities, and workplace culture.  

7. Compensation

Depending on your sector, a set salary range will either be revealed in the job description or negotiated when the candidate receives an offer. Do not call salaries and bonuses “competitive” or “attractive” unless you have done your research and are sure your offer is higher than the market average. 

8. Disclaimer

Things change, so it’s important to let applicants know the exact tasks, skills, and work conditions listed in the job description may not remain the same. 

Thomas’ Perfect Procurement Hiring Checklist

  1. Think of your job description as a marketing exercise. It doesn’t need to be boring!
  2. Make sure your job description is attractive to talent from outside the profession.
  3. Find a balance between targeting the right candidates but not being so prescriptive that some candidates are discouraged from applying.
  4. Think about your language choices and ensure your job description doesn’t use words that exclude certain groups.


Download the complete Thomas Guide to Successful Hiring for Industrial Professionals here

Image Credit: D.Georgiev / Shutterstock

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