Landing the best—November/December print issue

Tips for attracting procurement and supply chain management talent

December 11, 2012
by By Katherine Risley

Whether you’re growing your team or replacing a staff member, attracting top procurement and supply chain management talent is tricky. In this highly competitive market, it’s no longer enough to post a job on your website and wait for the right candidate to roll in, as there are more jobs out there then there are great candidates. Employers must be strategic about what will attract candidates to apply and, once they apply, what you can do to keep them engaged.

First and foremost, you need to do an internal assessment. Look at what you really need in a candidate to ensure you don’t work to entice a superstar negotiator when what you need is a strong contracts manager. You’ll want to identify the soft skills that will make someone successful in the role and use this to attract and screen candidates, rather than focusing solely on the hard skills like industry or commodity experience. All too often, employers cast too small a net and miss candidates who could be assets.

You’ll also need to identify what makes your role stand out so you can sell the opportunity to potential candidates. Whether it’s the type of commodity the future employee will have the chance to work with, the markets you operate in or the spend size they’ll manage, you can use these features to attract a candidate who will be excited about that aspect of the role. If you’ve been in the department for some time, it may be difficult to note everything that makes the role unique. Use your contacts in supply chain management to see what they feel is exciting about the opportunity.

Knowing what candidates are looking for and marketing that is half the battle. Candidates are attracted to companies that are forward thinking and view the supply chain management group as an important business partner. Candidates want to move into a role that allows them to flex their negotiating muscles, offers some level of complexity, encourages creative problem solving and requires building and leveraging strong business relationships. Good candidates look to make an impact on a company. When they meet with you, they will want a clear picture of what upcoming projects and challenges they’ll tackle. You want them to get excited, so be prepared to talk about the unique projects you have.

The opportunity for growth is also a big factor in enticing a strong supply chain management candidate. Think about how the type of work will enhance a candidate’s career, what unique opportunities they’ll be involved in, what training or professional development they will be exposed to and how their hard work will help them to advance. Depending on company structure, you may need to promote lateral development rather than upward growth, as even that can motivate a candidate to make a move as long as they feel their career will be impacted positively.

It’s often not only the job that attracts candidates but the work environment. You know why you enjoy working for your current employer, so make sure candidates do too. If your employer has a strong industry reputation, you’ll want to compliment that by highlighting perks like flexible work hours and location, travel opportunities, team building opportunities and community involvement. If you have a strong team, you may want to have potential candidates engage with them during the interview process so they can ask questions, get a sense of team dynamics and get excited about joining the group.

It’s no surprise that one of the best ways to attract initial interest in a job is to have competitive compensation. Ensure your compensation is in line with market demands by comparing it to the PurchasingB2B/MM&D/CT&L/PMAC Annual Survey of the Canadian Supply Chain Professional or asking market experts like recruitment firms. Along with promoting salary, you’ll want to highlight areas like benefits, RRSP/pension, vacation time, overtime, stock options and bonus plans. These aspects make compensation packages more attractive, or bolster a salary that’s slightly below market average.

When looking for supply chain management talent, your ability to identify the areas that make the role stand out, opportunities for growth, work environment and total compensation go far in getting candidates’ attention. To reach active and passive candidates, go beyond online posting and send it out to your network, post on LinkedIn and use association websites. For critical or tough-to-fill roles, you may want to engage a supply chain management recruitment firm—they’ll have access to a network of candidates that are otherwise difficult to reach.

The effort you put into selling an opportunity to candidates is related to the quality of candidates who will apply. Once you’ve met a candidate and gauged their motivation, you can continue to sell the aspects of your opportunity that meet their motivations. This will help you to ensure they remain engaged and end up part of your team.

Katherine Risley is a senior consultant at Meridia Recruitment, a Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette company, based in Halifax. You can reach her at