As part of Spend Matters focus on Talent this month we are contributing a series of articles relating to the subject of recruitment and retention of outstanding procurement professionals.
A great recruitment strategy actually starts with the retention of your best people. Why? Retaining, developing and promoting your best people sends a very positive message to the market that your department is a great place to work. Conversely an organisation with high staff turnover and unhappy staff will quickly gain a negative reputation.
So how do you keep your best people happy, motivated and away from what is a very busy job market?
Here we look at the reasons why procurement professionals to want to leave their current employer, what we in the recruitment profession call “push” factors.
Looking at this study from the US they list the top three reasons in order as:
- Career Advancement
- Work/life balance
We wouldn’t necessarily disagree with this but from our experience with procurement people there are a number of factors in play. Using years of anecdotal experience, here’s a list of the most common reasons people tell us they want to move.
Lack of career progression – when people reach the glass ceiling where they realise their future opportunities for advancement are limited they are generally willing to consider roles with organisations where those opportunities are considerably better. This is a common mindset amongst “passive” job seekers.
Lack of training and development – “I’m not learning anything” or “I don’t feel challenged” are common complaints that usually tie in with a lack of career progression.
Break down in relationship with boss/peers/stakeholders – this can lead to a pretty unhappy time at work and usually results in a desire to move jobs as quickly as possible.
Lack of senior management support – procurement needs sponsorship at the highest level to effect positive change. A lack of support from the top is a common reason why departmental leaders want to move. Similarly for those working with difficult or uncooperative stakeholders in Category Management roles, going to work can be very unrewarding and encourages people to seek an environment where their skills will be valued by others.
No challenge left in the role – many leading procurement people thrive on delivering the inherent change required to deliver better commercial outcomes. When they have delivered significant improvements and are left with running a “steady state” they become bored and seek the next challenge, usually in a new employer.
Treated unfairly – when people perceive that others are being treated better by senior management, whether it be through promotions, pay rises or bigger bonuses, this breeds resentment and pushes that person onto the job market.
Colleagues moving on – when people see their friends at work moving to other organisations for better roles and salaries they begin to wonder if they should be considering options outside their current employer.
Company health/profitability – be definition procurement people are commercially savvy and have access to all sorts of financial data. They know when the company is struggling and this brings the issue of job security onto the agenda.
Work/life balance – working long hours, making early or late calls to colleagues, stakeholders and suppliers in different time zones and excessive work loads will be tolerated by many in the short term but when it becomes a long term trend and impacts on your personal life it becomes a source of discontent.
Practical reasons – a significant change in personal circumstances often prompts people to look for a new job that is more suited to their lifestyle. People also move because of excessive business travel and difficult commutes.
Financial – it is actually very rare that a procurement person lists salary as the principal reason why they want to consider a move. In fact it’s usually us that raises the issue of salary and benefits when we first speak to a new candidate and most people will tell us that its only one consideration in a much broader picture.
However when it comes to actually discussing a job offer, it becomes clear that the salary is usually a critical factor.
This situation is perhaps best illustrated by something one of my senior management consulting clients once said to me:
“The thing that irritates me about hiring procurement people is how they switch from sales mode in interview to buyer mode at offer stage. They tell us that career progression is their top priority then feel the need to demonstrate their negotiation skills and end up giving the impression it was about salary all along.”
Whilst this maybe a slightly harsh judgement, it does offer an interesting insight into how many procurement professionals behave during the process, and confirms that salary is a key driver in almost every job move.
In our recent research into recruitment best practice we asked how much of an increase in basic salary would you require to commit to a move?
Only 10% of participants would move for an improvement of 5% on their salary, whilst 44% wanted at least a10% uplift. 39% said they would only move for an improvement of 20%.
With the skills shortage we mentioned above and this approach to negotiating job offers, its clear to us that companies looking to attract the best procurement people will have to look carefully at their budgets in 2015. Quite simply, if the financial package on offer isn’t attractive, most procurement people will wait until someones makes them an offer that does meet their expectations.
Our message to procurement leaders is this – we are on the cusp of a skills shortage in key areas of the procurement profession. Hiring good people is becoming increasingly difficult in a competitive job market and your best people will be in the sights of head hunters. A key target for you in 2015 is to work hard to keep those best people.
Whilst a small degree of staff churn is viewed as healthy by most, keeping your best people will also make it easier to attract a quality replacement when you do lose somebody.
For an alternative view from the US on this subject, this article from Forbes magazine makes interesting reading.
During the Christmas and New Year holidays we worked on several articles with our partners at Spend Matters which were designed to advise those procurement professionals considering a job move in 2015. We covered a range of topics which the active job seeker needs to consider if he or she is going to maximise their chances of find the right role to achieve their career objectives. Topics include how to network and position yourself to get head hunted, working with recruiters, planning your criteria for a move and developing your interview technique.
Here are all the articles in the order they appeared on http://spendmatters.com/uk/
The Christmas holidays and early January are traditionally times when people reflect on the previous year and begin to think about a potential job move. Recent research indicates that many people will use their new electronic devices to start looking for a job from Boxing Day onwards.
If this applies to you then our series of articles in association with Spend Matters will be invaluable. We’ll look at what you can do to enhance your chances of finding an exciting career opportunity that is right for you in 2015. We’ll cover key issues like how to plan your job search and criteria for a move. We’ll also advise you on how to use your own network and select which recruiters you will work with.
It’s important to note that a number of factors make January a time when recruitment activity rises. They include the emotional factor of seeing in a new calendar year and contemplating what the future may hold … but in addition there are sound financial reasons why the early part of the year is a busy one for job moves.
Many people receive their annual bonus payments in the first quarter of the year, so this is a factor in terms of when they want to resign from their current position.
Evidence also indicates that many organisations begin to recruit as their business plans and headcount budgets are confirmed early in the calendar year. This fuels a rise in both advertising and recruitment activity in general.
So it’s going to be a competitive market, whether you are hiring the best available talent or trying to find an exciting new role. We hope our advice will help you achieve your goals in 2015.
1. Updating Your CV
There are many varying viewpoints on what constitutes a good CV. It is actually very subjective and CV formats vary from sector to sector and across different job functions.
It is often recommended that you should tailor your CV for every role you apply for and whilst this is good advice it can be very time-consuming and not practical if you are in a busy job. An alternative therefore is to think carefully about your key strengths and achievements and create a general document that promotes your best skills and experience. Then you merely need to highlight the skills and experience important for each role rather than a comprehensive review each time.
Focus on the skills, knowledge and competencies that are strengths or those that you enjoy and want to highlight to develop in your next role. The CV is effectively your advert so make it the best you can and use it for all roles. Get feedback from others before you send it out. Make sure that the first page gets across all the key points you wish to highlight – it is true that unless a reviewer finds something interesting on the first page they will rarely read the rest.
Don’t do a long list of responsibilities or just repeat your job description – it is boring and frankly people will assume you are an average candidate. Reviewers look for clarity and relevant experience and the transferable skills you can offer a new employer and want to use/develop in new role.
Yes, describe the roles you undertook but make it brief and make certain you show what problems you solved and how.Companies want to hire people who can change things, improve results, develop teams or improve processes so you need to show you can do this.
Also be careful not to use too much internal jargon. Most organisations have their own structures and terminology but think what people outside may or may not understand. Often a junior HR person may be sifting the CV first – will they know what SRM means for example?
2. Networking And Positioning Yourself To Get Approached Or Head-hunted
Most research concurs that the majority of professional jobs are not advertised. So unless you network effectively your job search will take longer and you may miss out on many of the better roles altogether.
Most roles are filled via a number of different networks, whether this is your own personal network or particularly that of recruiters, but it can be via colleagues, old bosses, stakeholders, or even suppliers.
Many people underestimate how many roles are found through social media with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook all featuring strongly – so if you are not using these then you need to consider them. For professional procurement roles, LinkedIn is the most important.
Recruiters, whether they are in-house or at an agency, widely use these sites as ‘research tools’ to find people with the skills and experience they are looking for. If your profile has little information about what you do, or you don’t make your profile ‘open to view’, then you will not come up in a search so will not get approached.
Your LinkedIn profile is effectively an online networking CV and it needs to reflect your actual CV. Similarly, to create a good profile you need to do the full sales pitch and use many key words relevant to your role or industry, as this is how recruiters search for suitable candidates. Many people use their internal job title, but consider what your job is called most commonly, as this is the term that gets searched for.
You also need to extend your network as the more connections you have the broader your network becomes. However, be discrete as your boss and colleagues will use LinkedIn too, so connecting with ten recruiters at once may raise eyebrows!
Do add ‘recommendations’ on LinkedIn but try to get them from senior people you have worked with – a recommendation from the cleaner (with no disrespect to cleaners) doesn’t look as good as one from a Director (or an old boss).
To bolster your network in a focused way to decide on the kind of role and sector you wish to work in and focus your efforts there – look at the companies in the sector and see if you know people and connect to them. Join groups that are relevant to your role as this also makes you more visible and if you feel confident comment on posts to enhance this or click that you ‘like’ the posts of others, as again this raises your profile and people will notice you.
Talk to recruiters to see what their client base is and what sectors they focus on so that their network compliments your own. Tell them the kinds of organisation you will consider or the values and environment that you prefer.
Most of all remember that this all takes time; finding a job often takes at least 3 to 6 months – so be patient and don’t expect immediate results – connecting or helping someone now may get a pay back years down line. Building a network is an ongoing process and if you don’t respond to ex-colleagues, contacts or recruiters when you aren’t looking, they are less likely to jump to help you when you do decide to move.
3. Choosing Which Recruiters To Use
Selecting your recruitment consultancies and which ones can seem like a question without a definitive answer. So let’s take the two constituent parts separately.
Firstly, how many? As many as possible maximises your coverage but that comes with serious caveats. It takes time and effort in establishing contact, briefing the consultant on your career situation, discussing your ideas for your next career move and the relevant financial and geographical parameters. For each additional recruiter you engage with you need to repeat this exercise.
It is also worth keeping in mind that within a specific field of employment, such as procurement, many hiring companies will place their vacancy with several preferred recruiters. If you are registered with a large number of consultants expect to get several calls about the same position which can be frustrating and a waste of your time.
So some middle ground on number of recruitment consultants is appropriate. If you are actively seeking a new position three carefully chosen consultants should give your job search good coverage without excessive time spent briefing consultants or crossover with the same job when it arises.
Secondly, which consultancies? A recommendation from your network of a good recruiter is an ideal start but if you don’t have this luxury then an internet search on recruiters in procurement will give you a long list. Visit each company’s website and check out their credentials. Are they really a specialist in procurement? Do they advertise the sort of jobs that would interest you? Can you see the backgrounds of the individual consultants who would be helping you in your career move?
Trust your instincts here. Good recruiters are knowledgeable about procurement and prepared to give you helpful advice on your worth in the job market. The best listen carefully to what you are looking for and keep those criteria in mind when speaking to you about a position they are working on. Be wary of those that over promise, are scant on detail or always seem to be pushing job opportunities.
4. Applying For New Roles
Many companies successfully hire procurement professionals directly. Often this is done via an in-house recruitment team who may approach you in much the same way as a third-party headhunter would. This may happen if they have found your details on a social networking platform or you have applied to the company in the past.
However, if you want to be a bit more proactive you may want to consider some direct approaches to desirable employers. This may be in the tried-and-tested format of simply applying to an advert. The majority of recruitment advertising is now online either on major generalist or industry specialist job boards. In addition, a number of companies advertise their vacancies on their own websites.
It is helpful to add a short covering email to your online application expressing some specific detail about why you are looking for a new position and why the position you are applying for is of interest. It is so much easier to apply for jobs online than by post so employers are often swamped with irrelevant applications. Make sure yours stands out from the masses.
You may have companies that you admire and would be interested in working for. If that is the case you could approach them directly even without an advertised vacancy. Typically you would need to try to identify a senior member of the HR or recruitment team and contact them to explain your interest and what skills and experience you have to offer. This is speculative by nature and so generates a low success rate, however, it may at least create a dialogue which leads to you be considered in the future for suitable jobs.
Often persistence is key when applying for a position directly. If you haven’t received a response to your CV then make contact by email or phone to ask for progress and any feedback. Even if you are not invited for interview you may learn something positive about another opportunity in the company or at least the reason why you weren’t successful.
5. Criteria For A Move
It sounds obvious but think carefully about why you want to move. Write down which aspects of your job you are looking to improve on. This helps to take out some of the emotion of the wish list for a new position. It also helps to prepare you to articulate these reasons when asked in an interview situation
Turn any negatives in to a positive as it is important to deliver your requirements in interview in the right manner. For example “I am looking to further develop my negotiation skills” will be much better received than “I don’t get any training where I am.”
With regard to salary package, consider if there any elements of your package which are particularly important to you and consider how likely it is that you are going to get a similar benefit elsewhere. For example, you may benefit from a very generous pension scheme with your current employer.
On the one hand you may be able to negotiate an improved basic salary to compensate for a lower pension contribution. However, there may be a point at which such a negotiation prices you out of the job you want. Put simply, the new company may not be willing to find, let’s say, another 10 percent on the basic salary to compensate for your loss of a generous pension scheme. The message here is work out which aspects of your remuneration package you are willing to be flexible on and by how much.
When assessing your potential new employer make sure they can meet the majority, if not all, of the reasons you are seeking to move. Use common sense as well as what you are being told at interview. If it’s an SME, do they really have the defined long-term career path you are seeking? If they are a global business can they offer you the access to the senior stakeholders you are looking for?
It’s also important to keep you eye on the company news. Just a few minutes online will reveal the financial health and public perception of a company. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t join a firm that has suffered some recent difficulties, just go in with your eyes wide open and be confident that the situation will improve.
In summary, be clear in your own mind about the reasons for moving, be able to articulate those in a positive way at interview and do your due diligence on your potential new employer. In other words check the grass really is greener!
6. Interview skills
There are many books that have been written on this subject and it takes practice to become really proficient. However even if you haven’t attended an interview for many years there are a few things you can do to help, but the key thing is being fully prepared.
It is often the case that the best prepared candidates are the ones who are successful at interview rather than those who arrive unprepared thinking that they can ‘wing It’.
If you are nervous remember that the interviewer is probably nervous too – very rarely is someone trying to catch you out – they merely want you to show that you can do the job and solve their problem. They want you to succeed so bear this in mind.
It is impossible to prepare for every possible question, however your preparation should include the following:
- Doing your homework on the job and the company
- Research the people you are meeting on LinkedIn
- From the above think of what you can talk about in the opening ‘meet and greet’
- Be ready to give detailed examples of your experience and skills (competency-based interviewing)
- Think about cultural fit and why you want the job
- If you know somebody in the organisation ask them for hints or tips on the process or the people you will meet
If you don’t know something or haven’t faced a specific situation before it is much better to be honest about it as it is generally obvious when someone doesn’t know as they either start to waffle or quotes best practice rather than giving a specific example.
There are also some typical topics or themes that will be explored in procurement interviews which you can prepare for such as:
- Relationship & stakeholder management
- Procurement best practice
- Role-specific expertise – i.e. leadership, management, strategic sourcing, category management & expertise, etc.
So being prepared and having detailed examples is key.
Also recognise that trained interviewers (often from HR or Resourcing) will be much more formal and less likely to engage in small talk and you need to be prepared for this. They need to ensure they cover the questions and ensure the process is the same for all candidates making this a more formal scenario.
However, no matter how rigorous the process there is still a very strong element of personal chemistry involved in any interview situation. It is true that first impressions count, so do arrive on time, do smile and prepare something to say for the 1st few minutes such as a common connection or a common company or interest.
For more specific career advice tailored to you personally, or to discuss potential please contact one of our Directors:
Andrew Daley – firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Edbury – email@example.com
Peter Brophy – firstname.lastname@example.org