On a weekly basis, the doctor scours the internet for recent developments and news in sourcing, procurement, and supply chain that major publications, analysts, bloggers, and the major LinkedIn trolls … errr … influencers might have missed. If you follow a half dozen thought leaders, analysts, major sources, etc., you won’t miss much, but deep searching can sometimes dredge up interesting tidbits, and other times can dredge up decaying waste that really should be left in the deep.
Recently, deep searching for procurement news dredged up one of the worst Procurement job seeker interview questions and answer articles he’s ever read. (These are bad in general, but if I was hiring, and you gave a single one of these answers, I’d end the interview then and there. You would have clearly demonstrated you do NOT have what it takes to survive one of the hardest back-office jobs there is, with new, unforeseen challenges arising daily.)
I’m not going to link to the article in case the author is a real person who was assigned the grisly task by the publication of writing about something they clearly had no clue about and not auto-generated by a BS OpenAI tool trained on the worse mush it can find, because they don’t deserve the embarrassment if they are a person assigned to write about a subject they were clearly clueless about. However, I am going to quote the first three questions and responses and point out why any Procurement Director worth their weight in any commodity would quickly judge you as unworthy and show you the door, before it had time to finish closing, if you rattled off one of these extremely poor canned responses presented to you.
Q1: Describe your previous experience.
Not a bad question (but the interviewer should ask you about unique aspects of your relevant experience). But
With a background of over 10 years in procurement, I bring comprehensive experience spanning various aspects of the field. My expertise includes sourcing, supplier management, contract negotiation, and administration. Throughout my career, I have consistently delivered noteworthy cost savings and streamlined processes. Additionally, I possess in-depth knowledge of both local and international procurement laws and regulations.
Is NOT a good answer.
1) Presumably if you are applying for a senior procurement role, you have significant relevant experience, how many years you have is going to be clear from your resume, and if you don’t meet a baseline, you don’t get the interview. More meaningful is related experience that brings unique insights to the role.
2) Buzzwords are meaningless. If you don’t have any experience in sourcing, supplier management, or contracts, you’re not Procurement. This is super obvious. If you don’t have any specific skills, or deep knowledge of certain processes, back to the sea with you.
3) If you didn’t deliver savings or process improvements, you would have been fired. Multiple times. It would show on your resume, and you wouldn’t get the interview.
4) What local and international laws? There are 195 countries. These all have laws and regulations that affect Procurements in, from, and through their countries. These could be finance (post-audit/clearance, anti-bribery, etc.), human welfare, sustainability, or other laws. Get specific. If you spent a decade buying fruit from South America but the company wants you to buy semiconductor chips from China, Taiwan, and Japan — how does that help?
Q2: Tell us about your qualifications for this job.
Again, not a bad question (but the interviewer should focus in on your strongest or most unique). But
I hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in supply chain management. Over the course of 5 years, I have actively worked in procurement, honing my skills and expertise. My experience spans the management of both direct and indirect spend, granting me a comprehensive understanding of procurement operations. Moreover, I possess proficiency in various procurement software systems and boast a solid comprehension of contract law.
Is also NOT a good answer.
1) Obvious from the resume, but I can, and probably will in a later article, argue that most business / operations / supply chain programs are NOT (on their own) qualifications for Procurement. (Future article, because this rant is more than an article in itself.)
2) Repeating an answer, inconsistently (10 to 5 years), is useless and adds nothing beyond the resume (except confusion).
3) Again, buzzwords are meaningless. Indirect to one company is direct to another and vice versa. What did you buy? And what insights did you glean (that the average schmuck has no understanding of)?
4) Various systems. Do you mean email and Excel? A 20 year old version of SAP Ariba? A modern suite like Coupa or Jaggaer? Or BoB solutions like Anydata, Bonfire, ContractPodAI, DecideWare, EC Sourcing, etc. etc. etc.
5) Contract Law? Great! But what countries, states/provinces, and contract types are you most adept with. (And remember, expertise in contracts is NOT expertise in contract law. It’s pretty easy to be an expert in contracts if you do them enough, but without a solid legal understanding, it’s pretty hard!)
Q3: How would you describe your procurement process?
Finally, a good question. But
The procurement process typically starts with the receipt of a request for proposal (RFP) from a potential customer. This document outlines the customer’s specific requirements for the desired product or service. The procurement team will leverage this information to compile a comprehensive list of potential suppliers. Subsequently, they will issue a request for quotation (RFQ) to these suppliers.
Is NOT a good answer. It’s actually even worse then the answers above!
1) If you worked for a make-to-order / build-to-order organization, that’s typically the process. If you make off-the-shelf CPG, then the process starts with a forecast and an assignment to “get ‘er done“.
2) If the interviewer doesn’t know what an RFP is, you should run for the door.
3) You can’t procure without suppliers, so this is a standard step in every 5/6/7/8/9 step process out there!
Not once does it get into any specific, unique, best practice details that show the deep understanding you possess of Procurement processes.
At this point in the article, the questions got slightly better — but the answers continued to be bad or even worse than this one.
It’s sad. None of them address what a Procurement Director / Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) is looking for.
The relative priority of desires will vary from CPO to CPO, but these are the big ones that all CPOs have in the back of their minds.
1) Education – a university degree; relevant to what you are buying is typically preferred if you are junior, any degree if you are senior; how does your education relate to the position you are applying for?
2) Experience – relevant experience in what you will be buying, not necessarily as a buyer, possibly as an engineer, depending on the expertise needed to do the job (just like you can teach a mathematician accounting but you can’t always teach an accountant advanced mathematics, you can teach a trained professional Procurement but you can’t always teach an average buyer the fundamentals of technology or engine engineering).
3) EQ (Emotional Quotient) – you will have to work in a team; how did you work in a team in previous job(s) for complex procurements
4) TQ (Technology Quotient) – you will have to use technology, and hopefully continually improving and evolving tech; what modern tech have you used?
5) Think-on-Your-Feet Adaptability – nothing will ever go according to plan, and you will have to fight fires on a daily basis and find solutions quickly to prevent minor bumps leading to major derailments
6) Strategic Thinking – how should you approach a category or a problem; how could you improve current processes based on current learning; what did you do that improved a process in the past or solved a difficult problem?
7) Risk Management Mindset – you can’t eliminate all risks, but you can mitigate many and manage others; how do you embed this in your process
8) Sustainability – both environmental and corporate; you often have to find a delicate balance; what requirements did you have and how did you meet them without skyrocketing costs
9) Mathematics and Cost Modelling – a quote is not a cost, it’s a quote; you need to understand core cost drivers to judge quotes; demonstrate this in at least one answer
10) Independence – you will need to continually learn and continually self manage; your boss won’t be available 24/7 and definitely not when you need to make a critical decision quickly to keep a project moving