Vetting Procurement Talent
Special thanks to longtime BMP friend Charles Dominick, SPSM3 of the Next Level Purchasing Association for this guest post.
Welcome back to this series on improving procurement capability. In the previous post of this series, I covered how to find candidates for your procurement jobs. But finding procurement talent is easier than whittling the talent pool down to that one, perfect candidate. Let’s talk about how you do that.
Behavioral interviewing has become a classic interviewing technique. According to Virginia Tech University, behavioral interviewing is “a technique used by employers to learn about your past behavior in particular situations…Past behavior is a better predictor of future behavior than is speculation” about how a candidate would act in a hypothetical future situation.
There are three revealing topics that I think a hiring manager should ask a procurement candidate about in a behavioral interview.
1. Innovative Solutions
More than ever, today’s procurement departments are expected to deliver innovation to their work. But procurement also has a long legacy of inertia. It hasn’t been a profession forever. In fact, in more than a couple of organizations, it has been a dumping ground for people who couldn’t succeed elsewhere. They just floated along.
So, you need to determine which group a candidate belongs in: the innovators or the floaters.
A behavioral interview question you could ask may be “What was the most innovative procurement project you’ve been involved in and what specifically did you do?”
2. Cultural Situations
Some organizations have very unique cultures. They can be very political. And procurement is often at the epicenter of cultural issues…and cultural conflicts.
If your organization is characterized by cultural sensitivities, it is important to make sure you hire a procurement candidate that is culturally agile. You don’t want a proverbial bull-in-a-china-shop personality in an environment that requires consensus. And you don’t want someone who wilts under pressure if you are trying to overcome unreasonable obstacles to change management.
A behavioral interview question you could ask to evaluate a procurement candidate’s cultural agility is “Tell me about a time when you had to really evaluate the organization’s culture before you could make a decision.”
3. Ethical Situations
Because procurement departments control or influence so much of an organization’s cash outflow, they can attract lots of ethical challenges. With infractions ranging from accepting a supplier’s promotional pen when an organization explicitly prohibits it to creating purchase orders to one’s spouse’s company, there are many opportunities for a procurement professional to go ethically astray. You don’t want a procurement candidate who has anything less than the highest standards of business ethics.
Therefore, you should always ask behavioral questions addressing ethics, such as “Tell me about a time when you encountered a situation that was ethically questionable and tell me what you did.”
If you are recruiting a seasoned procurement professional for a senior-level position, you should be able to draw some good responses. If you are hiring someone for a more entry-level procurement position, they may not have examples for each of the foregoing questions. Even in these situations, you can get a feel for a candidates:
- Degree of honesty
- Comfort in situations where they don’t have all the answers
- Understanding of important procurement concepts, even if they haven’t experienced them
That last point is an important one. In procurement, there are a lot of new situations to be encountered, even by procurement professionals who have been in the field a while. It is important to be prepared to perform well in new and unexpected situations, without making mistakes. Behavioral interview questions can help you identify candidates who are either experienced in challenging situations or at least mentally prepared for them.