How to get a job in procurement

Want to get a job in procurement? Want to enter into procurement for the first time? Or simply want any job that is stable and reasonably paid? 

I have been on both sides of the table multiple times. Here is what I have noticed, that may help you. 

 

First Procurement job

Rarely do people apply for a first-time job in procurement because they want to build a career in procurement. Often, they apply to get any job. Or internally, they see a great team and would like to join.

So, here is what I was looking for when interviewing junior procurement team members:

  • Do you follow up with questions? Are you interested to learn more?
  • “Can do” attitude. Hire a person that positively answers a hard question.
    • No, I don’t know, but I can learn.
    • It would be tough (but no negative answer)
    • If needed, I can stay/travel
  • Good knowledge of Excel. No matter the maturity of the company, Excel is used a lot.
  • People who say “we” more than “I”. Superstars are good for sales. Not so much for procurement. We need to manage many stakeholders, and this is difficult for people that like to be in the spotlight

Here is one example. I hired a person with no experience in procurement. The only reason for hiring was the fact that she had a food blog. This pointed out to me that:

  • She is quite good with technology
  • Her English is excellent
  • She is passionate about the industry (we were a catering company)
  • She is willing to learn and explore

It turned out to be one of my best hires ever.

I made as well a mistake. Hired a person with great credentials, recommended by a couple of people, procurement peers. The first red flag that I ignored was the fact that she postponed the interview several times last minute, stating she has other obligations. A person who does not know what she will do in three days while unemployed? In the interview, she was going back to the fact that she is unemployed and needs a job. No real examples of a well-handled project or a case where she was the one in the driver’s seat. Yet, I assumed that she must be a great hire due to her knowledge.

Despite many years in procurement and several certificates and diplomas, her performance was just average.

 

Looking for a job as an experienced Procurement Professional

Should a procurement professional apply only to jobs in the industry that he has experience? How important is product knowledge? Can a procurement professional switch industries? I was involved in online discussions where opposite answers were presented on several occasions. On both sides with a long list of examples and explanations.

In my personal experience, product knowledge was not the main factor in the company’s decision to hire me. I worked in food, steel, and services, and was everywhere equally good. Yes, it takes a bit more time to learn the products. But overall, my opinion is that a good professional can adapt anywhere.

What I have seen in interviews where I was the candidate and in cases where I was the hiring manager:

  • Negotiation skills are very valued. Show an example of a good negotiation you have done in the past.
  • Do not focus so much on what were the responsibilities, but on what was your part in the team. So many times I have seen CVs that look like copy/paste of the job description made by HR. 
  • Everyone asks what do you know about the company. Do the homework.
  • Education and certificates are becoming more and more important. Do not focus on Supply Chain and Procurement alone. Show that you have learned about Project Management, data analytics, and all the skills you will need in the job.
  • Let your CV speak in numbers. What was the spend under your control, the savings in %, number of items/contracts/suppliers you have handled in your previous role? Be careful not to violate any confidentiality rules of your current or previous employer.
  • Hands-on attitude. It is expected that, from time to time, you will do the RFQ or jump in the car and go to the supplier for a very small purchase. Companies want to be agile, and you need to show that you will support them.
  • Languages. Especially in companies and industries that have high imports. You do not have to be perfect, just be able to communicate in several languages.

Some general comments for all job seekers

Here are some points that apply to all job seekers. I apologize in advance if this will present me as rude and insensitive to the suffering of the jobless. But unfortunately, those are facts I learned through my own experience. I have been working in the airline industry and got laid off in 2020, together with 40% of the company workforce. And managed to get another job rather quickly by focusing on the below:

 

  • Reach out to your network. Do not ask them to find a job for you, but to let you know if there is an open position. Don’t push them to help, you don’t know what is the situation in their company.
  • Approach recruiters directly. Many will not respond, but the ones that get to know you personally will more likely recommend you to their clients.
  • Build your online presence. Articles, posts, online webinars, WhatsApp groups. Use your time to showcase your knowledge and experience to a wider audience. 
  • Don’t go with the “I have no money to live, please give me a job” story. Companies rarely hire for compassion, but for your knowledge that will help them to make a profit. Plus, they will push your salary down, knowing that you are desperate.
  • Job search is a numbers game, and all you can do is focus on your “output”. I have applied to 300 jobs where I was fulfilling at least 50% of the requirements before landing an offer.
  • However, don’t dump your CV everywhere and hope someone will get back to you. Rather send out short messages stating what are you looking for and what are you bringing to the table.
  • Don’t apply for jobs that are more than a level or two below your last role. Recruiters will understand that you are looking for a place to make some money until you find a better job. They will reject you, and you will feel very bad. 
  • The 7-seconds CV review rule is more-less true. Sometimes you will not be invited for an interview due to bad luck only. Don’t get discouraged. 
  • Remember, no one can take away your knowledge and experience. Be persistent, the right match will come. 

 

My personal experience

As I have shared on a couple of occasions, I started my journey in procurement by accident. The procurement manager was fired, and her work got dumped on me until a replacement comes. Since I got things under control quite fast, the replacement never came. Then I moved away from procurement for three years but got another opportunity in Supply Chain. Which I accepted, even not precisely knowing what will I do. This time, I stayed, through three further jobs and 10+ years so far.

What I came to know later is that the majority of Supply Chain and procurement professionals have more-less a similar story.

As I already mentioned, in 2020. I was laid off. The company I was with had its operations completely stopped due to COVID and had no choice. I had enough savings to live without a job for almost a year, my wife had her job. Still, it was tough.

What have I done, starting from the very first day:

  • Scheduled 3 hours every day dedicated to job search. After this, I would do something else. During these 3 hours I would:
    • Go to a specific number of jobs seeking portals. Once I finish browsing through them, I would stop. I have noticed that many jobs are copied, so you are just wasting your time.
    • Adjusted my CV to specific requirements for the jobs I am applying for. No wrong information, just emphasis on things I have done, that are highlighted in the job description.
    • Scroll through LinkedIn to see if any of my contacts have posted a job.
    • Opened web pages of companies I would like to work in and checked their career page.
  • Contacted all people I know personally, by email, or through social media: suppliers, group members, and school friends. Asked them to let me know if an opportunity comes by. Got many callbacks from people trying to support me. Even though many of them could not help, it helped so much to hear words of encouragement.
  • Found all the free courses I enrolled in the past years but did not have time to go through them. LinkedIn, Udemy, edX, Coursera. Went through them, and deleted the ones I am no longer interested in. Took the ones I wanted.
  • Started this blog, from scratch and by myself. It was a great way to learn a new skill, plus to showcase my knowledge.
  • Converted the first 20 articles into a Kindle book. I cannot say that it has been sold a lot of copies, but every sale boosted my self-confidence to the sky. Btw, turning a Word document into a Kindle e-book will not take you more than 10 hours of work.

Eventually, I had 5 interviews, all through personal connections. And within 60 days from my last working day got two job offers.

 

Looking for a job is stressful, no matter if you are jobless or have a stable position and looking for a change. Having a plan and following it will make it a bit easier. If you have more suggestions for jobseekers, feel free to drop them in the comments.

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