Category Archives: Career Management

5 Favourite Supply Chain Job Interview Questions… And Answers

There is no limit to the types of questions that can be asked at an interview for a mid-level role in supply chain management (SCM).  We have selected five of our favourites which come up regularly…

By djile/ Shutterstock

There is no limit to the types of questions that can be asked at an interview for a mid-level role in supply chain management (SCM).  We have selected five of our favourites which come up regularly but first, let’s pause for thought about what employers are looking for and why.    

Supply chain careers of the future

According to Unilever, a big global employer with complex supply chains, future opportunities are in:

  • Manufacturing
  • Data analysis 
  • Procurement
  • Transportation
  • Customer service

The accepted way top employers assess your specific skills and technical competencies and your future potential is by conducting a behavioural based interview.  You may be asked to describe situations or tasks you were involved in, your exact role and the results.  They may say “tell me about a time when ………” The skill here is to steer the answers to the best work you have done. Aim to demonstrate how you understand the challenges of today’s complex supply chains, especially theirs. This should lead the interviewers to outline their current problem areas. 

What competencies are employers looking for?  

Problem-Solving

Day-to-day supply chain management involves facing unexpected problems, failures and disruptions. Interviewers need to find out if candidates can identify issues and establish root causes. You may be asked to explain how you resolved types of situations or if you did not, what lessons you learned.

Analytical Skills

To stay competitive companies have to find ways to reduce costs, move goods more quickly and manage supporting operations. You will need to demonstrate your ability to find solutions and implement process improvements using available data.

Communication

Interviewers want to know how you can manage difficult situations such as an angry customer or unhappy service provider.  They will try and establish whether there is likely to be a communication barrier between you and others, both internally and externally.

Global Perspective

Businesses are becoming increasingly global; online connectivity is available 24/7. Interviewers are likely to try to establish your grasp of economics, cultural differences and current world events that may impact their business. 

Five favourite supply chain interview questions

Q1. What is supply chain management? or  What are the key elements of supply chain management?

A.   There is no one correct answer. Basically, the purpose of SCM is to make goods or services readily available to fulfil customer demand. One possible answer is “supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities.” (CSCMP’s definition). Consider adapting your answer to suit the employer; its business may be more involved in services than goods.   

Q.2  What experience can you bring this role?

A.   This is where you can shine. Using what you know from the job specification, be prepared to explain what you have achieved in similar circumstances.  .The key is to be specific and factual when describing projects. Include actual values such as savings achieved, processes improved and size of teams. Go on to describe how these project s benefitted your employer.  Interviewers use the STAR technique:

  • SITUATION  you were in
  • TASK performed
  • ACTION you took
  • RESULT of this activity.

Important: do not overstate your level of experience. It is possible that the interview will dig deep. 

Q 3 How can you add value to our business?

A.  Your research into the current financial and operational status of the company and its place in the market is useful here. Listen carefully to any additional information the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond directly to their problem areas in the supply chain.  Explain about your ability to use the new tools and technologies available, how you would improve supplier relationships and what you would do to save them money, (e.g. reduce inventory, eliminate wastage, procure better).  The aim is to demonstrate your understanding of the role on offer and how you are a perfect fit for their needs.

Q.4 How much do you know about our company and our supply chain?

A.  Organizations expect you to know what they do, where they fit into their industry hierarchy and who their main competitors are. You have to demonstrate that you have done the required homework. They may ask for example: “what do you know about our products and services” or “what is our approach to sustainability?” Fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers and retailers are particularly expert at this. Interviewees at L’Oréal and Diageo have been asked for detail about product ranges, customer bases and global sales figures.

Q.5 How are you keeping up with the new developments in supply chain management?  

A.  Explainwhat you are actively doing to understand the new developments in processes and technology, especially as it affects their operations. However, be honest and realistic when you express how you will use this new knowledge to further their goals. The interviewer is trying to assess your future potential. Consider your answer to an imaginary question such “ what do you think we can do to improve our supply chain agility?”

A hot tip

Many inexperienced interviewers ask silly and irrelevant questions. Some questions are just pointless such as “what is your greatest weakness?” or “how would you describe yourself in three words?”  Read up on these inane questions beforehand and be prepared to address them with stock answers.

At the end of the interview

Ask questions about any areas that you feel have not been adequately covered to your satisfaction. Remember, they may be interviewing you but you are also considering whether you want to work for them. After thanking the interviewer, ask about the next steps in the process and a possible time frame for an offer. This is the point at which you have the opportunity to close the deal. 

If you’d like to read additional related content or get involved with thought provoking discussions check out the Supply Chain Pros group – a one stop shop for all your supply chain needs.

Could A Selfie Save Your Sanity?

A greater understanding of what makes you tick could be the route to a more fulfilling career – and if you are stuck in a rut and can’t move roles, then forget EQ and IQ, learn to boost your PI (physical intelligence). The future is all about understanding and nurturing your self.

By AlessandroBiascioli/ Shutterstock

As a nation we have become paralysed by political uncertainty.

These turbulent times are leaving us trapped. While half of us say we would like to change careers, only one in six are brave enough to make the move, according to recruiters Michael Page.

So, don’t just sit there waiting for things to get better.

Now is the perfect time for a bit of self-reflection.

We spend so much of our lives at work, getting to and from work and then thinking about work, it is important that whatever you do works for your personality type.

Many of us crave jobs which are more fulfilling, more aligned to our values and ones that build or self-worth rather than knocking it.

But how do you really know what makes you tick, if you don’t take a good look at what motivates you?

The answer is a psychometric selfie.

Find out why you do what you do

Michael Page has partnered with FindMyWhy (findmywhy.com) to help you find out more about yourself.

Complete the online questionnaire (be prepared for around 30 minutes of self-reflection) and a tailored psychometric report will reveal some telling insights.  It is important to be honest. That way you will gain most from the advice.

The selfie does more than just match your skills set to new roles.

It highlights your weaknesses to – and this could really transform the way you see yourself.

The good the bad and the potentially ugly

Most of us know what we are good at, but these strengths can also work against us.

Take a team-player as an example.

If you are someone who likes working in collaboration with others, the mutual supported of colleagues and coordinating your efforts with others to get things done, you probably think you have the perfect personality to succeed in your career.

However, what happens when you are faced with conflict or colleagues who work against each other? How do you feel when others are highly critical of you or the team? And how do you feel when you are required to engage with less collegiate colleagues?

Finding yourself in the wrong working environment could leave you less motivated and disengaged.  In fact, your team-player skills set could work against you.

The Me at Work report is a great way to learn more about the potential pitfalls that could trip you up professionally and perhaps the most telling part of the report is the “So what might stop me” section. It is important to avoid self-sabotage.

Build resilience through physical intelligence

While the FindMyWhy may help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and the things to look for in a new role, you may still find that work can cause stress, drain energy and challenge your ability to remain positive (even if you love what you do).

That is why – in addition to being more self aware – you should look at how to be more physically intelligent. This is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) racing through our bloodstreams (through how we breathe, move, think and communicate) in order to reduce work stress, boost energy and kickstart positivity. 

A new wellbeing book by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton called Physical Intelligence available in ebook and paperback looks at the strategies we can all adopt to do this.

These are Dale and Peyton’s top 11 physical intelligence tricks to help you become happier at work.

Reduce Work Stress

  1. Ground Yourself:  Being grounded increases emotional/mental stability, confidence and inner strength. To ‘ground’ yourself, feel your feet on the ground/bottom in the chair and the weight of your body distributed through your skeleton down into the ground – rooted rather than ‘uptight.’
  2. Just Breathe:  Managing your breath pattern is THE key to stabilising the nervous system and managing our physical response to stress. Pace your breathing (e.g., 3 counts in, 5 counts out), with longer out breaths, expelling carbon dioxide that settles in our lungs and increases cortisol (stress hormone).
  3. Focus on Fitness:  Regular exercise is important, elevating our heart rate at least 3 times a day. Otherwise, the parasympathetic nervous system will be too sluggish for us to rebalance when we encounter stress, and if we encounter multiple stressors, we’ll likely feel overloaded.
  4. Talk It Out:  Stress builds through a lack of control, rumination and difficulty deciding on actions. Verbalising stressors removes their charge. Getting advice helps us process and learn from what is happening. Reaching out to a trusted network of supporters boosts oxytocin (belonging hormone), released through non-aggressive, honest, human contact.

Boost Energy

  1. Take a Cold Shower: Turning the water to cold for the last thirty seconds or splashing ice-cold water on our face enhances brain function, improving energy gain.
  2. REST:  To avoid burnout, balance pushing yourself hard with periods for rest and recovery.  Block time in your schedule each week for ‘REST’ (retreat, eat [healthy], sleep and treat) and guard those windows.
  3. Get Some Sleep: Sleep has a bigger impact on our mental, emotional and physical performance than any waking activity. When we sleep, we consolidate memories and experiences, detox the brain of waste products and regenerate brain cells. This makes a profound difference to our daily performance, enabling us to think clearly and deeply, focus well and handle multiple challenges with ease. Aim for that magic minimum of seven hours through naps, proxy sleeps and going to bed even a few minutes earlier each night.

Kickstart Positivity

  1. Smile:  Smiling at yourself in the mirror boosts serotonin (happiness).
  2. Jump:  Literally jump for joy – it promotes optimism.
  3. Bounce Positive:  Apply a learning mindset to setbacks/mistakes.  If you’re dwelling on something, talk to someone you trust about it, then commit to letting it go.
  4. Strengthen Interpersonal Relationships:  Balance your own agenda with those of others, communicate well and flex your behavioural style, creating the chemistry of trust – balancing oxytocin (social bonding/trust), dopamine (goal-orientation/seeking and gaining reward), and testosterone (independent competitive action), while managing cortisol (stress).

The more we use physical intelligence techniques, the better armed we will be to achieve business success. Why not give it a try?

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 3: Community

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this third article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of community.

Who you surround yourself with on a day to day basis is an extremely important fundamental to achieving your goals and the successes you are aiming for.

To be successful, surrounding yourself with others who are striving for more is a very important rule to follow

If a person whose friends are rich and generally that person will also be rich. Find a person who is overweight and you will find on average that most of their friends are also overweight.

 Basically over time, you will become the average of most of your friends, whether they are successful, rich, dynamic, strong, or if they are failures, poor, lazy and weak. over time you will develop their same bad habits. This is why it is so important to seek friends that set good positive examples.

If all your friends are making $100,000 a month and you are only making $100,000 a year, you will be influenced to look for ways to increase your income that is closer to your friends. If your friends are only making $80,000 a year then you are far less motivated to seek out ways to push your income any higher.

The same goes if your friends are out of shape. If they eat junk food every day and do not exercise, then the chances are if you are always with them, then you will become out of shape, and you will probably find yourself eating more junk food and taking less exercise than you know is healthy.

If you pick the wrong sort of people to be in your community you will find they will slow you down and they will also try to talk you out of striving to achieve your dreams. This is not because they are being mean or spiteful. It’s because they don’t want you to get hurt. Because they are not doing anything with their lives, they don’t think you can either. They know if you attempt to achieve your dreams and goals, then that would mean that something in their life is changing, and most people are scared of change.

Immerse yourself in a community full of people who love change, people who strive to achieve goals and aren’t scared of trying. People who have the desire to thrive and not just live. These are the sort of people that will ensure you change and become the same with the same positive attitude.

This will then become your new “Normal”. You and your community will welcome people with goals and positive ideas, and you will find that watching people without any drive or goals will seem weird and out of the ordinary. You will soon be able to identify what people you should add to your community and what sort of people you need to steer well clear of.

So where do you begin with all this? Clarify to yourself the sort of positive thinking people you want to be in your community. Look for networking events and business conferences to go to. They will probably not be in your local neighbourhood but may be a distance from you. Make the effort and attend these sort of conferences. Even if there are admission fees, your goals with these sort of events are not just to sit and learn what is being taught, but to also make new friends and acquaintances that you can add to your personal community. These sort of people will have similar drive and goals as you do and they will greatly help you move towards achieving your goals because they are probably the same sort of goals that they too want to achieve. Over time these people will become close friends and possibly business partners that you can use to attain steps towards your final goals.

Apart from attending business conferences, you can find and make friends with new people online. Social media makes it easy to find people who are doing the same sort of thing as you. When meeting new people you may find that they are just as excited to meet you and have the same ideas that you can help them achieve greatness too. As you meet more and more people and build your community you will find you gain more skills and friendships and this will snowball into great things.

What Is The Cure To The Side Effects Of KPIs?

If there is one topic in business literature that has been covered exhaustively, it is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). But if you’re not careful, the indicators you set might inadvertently encourage behaviours that can be dramatically damaging…

By Josep Suria/Shutterstock

“In 19th-century India, the city of Delhi had a snake problem. A rather large population of cobras slithered the streets with impunity. The British government decided to get rid of the snakes through crowdsourcing. Officials offered a bounty for every dead snake that locals brought in.

But something unexpected happened.

Soon after the British started to pay for every dead cobra, they realized that local entrepreneurs had begun to breed snakes in order to get paid.

The government canceled the program. So, the cobra farmers released their worthless snakes into the streets.

It turned out the British didn’t want dead snakes; they wanted fewer live snakes. By incentivizing the wrong thing, they inadvertently doubled their problem.”

The Biggest Threat To A Growing Company’s Culture, By incentivizing the wrong thing, growing companies can create more problems than they solve.

If there is one topic in business literature that has been covered exhaustively, it is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). In procurement it’s no different; just do a Google search on “Procurement KPIs.”

KPIs have become an integral part of business, but they should still be approached with caution. Because business is human by nature, there are many pitfalls to consider when defining KPIs. If you’re not careful, the indicators you set might inadvertently encourage behaviors that can be dramatically damaging, and lead to a very different outcome than the one you expected.

KPIs can have negative side effects

The story at the beginning of this post is the origin of the term “Cobra Effect” and illustrates the potentially negative impact that poorly designed KPIs and incentives can have.

In the world of Procurement, some KPIs may create similarly problematic situations. For example, the following two KPIs are used or mentioned quite often:

  • Number of suppliers per £/$/€ million third-party spend
  • Number of Procurement FTE per £/$/€ million third-party spend

First of all, both KPIs are useless without context and, what’s more, they can also foster dangerous behaviors and outcomes. For example, spend consolidation or supplier reduction programs are quite common in Procurement, and they can lead to over-dependencies by creating situations of quasi-monopoly. Therefore, such a leading indicator (supply base concentration serves an objective, it is a means, not an end) should be considered in a broader context and need to be counterbalanced with other corresponding leading indicators, such as, for example, the impact on savings and on risk exposure (dependence, single-sourcing, etc.).

Another classic example is related to payment terms. Whenever organisations try to improve their cash management/flow, they also question whether or not to extend payment terms with suppliers, even though it has been proven time and time again that the impact of extending payment terms is minimal. Despite bringing some short term benefits, choosing to extend payment terms could create long-term issues, as suppliers will not consider such procurement organisations as a “customer of choice.” In that specific scenario, it would be much more beneficial and valuable to improve Source -To-Pay processing times. This would improve the management of liabilities and cash by, for example, using supply-chain finance, which is a more effective way to improve cash management and, at the same time, relationships.

Purpose is the most effective way to influence behavior

The science of motivation is a complex topic and there are numerous studies in the field of behavioral economics that demonstrate how people are biased and often unconsciously make irrational decisions. Therefore, organisations must use caution when designing KPIs to avoid the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B.

Luckily, there is a well-known and proven safeguard against pitfalls like these: create a sense of purpose and give actions meaning.

Rather than just focusing on a target, this approach focuses on outcomes (‘why’), which will facilitate adoption and alignment across the organization. Then, people will be able to define the ‘how’, and engage in the appropriate activities (‘what’) based on the context they are in. This form of “commander’s intent” also gives collaborators and suppliers more autonomy (the topic of KPIs and  their impact also applies to contracts as a measure of the deliverable or outcome). They need this autonomy to adapt their actions in a dynamic and volatile environment.

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” –Marilyn Strathern, British anthropologist

If Teams Become Self-directed, What’s Left For The Managers To Do?

How do you enable and oversee without having control and visibility? This is the challenge of leadership and focusing on adopting or refining these three key attributes will help get you on the right path…

By Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

We have all heard the words and most probably used them ourselves many times over; Empowered, autonomous, self directed. Thousands of articles, publications, books, podcasts and yes, even blogs have been written about the power of enabling this type of cultural environment. And to help us get there, we have a plethora of insights, tips, roadmaps and strategies to make sure we can navigate our path through this organisational utopia. It’s how we all want to work, and how we want our teams to operate.

Despite this consensus it remains a challenge for many organisations who are struggling to find the balance between the what of the work that needs to be done, and the how which determines the way in which it actually gets done. Why exactly is this the case? With all of the research backing it up, this should be a no-brainer to want to do, and with all of the practical guides available, it should be a matter of simply applying and executing to get it done. However, given the human element, it is never quite that easy or simple and that accounts for organisations and managers who have tried and not been successful, or have chosen to not try at all.

It could be argued that if we all want to work in that way, enabling others to do so is the not only logical but also effective. But words do mean different things to different people and sometimes depending on the context, the same words also mean different things to the same people. If we can have alternative facts, we can surely have alternative interpretation. A google search of the word empowerment returns over 293 million results. Self directed tops that with 438 million. I am pretty confident in my assumption that while results may be similar, they will not all be consistent. With that in mind, the challenge can start early, because what we need to understand is that while the intent is there, that in itself may not be enough. It needs to be the right intent and the right execution, to deliver the right outcome.

Irrespective of where you are within the organisational hierarchy there is always someone in a position to direct your focus, priorities and actions.  What tends to be different is the level of direction and who the messages are coming from. In typical, traditional structures, decision making and direction tends to be determined by functional role and reporting lines. In organisations that have transformed to respond to digital challenges, are working with Agile or for digital natives, that may be more a function of expertise and specific project engagement. Notwithstanding that, even CEOs have boards to answer to, and boards in turn have shareholders to answer to. While we have seen many recent examples around the world of interference, lack of probity, and good governance in organisations and government, oversight, direction, external perspective are important foundations for effective operation.  And that in itself can become a derailing factor for many. Because how do you enable and oversee without having control and visibility?

This is the challenge of leadership and focusing on adopting or refining three key attributes will help get you on the right path:

1. Understand and embrace risk

This is not about ignoring what is known to create a problem. Organisations need to be confident in their ability to get good outcomes in the right way without careening towards a disaster that could have easily been avoided or mitigated. The risk for many in stepping away from decision making and allowing individuals and teams to make their own decisions in relation to what is done, is problematic.  It can be seen as a leadership failure; that we somehow didn’t “own the problem”, or didn’t “step up to the plate”. Life, much less work situations are never really that simple. And enabling self directed teams is not an abdication of leadership responsibility. There are so many factors to consider including the information that was available at the time. It can also come down to a question of trust in that person as much as trust in our own judgement. It sometimes involves letting others find their own way, even if we know that it may not be the best way, or more pointedly, the way we would have done it. And equally important, it also comes down to assessing the consequence of things going awry and adding that to the factors determining whether the risk is acceptable in the context.

2. Understand capability

Applying equally to ourselves and our teams, the capability question is an important one. And a fundamental attribute of leading is assessing strengths as well as development needs in individuals and responding by making time and offering enablement to help those individuals build on their strengths and improve in areas that may need more attention. It takes time to actually spend time working on ourselves and helping others who are looking for development and improvement. In a choice between a meeting with an agenda focused on task allocation versus a meeting to develop and discuss development plans and progress, there is little question of which one would produce the more engaged employee. And with enthusiasm being contagious, it’s not a bad outcome for the rest of the team or client either.

3. Create a learning environment

Every organisation is in the process of either considering a transformation or has begun one. In the digital world, we have only started to explore the impact of the fourth industrial revolution and others are already speaking of the fifth (a great topic for another blog!) It is hard to keep up with all of the business-as-usual activities, much less everything else that is now an expectation; new projects, external research, feedback loops, workshops, to name just a few. Enabling teams and individuals with the opportunity to manage their own work and themselves to the extent that works for them and the organisation gives them a chance to learn through practical means, by hearing about the experiences of others, and in turn sharing their own stories. It fosters trust in the culture of the team and the organisation and a willingness to go beyond the simple instruction that they would have otherwise been given. Diversity. Creativity. Productivity. They can all thrive in this environment when leaders understand the opportunity of truly leading.

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 2: Communication

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful? In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

By Syda Productions/ Shutterstock

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this second article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of communication.

Read Part 1 on Clarity here.

Communication is the act of transferring information from one person to another. It is an extremely important skill that anybody who wants to thrive in the modern world must have and continually improve.

All the great leaders were also great communicators and it is a skill you can learn and develop. It is one of the greatest tools you can master. To be skilled in the art of good communication means you have the ability to get people to want to be on your side and help you. It also gives you the ability to get people to do what you want, which is why you must use this skill towards good only.

Communication is not just about talking. It is about speaking to others in ways that inspires them and makes them feel important in order to get them to want to be around you and work with you.

But how do you accomplish this? The answer is to communicate with positivity and enthusiasm.  Positivity and Enthusiasm are addictive and powerful energies. When people hear others communicating with enthusiasm, they too feel enthusiastic and are drawn to them.

Talking about things that inspire you will make you communicate with enthusiasm automatically. You will feel more positive about the things you are talking about and the people listening will also start to feel more positive.

We live in a world where negative communication is all around us on a daily basis. This can be used to your advantage as people would far prefer to listen to people taking in a positive way and when you communicate positive things, you will always have a greater audience than people who communicate negatively.

Your job is to change people from expecting negative things to positive things, to be positive and to think in positive ways. When they listen to you using positive words and phrases in your communication you will find more and more people wanting to listen to you and to work with you because they realise that there’s something about you that is different… in a good way!

Using positivity and enthusiasm in your communication will result in you being able to build positive relationships with people and to be very successful in business as well. Talking to others in ways that make them feel important will ensure they hang on to every word you say. They will feel good and they will be there to help you achieve your goals and objectives.

Making others feel good about what you say is easy once you have the necessary skills and experience. You will become a real driving force for them. Always look for the positive side in situations and only talk about positive things. There are positive things in everyone and in every circumstance and it is your job to find them and to talk about them. If you should find yourself beginning to talk about something negative, stop yourself and change your communication back to only positive things.

When talking, there are some important things to consider. Be aware of the tone of your voice. Keep it positive at all times and constantly try to “spark” up your conversation. Your posture and body language is also very important and are things that will influence listeners. They might not even know, but subconsciously we all can read body language and posture even if we don’t think about it and it affects the way we deliver a speech. No matter how positive your words may be, if you have poor body language or posture, people might not see your speech in quite the positive way you intended. They are all part of great communication and you must be careful to ensure all three are seen as positive.

During your conversations it is extremely important to listen. Ask people questions about themselves and let them talk. They will appreciate it. In this day and age, everyone is trying to talk and get their voice heard. People often talk over other people without listening, you will surely stand out by being the one who takes the time to listen.

Take time to listen and only talk positively and you will become a great communicator. You will gain many admirers, friends and business acquaintances that will help you achieve your aims and goals. “The one who masters communication has the power to lead the world any way that he wishes”

What To Do When Stakeholder Management Gets Tough

Everyone has encountered difficult customers or stakeholders when running a procurement exercise. It’s how we choose to deal with them that can define success or failure for our tenders.

By zoff / Shutterstock

Recently I’ve been running a recruitment process at work, using the oft-derided and disliked ‘competency-based’ questions as part of the interviews. One question in particular got me thinking about my own experiences in procurement. That of dealing with a difficult stakeholder or customer relationship.

We’ve all had them, even if they didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time. Whether it’s the end user who keeps changing their mind about what they want, or the stakeholder who believes their opinion is more important than everyone else’s. And then there’s the supplier who believes they know better than you, that your process is flawed or you’re asking the wrong questions, and that they have the key to fixing it.

These aren’t necessarily difficult or challenging relationships all the time. Good stakeholder management encourages input from all sides, but there are times that opinions are unhelpful, unwelcome or downright wrong. And when this is the case, but the stakeholder remains convinced that they are correct, the relationship can prove to be make or break for the success of the exercise.

Path of Least Resistance

This brings me back to the original question that got me thinking in the first place. The question continues by looking for more detail on how the relationship was dealt with and what the outcome was. The aim of the question is to dig a little deeper into the competency of ‘influence’ and establish how the candidate managed the situation to a successful conclusion.

But as anyone who has encountered this issue in the past knows, success isn’t always a guarantee (more on this shortly). A good outcome may not necessarily be a bell-ringing, trumpeter-blowing success for the tender. Sometimes the best outcome is no outcome at all, a compromise, or a solution that follows the path of least resistance in order to preserve a much-needed relationship for the future.

And that is the tale that I want to tell now. Instead of focusing on the theory, I wanted to share a story from my own procurement experience where hard lessons were learned and gaining the realisation that not all relationships are destined to be easy.

Introducing: The Engineer

DISCLAIMER: The people in this story ARE actually real and any resemblance to anyone you know is because you have probably met someone just like this! I have, however, changed names and kept details deliberately vague to protect identities.

Picture this. A young graduate procurement trainee, a bit green, a bit wet behind the ears. New job, new suit, new city. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s me! If you’re picturing something similar to a parent’s photo of their children on their first day of school, that’s probably what I looked like to tell the truth.

I hadn’t been in procurement very long at all, having fallen into the profession while looking for graduate roles around the UK. It was all a bit new to me, but I’d delivered a couple of projects and was getting the hang of what was required. I’d started to build up a good foundation of knowledge and some solid, supportive relationships across the business.

That was until I met The Engineer. The Engineer had a reputation that preceded him – hard to pin down, hard to please, just generally hard to work with.

Colleagues more experienced than I (this is where the warning signs should have come in that I was getting the dubious please of this particular contract!) told stories of a nice guy, but someone with very little time for procurement and procurement/tender activities. The department was a roadblock, the processes too cumbersome. He knew plenty of guys who could provide the goods quicker and cheaper. That was, after all, “what we’ve always done around here”.

A Challenging Time

My experience wasn’t any different to what I expected after these friendly warnings. Meetings came and meetings went and the only thing that changed was the date on the calendar. The Engineer was respectful and professional at all times in his demeanour towards me, but he seemed determined to shred the procurement process.

Specifications were blocked as too vague, or not meeting the needs of the department. There were complaints about opening this up to suppliers who had been used in the past as it was felt their products were inferior. In hindsight there are plenty things I could have done differently – brought in more senior team members (I didn’t want to compound my newness by seeming like I couldn’t handle this), or change tact to put it on him to drive it forward. But, as they say, hindsight is always 20:20.

Eventually we reached an unspoken agreement and understanding that gave us a resolution of sorts. We both realised that nothing was going to change, either in the product demands or the procurement process. The contract was eventually put in place with a good supplier and the goods were delivered in good time. It wasn’t the utopic procurement outcome I had envisioned, but it wasn’t too bad. And boy, did I learn a lot!

An Interview-Worthy Response?

No matter what you do or where you go, you’ll find relationships like this to deal with. It’s ultimately how you deal with them that you need to decide on. Each relationship will be different and your response to them will differ in line with this. It’s important to remember that no matter how hard the relationship, it still needs to be worked at, possibly even harder for the particularly challenging ones.

They may not provide you with a gold-plated, interview-worthy example, but these interactions can help you further down the line and it all helps with your personal development. Just remember, no matter how hard it is, don’t burn those bridges. They may be the ones you need to cross in the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

The One Thing You Should Be Doing To Boost Your Career This Year

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion…

By jamesteohart/ Shutterstock

Forget pushing for that promotion. Don’t waste too much time looking for a new role. And leave lusting after a new job title for now. Instead, focus on your skills.

“Skills” have traditionally been viewed as something for the trades – those who chose a more hands-on career pathway, rather than one that needed academic qualifications.

While we all appreciate the talent of hairdressers, plumbers, motor mechanics and a host of other vitally-important skilled tradespeople, this year skills have taken on a new meaning.

One of the top workplace trends for 2019 is “Skill signalling”.

There is added emphasis on highlighting the skills that set you apart from the competition according to recruiters Robert Half.

This could be your digital literacy – such as working with artificial intelligence – or softer skills such as communications and problem-solving abilities.

Basically, anything that can help you to stand out from the crowd.

No. 1 aim is to learn new skills

This is something you should take seriously, or you could get left behind.

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion, according to research from CV-Library.

However, you might have to acquire these outside of the office as two-thirds of us say our employer isn’t responsive to our needs.

Also, much of the employer training on offer is a waste of time and money.  Research shows that of the $400billion spent on corporate learning globally every year, only 15% is proven to really work.

Top 10 career priorities for 2019

  1. Learn new skills (44.6%)
  2. Get a pay rise (43.5%)
  3. Move to another company (40.1%)
  4. Gain a new qualification (24.3%)
  5. Get a new job title (22.7%)
  6. Change job roles (19.7%)
  7. Get a promotion (17.2%)
  8. Change industries (13.1%)
  9. Work for themselves (12.4%)
  10. Build a personal network (8.9%)

Source: CV-Library

So, what are the skills of the future

What should you be learning? Well, employability skills are key – according to Hogan Assessments, the global leader in personality assessment solutions, these are defined as “the ability to find a job, the ability to retain it, and the ability to find a new job should the first one go away”.  There are three components:

  • People Skills – getting along well with others and working well in teams. People who score high on this skill seem friendly, pleasant and helpful.
  • Learning Skills – learning the essential functions of the job and acquiring new skills as the job changes over time. Individuals with learning skills are likely to be bright, curious, and motivated to learn.
  • Work Ethic – taking instruction, working hard, and producing high-quality results in a timely fashion. Employees with good work ethic are hardworking, productive and dependable.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune and take a year or two out of work to study an MBA or master’s to gain these skills.

However, the bad news is that you are often either naturally good at these – or not.

Tips

  • Do a 360 exercise with friends, family and colleagues to get a view of how you score on these points.
  • Find a mentor to help you work on these skills – for example listening and reflecting. Choose someone you trust within your organisation, or find a mentor externally (someone you already know, respect, get along with and want to be like).
  • Try to demonstrate these skills on a daily basis – work on them, and you will improve.

Decide to specialise or generalise

The future workplace will be made up of two types According to the Future of the Workplace 2030+ report from Unily.

Expert Generalists who can transfer skills and see the bigger picture necessary to drive the ideas economy.

Hyper Specialists who are more operational, can dive deep for solutions are equipped to understand details and specifics.

Once again, these skills are often innate. Some of us are brilliant when it comes to attention to detail, but find it hard to be adaptable. Choose your path depending on your personality type.

Whichever path you choose, you will need to work on these skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

In a time of constant change, the skill or trait that will help you get ahead is being able to deal with change.  

The No. 1 personality trait you need right now

As a result, resilience is one of the key skills employers will be helping their staff to develop over the next few years.

However, you can develop this skill yourself by nurturing your own physical and mental wellbeing, which can help you to stay positive and cope with the ever faster-changing world of work.

This is also a key skill to highlight on your CV: it is one of the things employers will be looking for. So try to find ways to demonstrate your ability to “bounce back” from adversity and to deal with change.

If you don’t ask you don’t get

Boosting your skills can boost your performance as well as your life-long career prospects.

“Learning new skills is an excellent way to secure yourself more opportunities and a better paid job down the line,” says Lee Biggins, CEO of CV-Library.

So, how do you go about investing in your own success?

  • Identify the skills you need to work on or develop.
  • Look for ways to develop these (note: this is unlikely to be in a classroom).
  • Ask your boss to support your skills development  – whether that is giving you time off to attend seminars, conferences, lectures or to work one-on-one with a mentor or on new projects to develop new skills.
  • Make it a lifelong journey – skills need constant development.

Learning to learn – that’s the no.1 skill

“The future discussion will not be about reskilling or upskilling but ‘learning to learn’” according to the Unily Future of the Workplace Report which says:

Being comfortable acquiring new knowledge is a skill in its own right.

To become a continual learner, you will need to learn to

  • Take risks
  • Experiment
  • Adapt

… and challenge yourself to disrupt and do things differently.

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 1: Clarity

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

By Sander van der Werf/ Shutterstock

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this first article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of clarity.

To have clarity is to have the ability to be coherent and intelligible. It means to be able to have a clear mind, with thoughts focused on that which you intend them to be focused on. Gaining clarity comes when you think straight using intelligence and power , becoming aware of what is really important to you and to letting go of all other thoughts. Those without clarity never accomplish much of anything because their minds are full of unnecessary thoughts. As such, they can’t see clearly where they are going in life, making it difficult to make decisions and move forward. With clarity you can focus on the correct direction to lead you to the results you aim for. You are able to focus on your goals, and making decisions to attain those goals becomes simpler saving you time and energy and increasing your success. If you are unclear about what your goals are, then your results will be unclear too. Clarity is all about what you really want to achieve, so to start attaining clarity, ask yourself, “what do I want?”

This might be financial, physical, emotional or literally anything you desire. You absolutely must know what you truly want so you can work effectively to achieve it. From this point you will start to think straight without the endless confusion in your mind you perhaps once had. Once you know what your set of goals are, you can start making a clear plan of action in order to start attaining those goals. There will be many steps in your plan of action and at this stage you won’t know what they all are. If you do, then your aim is not set high enough! Write down the steps you know you will have to take to achieve your goal, but be aware of the unknown steps ahead and be flexible as you progress towards your goal. You may encounter different paths or opportunities on your journey towards your goal that will change your plan, be open to them. The important thing is to keep clear what the main objective is and stay focused along the way. As you progress along your journey towards your goal, every next step will be presented to you and your job is to take action on the presented step in order to move forward and receive the next.

As you continually visualise the attainment of your goal with focus and emotion, simpler ways to achieve your goal will be presented to you and you will continue to build your belief in the achievement of that goal, no matter how big it might have seemed at the beginning. Often making decisions is difficult. Even when you know your goals and aims, decision making is like a muscle, which has to be worked. In the beginning of your decision making process it will help to write down all of your options and eliminate them one by one, taking time to meditate on it until you can see with clarity the best decision for you to make . Lay your options out clearly and accurately so you are able to think with clarity about taking the correct next step. Then once that step is decided upon, do not look back, do not look to the side. Stay focused and bring your goal to your physical reality. As you continue to make decisions, meditating on what is best, your intuition will grow stronger and you will be able to make your decisions with more speed and accuracy. Remember making fast decisions is an important step and with clarity and a strong intuition, your ability to make fast, accurate decisions will become very simple.

“The clearer you are, the simpler things become”

5 Common Interview Mistakes Recruiters Should Overlook

It’s up to the person recruiting to decide whether a mistake is due to anxiety or a sign that the candidate is a bad match for the organisation. Here’s five mistakes you should overlook…

By Esenin Studio/Shutterstock

Nightmares focusing on poor performance at work, especially job interviews, are common among adults in the US – and it’s easy to see why. Job interviews are stressful. Horror stories of interviews gone wrong are all over the internet. While they may be fun to read, it’s not easy to get through a job interview without making at least one mistake. 

What does a “perfect” interview really mean anyway? Interviews have disqualified candidates for everything from being late to “being too attractive.” Candidate error is just one factor in the overall equation; and it’s all too common to make a mistake under pressure. At the end of the day, it’s up to the recruiter to decide whether a mistake is due to anxiety or a sign that the candidate is a bad match for the organization. 

Here are some of the most common, but forgivable, job interview mistakes that recruiters should overlook. 

A candidate sounds rehearsed

Many candidates don’t make it through the first-round interview because they sound too stiff.Recruiters lose interest when a candidate sounds like they’ve memorized their answers. It’s hard to get a good sense of who that person is when they answer questions robotically. 

However, recruiters should consider that the problem isn’t the candidate’s presentation. It’s the questions they’re asking. Candidates apply to dozens of jobs during their search. Eventually, all the interview questions start to sound the same. Recruiters should avoid asking outdated, all too common interview questions that applicants answer at nearly every job interview. 

There’s a certain script that’s easy to fall into. If you find your candidate sounds a bit canned, try a different approach in the next round. 

A candidate talks too much

The opposite of a candidate who sounds rehearsed is a candidate who is too chatty. Anxiety or under-preparation is usually the driver behind a candidate who talks at length. Talking too much is usually seen by recruiters as a red flag – what if a candidate talks too much in a client presentation? Will this person be a distraction when working in teams? 

It’s not necessarily fair to assume that chattiness is a sign of weakness. It could be a sign of under preparation, or it could be a lack of experience: two factors that job training can address. But for recruiters who don’t have time to spend all day in an interview, using a one-way video interview can help. Generally, we’re against putting restrictive timers on pre-recorded videos. What if the candidate has technical difficulties? But, you can set the time to be long enough to account for technical glitches while still cutting down on nervous chatter. 

A candidate immediately responds to an interview request

Some recruiters consider replying to an interview request right away to be a red flag. Likewise, following up “too much” can make a candidate seem needy or desperate. In today’s hyper-connected society, expecting a candidate to wait an appropriate amount of time is a little too selective. 

It could be that a candidate follows up because so few companies are transparent about their process. While talking to your job interviewee, make sure to be upfront about your timeline and next steps. Managing expectations can help prevent any lingering confusion or excessive follow up from your potential new hires. 

A candidate is asking questions “on the fly”

It has become almost cliche for hiring experts to recommend candidates prepare their own questions. Recruiters disqualify candidates who ask questions “on the fly” – but why? Asking questions that are not pre-rehearsed can show genuine interest. A candidate who comes upwith questions on the spot is engaged, paying attention, and quick on their feet. Recruiters should prefer that over a candidate who simply pays lip service to the interview script. 

A candidate doesn’t bring a hard copy of their resume

It’s time to go green! If recruiters want a hard copy of the candidate’s resume, they are capable of printing it out themselves. Some recruiters see this as a sign that the candidate is under-prepared or careless. In reality, many people don’t have access to a printer. It’s an arbitrary ask that recruiters use to disqualify a candidate from making it to the next round. Wouldn’t you rather see an employee show their real-world skills rather than their ability to press print?

This article was written by Emily Heaslip was originally published on vervoe.