Gareth Hughes, head of procurement, Legal & General
The key is understanding what an organisation is about, what it aspires to achieve and how it wants to achieve it.
Blue-chip organisations are often easier to understand in this sense as there tends to be more information available. View your next career opportunity as a marketing campaign:
- Insight Look at the company website and read about the organisation, including the careers and corporate social responsibility elements. This will tell you whether this is an organisation you will fit into, enjoy working for, or succeed in. Read the trade press and historical news.
- Proposition What have you achieved that will contribute to its objectives for the future? Think not only about the result, but how you achieved it and the challenges.
- Communicate Whether it’s in your CV, LinkedIn profile or an interview, be concise, clear and confident. The best way to achieve this is to prepare so you know your CV and the context inside out, applying the insight you have gained, whatever the question, scenario or role.
Nick Dobney, GNFR purchasing director, Kingfisher
I look at three broad aspects when assessing candidates for purchasing roles.
First, can they do the job? Second, will they do the job? And third, how will they fit into my team and the dynamics of our company?
The question of ‘can’ is about technical procurement skills and business experience. This covers strategic procurement capability as well as negotiating great deals with a high attention to detail. I like to find out what major achievements have been made.
The second question of ‘will’ is about the candidates’ motivations, their passion for the job and tenacity to make change happen.
The fit is about their experience in multi-business-unit international companies, as well as the ability to get on with people. Candidates should work out what type of organisation they want to join. Purchasing functions have different remits depending on business requirements, from structured organisations with full control and command, to more entrepreneurial environments where adding value has to be consistently demonstrated.
Richard Denney, procurement director (interim), Aviva Shared Services
There is plenty of advice available about how to present your CV so it highlights strengths and experience relevant to the role for which you’re applying. This is important as it is all the hiring organisation will have to base a shortlisting decision on.
The recruitment process will seek to test a blend of technical competencies alongside non-technical competencies, so it’s important to draw attention to the ones you feel are relevant and to be ready to have them tested.
Blue-chips will want to look beyond procurement experience – which, to a large extent must be a given – to your non-technical qualities. When recruiting externally, we look for those who demonstrate great customer-centricity, both internally and externally. We also look for strong leadership qualities, whether leading yourself as an individual contributor to the organisation, or leading teams.
We also look for individuals who are proven to be versatile, resilient and who have performed strongly in a changing environment.
1. Consider your fit with the company and your fitness for the role
2. Present your CV in a manner that highlights your strengths and experience relevant to the company
How to make yourself more employable
Keep your skills current, identify your future path and make sure you communicate it to others, advises Kathi Jobkar, manager, strategic sourcing for Allegheny Technologies.
Much of the advice involves asking yourself a series of questions to discover where you are, where you want to go and what you’re capable of. “Know who you are, your skills and shortcomings and what makes you feel fulfilled,” she says.
She suggests professionals write a list of their strengths and weaknesses and seek input from friends and family.
Next, she says, write a one-page biography that explains what you do today and what you’ve done in the past, including career highlights and credentials. If you have a second degree, highlight it on your business card: “It’s your calling card, it should speak for you to some extent, and you’ve earned it,” says Jobkar.
Next, write a list of your preferences and priorities – what sort of environment do you like to work in, do you like people around, whereabouts in the world would you like to be situated, what perks do you want and what commute will you put up with?
Once you know what you want to do, Jobkar recommends people research the industry and speak to those in it. “Network and take some courses if necessary to bring your skills up to scratch.” She says people should market themselves by making it easy for others to find out about their capabilities and get contact details.
Also, she says: “Get a friend to video you being ‘interviewed’ so you can see how you perform and build a portfolio to take to interviews that includes examples of your achievements.”
If you want to develop in the role you’re already in, Jobkar advises people to write an ‘advancement plan’. “Increase your value to the company by preparing – understand what the drivers of success are and find ways to contribute to them. Offer to take on more responsibility, expand your skill set, communicate your goals to your boss, observe what critical functions other members of your team are doing and consider doing them, too.”
“What would your ideal life look like?” she asks. “Eliminate excuses and get out there. Progress is made in inches, not miles at a time and every experience you have, good or bad, prepares you for the next thing.”
Andrew Daley, director of procurement recruitment firm Edbury Daley
- Apply for jobs you have a chance of getting – if the post requires specific category experience, make sure you have it.
- Make it a no brainer that your CV will be read – highlight the most relevant experience you have that meets the job specification in your covering letter.
- Those seeking procurement staff put stakeholder engagement skills top of the list of requirements.
- Give hard evidence of achievements, for example savings against percentage of spend, but don’t give specific information that could breach confidentiality.
- Show commitment to the recruitment process by giving information promptly and being available for interviews.
Rachel Lee, CPO at FM services provider Norland, said she’s been really disappointed with CVs she’s seen of late.
“Let’s not promote ourselves on our CVs as just doing cost savings. What else have you done?”