What it takes to get hired

June 3, 2010
by Deborah Aarts

Post-downturn, what skills are most important in securing a top job in procurement? Do employers want education or experience? How can candidates find the perfect fit?

These issues dominated a roundtable discussion hosted earlier this year by Hays Purchasing.

The group included seven accomplished professionals: Jill Button, director of strategic sourcing, IT and professional services, Rogers Communications Inc; Neil Drew, business manager, Hays Purchasing; David Fletcher, president and CEO of the Ontario Institute of the Purchasing Management Association of Canada; Jeff Griffith, director, corporate supply chain, MDS Inc; Rob Martini, area procurement manager, Microsoft; Paul O’Connor, procurement manager, Royal Group Technologies Limited; and Kirill Vendrov, director, strategic sourcing, J & J Shared Services.

In sharing their experiences and ideas, the panel identified the skills and strategies needed to land the perfect position in today’s economy.

The right skills set
The group agreed that when it comes to hiring, they’re looking for much more than the ability to issue tenders and manage purchase orders.

For Martini, it’s all about a positive attitude, especially when things get tough. Griffith said financial knowledge is important, especially when it comes to the organization’s cash flow. “You don’t have to be an accountant, but you have to be able to talk like an accountant,” he said.

Several panellists cited presentation skills as a big advantage. “You have to be able to market yourself, your procurement expertise and the procurement function,” said Vendrov.

“You need to have that presence, that ability to be able to influence people at the senior level,” said Button.

“In our day-to-day work, we’re actually selling all the time,” added O’Connor. “We’re selling the organization to suppliers. You need to be engaged and interested in the organization…If you don’t have that fire in the belly, it’s not going to work.”

Education or experience?
When it came to the age-old question of whether education or experience is most appealing to employers today, the group had mixed opinions.

“Education proves a minimal level of understanding,” explained Drew. “It shows you know procurement and will understand the processes; you have that theoretical knowledge. You’re going to need that. Education will hopefully open doors for you that won’t be opened to people who don’t have it. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the job or that you’re the best candidate.”