How to nail a job in procurement or supply chain | by Elaine Porteous

Elaine Porteous Blog Many leading recruiters offer general advice on how to prepare for and behave in an interview situation. That’s all freely available and very helpful, but what about preparing for a procurement or supply chain role, how is it different?

Before the interview

Because procurement is an important and integral part of any organisation, you need to fully understand the dynamics of the organisation that is hiring.

Research the following:

  • The background of the company and the industry it is in. The more information you gather before the interview, the better prepared you will be to answer questions related to the company and industry during the interview. Be fully prepared to answer the questions “What do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?”.
  • The requirements of the job. Make sure you understand the job you are applying for: duties, skills, relevant experience, and other requirements. Think about the types of questions that you can expect about the job role and prepare your answers in advance to match the position you are being interviewed for.
  • The interviewer (or hiring manager). Who is he or she? What is his/her work background and experience?

On the day of the interview:

  • Make sure that you arrive early, or at least on time.
  • Switch off your cell phone.
  • Present a professional appearance to create a good first impression.
  • Be aware of your body language.
  • Treat everyone you meet there with respect.

At the interview

Job interview formats go in and out of fashion: you can be asked to do a video or panel interview or even one that includes stakeholders. Whatever the format, you need to demonstrate your understanding of the role on offer and how it fits in with their supply chain. You need to be able to articulate how you fit the requirements and how you would go about bringing about change, where required.

Behavioural interview questions are very common in supply chain and are designed to elicit specific and detailed responses about the situations or tasks in which you were involved in previous jobs, the actions you took, and the results. Listen carefully to any information the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond by giving your own examples.

Questions sometimes start with “Tell me about a time when...”, where the interviewer will work through the STAR technique:

  • The TASK or problem that arose;
  • The ACTION you took;
  • What the RESULT was.

Prepare one or two examples in advance and rehearse them well so that they tell a story. Make sure you demonstrate that you have good critical and analytical thinking skills, are a good communicator, have time management skills, and are flexible, i.e. show that your expertise is transferable to them.

Do you have any questions?

A candidate will almost always be asked if they have any questions. Understanding how to communicate your interest is very important so have your questions ready. Genuine questions about how the company manages its direct and indirect procurement and how the different elements of their supply chain operate will be welcomed. Once a company has established an interest in you they will always ask a variation of the following, “why our company?”, “why this position?” and “why you?”. Their responses to these questions are often you’re the most critical during the interview process.

Where it can go wrong:

Feedback from senior managers and top recruiters says that in supply chain where candidates fail are:

  • Not being prepared, it seemed like they were winging it.
  • Did not know enough about the company and its operations.
  • Did not demonstrate any energy for or interest in the role offered.
  • Could not provide examples or explain how they are suitably qualified.
  • Arrived late for the interview.

Displaying a positive attitude and expressing a great sense of enthusiasm for the company and the role is an excellent starting point for landing that job.

Elaine Porteous is a regular contributor to Bespoke Procurement Bulletin and a freelance business writer and commentator on supply chain and talent management -

Posted on November 07, 2016