What Clients Really Look For in a Candidate

Career Insights Aug 1st, 2010Comments Off on What Clients Really Look For in a Candidate

When we post a job on our website, I often get several calls from prospective candidates. Everyone of them thinks they are a perfect candidate for the job. Unfortunately, most of them are not. That does not mean they are not good procurement professionals. It just means that they are not a good fit for that specific job. They reality is that clients are very picky on the types of experience they want candidates to possess. And in this economy, they are even more picky. To kick off my blog, I want to peel back the curtain and let all of you know the key attributes clients want in candidates.

  1. Disciplined Strategic Sourcing Process – Do you follow a disciplined strategic sourcing process? I don’t mean a procedure that has 80 steps. I’m talking about strategic process something similar to the seven step process AT Kearney made famous. The first step is some type of assessment followed by research, developing a sourcing strategy, RFP/Q development, negotiate, implement, and continuous improvement. Candidates that come from companies that follow a process are viewed as disciplined, strategic, data driven, comprehensive, and take a total cost of ownership approach. If you already follow a process like this today, make sure you can clearly articulate it in an interview process. If your company doesn’t follow a disciplined approach today, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Read up on the topic, attend training classes and start to apply this approach where you work today. Two things will happen. One, you will become much more marketable externally. And two, maybe your stakeholders will take notice of your more professional approach and promote you.
  2. Influencing Skills – This is the most important quality my clients look for. Most companies today operate in a center-led procurement organization. Procurement professionals don’t own the spend, they influence it. Therefore, you could be the best negotiator on the planet, but if you can’t sell ideas internally, you won’t be successful. For candidates out there that want a centralized procurement function where all they have to do is procure, I have bad news for you. Those jobs are disappearing and they pay far less then center led roles. Procurement professionals need to embrace being a salesperson. In the interview process, be prepared to talk about examples where you initiated projects and changed stakeholders minds.
  3. Deep Category Experience – Candidates hate to hear this and I hate to say it. But you can’t change the facts. Clients want candidates with deep experience in the industry and category that the job focuses on. Now this is when I get the speech from all of you that says “Jeff, I am a sourcing professional. It is all about the process. I can apply that to any category. After six months, I will be an expert on that category.” And I will agree with you about 98% of the time. However, you have to give the client what they want, and more specifically what they think they need. For the majority of our searches, clients want industry experience and almost always demand category experience. Sometimes we can convince a client to hire for talent instead of category experience. A lot of times we cannot. So when you send your information to us, make sure to include all the categories’ that you are proficient in sourcing. The other thing I would suggest is to do as much as you can at your current company to broaden the categories you have sourced. This will make you more marketable in the long run.

These are the three key things my recruiters look for in a candidate. If you possess all three, odds are, the opportunity will be a good fit.

Jeff Flannery
About the Author:

Mr. Flannery has many years of executive search, supply chain consulting experience, supply chain strategy, and process improvement. He has managed consulting projects for several Fortune 500 clients on three continents, including: Raytheon, IBM, Union Bank of California, H.J. Heinz, ConAgra, Eaton, Nestle, and Lucent Technologies. Mr. Flannery holds a Bachelor of Arts in Finance from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters of Business Administration in Strategy from Indiana University.

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