Tag Archives: interview tips

Is It Time To Make A Career Move? Mind the gap

When things get bad at work do you find a way to fix it or consider a career move?

The bad days are becoming more frequent, the work is no longer challenging and your procurement career seems to be floundering.   The question arises: what must you do to kick your work life into action?   If you have a general feeling of being undervalued or not being fairly recognised for your achievements, now is the time to take stock. Work takes up at least 40 hours of your week.  Life’s too short to be miserable, this is decision time.

It is unlikely that your current situation will improve much unless there is a radical change in management or strategy.  The options are:

  • Move into a new role at your current employer or
  • Move on to a different employer in a similar or different role 

Assuming that procurement is still the place you want to be, there are some steps you need to take whether you plan to stay with your current employer in another role or move on to new adventures.

Do a personal gap analysis

Take a deep, introspective look into yourself. The aim is to identify the knowledge gaps between the skills you need for your chosen direction and those that you currently have.  What changes should you begin making to prepare yourself for the kind of job you want? As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”   Be realistic about your current capabilities.  Then go and fill the gaps.

Consider further education   

There’s no doubt that further education and continued professional development play a part in opening up opportunities. The reality is that most the attractive roles require some tertiary education or certification, especially in a tight job market. If you are lagging in this area it may be an opportune time to upgrade.   If your current employer can subsidise your work-related studies, take advantage.    No funds?  There are lots of free training available, there’s no excuse.  What about a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?

 Learn the new skills

There are roles that didn’t exist ten years ago and those are where experience is in short supply.  The application of I.T. technologies to procurement problems is growing fast:  consider data analysis and warehousing, supplier relationship management (SRM), and procure-to-pay (P2P).   Also, both the public and private sectors struggle with issues of fraud, corruption and conflict of interest. Companies need people who can exercise constant vigilance over supplier risk, governance and contract compliance.

Sustainability issues are placing new demands on procurement leaders and their teams.  “Green” procurement is a growth niche where there is a limited number of experienced applicants and pressure is building on companies to limit their negative impact on the environment.  Focusing on fields that concern you (and the consumer) and those that play to your strengths will deliver the most work satisfaction.

Get a grip on the numbers

Whatever direction you choose, advanced analytical abilities are becoming mandatory.  An in-depth understanding of financial ratios and the triple bottom line can give you the edge over others competing for similar roles.  If you don’t know what macros or what a cash flow crisis is, now is the time to find out. If your current company offers in-house courses that can enhance your computer skills, sign up.

Influence and persuasion

A survey conducted recently by Accenture amongst global CPOs noted that traditional areas of knowledge and experience are less important to success than the ability to develop and sustain high quality internal and external relationships.  Stakeholders can influence your project’s success or failure.  Good stakeholder management just means being able to win support from any and all interested and affected parties such as end-users, subject matter experts and key suppliers.

Attitude is important, that much is clear.  It seems behaviour and demeanour can impact on career progression as much as technical know-how.  Always do what you promise to do.  To paraphrase  J.F.Kennedy,  don’t think about what your stakeholders can do for you, think what you could do for them.

Communicate your successes

Keep an on-going record of what you have done well, e.g. reported cost savings, accolades you have been given, and positive feedback received from internal customers.  This information can be used to enhance your CV.  Don’t be shy to share your successes; it’s a good confidence booster.

Moving employers   

Moving on to another employer or launching yourself as a consultant or contractor may be a choice, or it may be thrust upon you.  Protecting yourself fully from downsizing and “restructuring of the workforce” is pretty much impossible.  Don’t despair. Review your achievements to date, fire up your CV and take yourself to the market.    Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards.

The best a person can do to rise above the mainstream is to have a good attitude, stay relevant, keep up with trends, communicate well and keep the networks alive.  Sometimes the current environment is not going to deliver the options you need. Then it is time to move on.

How To Answer The “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

Five tips from the experts on how to answer a commonly-used and deceptively simple interview question.

Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

Remember the “Bridge of Death” scene from Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail? King Arthur and his brave knights must answer three questions posed by the keeper of the bridge in order to pass safely. If they get them wrong, they’re cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

Sir Galahad answers the first two questions with ease, but is tripped up by the simplicity of the third:

KEEPER: Stop! What is your name?

GALAHAD: Sir Galahad of Camelot.

KEEPER: What is your quest?

GALAHAD: I seek the Grail.

KEEPER: What is your favourite colour?

GALAHAD: Blue. No, yellow! — Auuuuuuuugh! [Galahad falls to his death].

‘Tell me about yourself’ is a question posed by nearly every interviewer, yet data from Google reveals it is a question that a vast amount of people struggle with: on average over 33,000 people in the UK search online each month for answers or guidance on answering the question.

With this in mind, sales recruitment agency, Aaron Wallis, has collated a series of hints and tips for getting the most out of the common interview question and performing to your best ability.

1. Be prepared

As ‘tell me about yourself’ is such a common interview question, there’s nothing silly about writing down your answer and saying it in front of the mirror, or practicing your answer with someone you know. Whilst it can be good to have a rehearsed answer, it’s also worth bearing in mind that you don’t want to sound like you’re reciting it from memory. Be prepared to appear confident but natural.

2. Structure your answer

The best answers to the question give a brief overview to you and your experience, without taking too much away from the later stages of the interview.

Begin by outlining your current or most recent role and describing the skills or attributes that you bring or brought to the position, ensuring these will be relevant to the job you’re going for.

Finish up by saying while you’ve enjoyed your work, you’re excited for the fresh challenge this new opportunity brings, and why.

3. Consider what you want to get across

A common pitfall is mentioning too much about yourself that may either cause you to waste time during your interview or lose the natural flow of the conversation. Chances are that your interviewer has already studied your CV, so does not need to be told about every job you’ve ever had, or what your exam results were – even if they were straight As.

4. Avoid the irrelevant or controversial

Similarly, although you might be a cycling fanatic, or a keen cook, this can be totally irrelevant at the start of the opening stage of the interview. In the majority of job interviews, avoid talk of family, pets and politics.

5. Get ready for the following questions

If you’ve introduced yourself well, your interviewer is going to be impressed and keen to delve deeper. He or she will want to explore your experience, strengths and weaknesses further, but will do so under the impression you’re a good fit for the role. Make sure you can back up your initial answer with examples or anecdotes.

So, if you said: “In my current role I have increased sales by broadening our customer base,” just make sure you’re ready to answer follow-up questions later in the interview like: “How much did you increase sales by?”, or “How many extra customers did you bring on board, and how did you find them?”

Often the simple questions can be the ones which are the most unnerving if you haven’t considered what you might say. Generally it can be a good idea to plan out the interview in your head from the very start to the very finish. It’s never a bad thing to be over-prepared!


For a more detailed guide on answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question, please visit: https://www.aaronwallis.co.uk/candidates/advice/answering-tell-me-about-yourself

Help! A Potential Employer Asked For My Facebook Password

You’re in the middle of a job interview when the recruiter shocks you by asking for your Facebook password, citing “company policy”. Do you: A) Meekly hand it over; B) Kick over your chair and storm out; or C) Politely but firmly refuse?

Ink Drop/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever been asked to hand over your social media details in a job interview? Don’t panic – it’s probably just a stress test.

Stress tests are designed to put you under pressure and see how you handle it. They range from grilling you about your weaknesses, to subjecting you to a barrage of quick-fire questions to try to fluster or catch you off-guard.

Heineken took this to the extreme in their viral recruitment video where interviewees are subjected to a range of stressful situations, including a creepy hand-holding interviewer who later feigns a heart attack. While it’s fun to watch, there’s a lesson here – in an age where candidates often give text-book answers to text-book interview questions, recruiters are looking for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“We need your Facebook login details”

Your three potential reactions:

A) Meekly handing over your password: Wrong answer. This shows that firstly, you’re desperate for this job and secondly, you’re a pushover. Is this how you would behave when representing the company in a tough negotiation?

B) Anger: You’ve fallen into the trap. Even though it’s an outrageous demand, getting angry only demonstrates that you won’t be able to remain calm in the face of on-the-job pressure.

C) Politely but firmly refuse: Correct! You were on the lookout for a stress test, and you’ve identified this one as such. This takes the pressure off, allowing you to present a calm and logical response.

Unfortunately, that’s easy to say and hard to do!

How to say “no” politely 

  1. Call them out

If you’ve read the situation correctly, then you could simply respond by saying, “This is one of those stress-tests, right?”, and then launch into a detailed explanation of how you’re able to stay calm under pressure, with examples.

If they still insist, and genuinely appear to be demanding your Facebook login (and you still want this job), then you’ll need an excuse beyond the bare fact that you don’t want them seeing your drunken photos from the big party last weekend.

  1. Privacy

“I have an obligation to protect my friends’ privacy. They have their own privacy policies set on their accounts to safeguard themselves and their loved ones and that’s their right. If I start sharing their information with potential employers then I’ll have broken my trust with them.”

  1. Work/life

“For me, work and home are two separate things. I’m careful to keep work-related posts off my Facebook page, so it’s in no way relevant to any potential employers.”

  1. Direct to LinkedIn

“I think you mean LinkedIn? While I wouldn’t hand over my login details, I’d be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn so you can see how I present myself professionally on social media.”

  1. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine

This one’s a bit more provocative! “Absolutely fine – I think this is a great idea. I’d also like to see the type of team I’m joining, so if you can share your log-in details, along with your director’s and all the team members’ Facebook passwords, then I’d be happy to share mine.”

  1. Throw the question back at them

Whatever you decide to say, it’s vital you do so in a professional, calm and reasonable way. In a stress test, how you say it is more important than what you say. The interviewer will be judging your response, attitude and manner, but you can turn the tables by asking them to put themselves in your shoes.

For example:

  • “I’m sure you would agree …”
  • “I’m sure that if you were in my position…”
  • “From a privacy perspective, my friends wouldn’t be comfortable with me showing their information to people. I’m sure your friends and family would agree.”

Asking someone to put themselves in your position makes it almost impossible to be offended by a calm and rational argument.

In the end, keep in mind that there is no right answer to a stress-test question. It’s designed to judge how you react, so be confident in whichever answer you choose.

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I’ll Begin…

Treat your next interview like you’re telling a story. Make it engaging. Make it clear. But most of all, make it memorable.

Once upon a time in an office block not too far away, our hero/heroine walked into the most exciting and biggest interview of their career…

For me, a successful interview is like reading an enjoyable story. Stories “create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others”(1).

I consistently advise people that I have represented to have their own story and message when attending an interview. An engaging and memorable story resonates with the reader; it holds our attention, keeps the pages turning and becomes memorable in the mind of the reader.

Here are a few points to think about.

The beginning of the story…AKA first impressions.

A great story has a strong start. So if you get an opening question like, “So, tell me about yourself?” or, “So, why are you interested in this role/company”, then start well. Through your opening 2-5 minutes, generate interest and attention in the mind of your ‘reader’.

Use language that feels right for your career story. I think it never hurts to describe things simply but effectively. Try to use words that add zest to your experience and motivations. Just try not to over complicate the ‘plot’.

Don’t lose your reader, keep those pages turning.

What is your message in your story?

Understand what the challenges of the role are, and what are the current and future demands on the organisation. Your recruiter and your own research will help you understand this.

Settle on your ultimate message, then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it at interview. Use your career story to invoke a clear connection between what value and experience you bring and how you can harness that experience for your new prospective Employer. Make the Interviewer want to know the story behind your career. Characterise yourself positively.

Be true to your IQ and that of your audience.

It would be foolish to underestimate your audience. Your interviewer is looking to hear information on your career experience that resonates with them.

They will want to understand you as a character and what you offer and stand for, so never dumb down your message or yourself. Make your story relevant and credible.

Maintain pace, select an appropriate momentum

I’ve heard on too many occasions from hiring managers that an Interviewee started amazingly well, then petered out after 20 minutes. 10 times out of 10, the hiring manager is terribly disappointed – ”Gee, they started so well, we thought we had found our perfect candidate!”.

Like any strong story, start well, maintain the plot, maintain clarity and consistency through each chapter (or job).

Don’t lose the reader, keep those pages turning.

To do this, you must be well prepared. You must have planned your storyline, organised and detailed all sub-plots, and all the characters in your career history. It has to remain relevant to your ultimate message.

A strong ending

Many an interview can lose its way with a fluffy and overly elaborate ending. Be concise and finish strongly. Be positive, perhaps even bold. Don’t fade out with a whimper.

Ask yourself, how many times have you commented on poor or lacklustre ending to a book that you have read. I bet you can remember how that ending made your feel years after reading it. I’ll even bet you never read, or recommended, that story to anyone again!

  1. Extract from the Harvard Business Review – ‘How To Tell A Great Story‘.

The Source is a specialist Procurement mid to senior and executive recruitment and search firm with national reach. We provide tailored contract and permanent recruitment solutions to leading organisations in the Australian market.

Stories from The Source – Part Two: Sanne Gruter

The Source Recruitment Consultant Sanne Gruter gives Hugo Britt her top tips for procurement professionals to excel in their next interview.  The Source Interview Tips

Read Part 1 of this series here.

In more ways than one, Sanne Gruter is the international face of The Source. As part of her portfolio she looks after the fast-growing international sourcing part of the business, reaching out to potential candidates in markets including the UK, China and Singapore. Sanne is also ‘international’ in that she hails from Holland, has a partner from Uruguay, and has found a fulfilling and exciting career here in Melbourne, Australia.

Sanne’s academic history is impressive – she holds a Bachelors degree in Applied Psychology, and an International Masters of Culture, Organisation and Management which integrates anthropological, sociological and psychological approaches to identity, politics and cross-cultural co-operation with management and organisation theory. She enjoys the challenges involved in recognising, qualifying and nurturing top talent.

What made you decide to come out to Australia?

I love to travel, and still take every opportunity I can to see the world. I was out here in Australia travelling as a tourist, and of course I loved the sunshine. Melbourne, in particular, really appealed to me as the home of the Australian Open! So when the opportunity came up to join The Source, I took it.

How do you use your qualifications in your day-to-day role as a recruitment consultant?

My knowledge of psychology helps me be aware of the subjective element in almost everything I do. Recruiters need to remember that they’re dealing with real people, who have emotions and agendas. When I work with candidates I always let them know if they’re coming across as too aggressive or lacking in energy. Usually, people don’t know they’re doing it. Basically, I try to teach people to be convincing in interviews.

Is there anything unique about recruiting for the procurement profession?

Absolutely. I’ve found that procurement professionals are master negotiators – candidates want a lot, and they play hard on the salary negotiations. The clients we recruit for are excellent negotiators as well, and we generally find that they’re prepared to wait for the right talent to become available.

Where do you find your candidates?

Mainly through headhunting and networking. We reach out to people we believe are relevant for a specific role to have a very general career discussion. Usually people are happy to be courted and to join our network even if they’re not ready to move until the right opportunity comes along. This ‘hidden market’ has proven to be very valuable, since the focus is on the candidate.

We’ve also found quite a few people through Procurious, both inside and outside Australia. So be sure to log onto Procurious and connect with me! One of the exciting trends we’re starting to see is more and more people making a conscious choice to come into procurement from other professions, such as finance and law. Procurement functions can always use these diverse skill-sets.

What are the challenges in Australian procurement recruitment?

There’s a huge amount of change going on amongst our client companies. Restructuring and redundancies take place all the time, which means we have to keep on top of what’s happening in a fast-changing environment. Another challenge is that Australia is a relatively small market, which is why it’s important for procurement professionals to know the right people and reach out to organisations like The Source.

What sort of salary levels do you recruit for?

Personally, I mostly look after the mid-level space, which could range from $80,000 to $130,000 (AUD), but The Source team works collaboratively across all salary levels. And of course there’s the international recruitment angle too. UK professionals are in high demand in Australia, along with candidates from China and Singapore.

Can you share some tips for creating a winning resume?

Don’t just describe your role when you write your resume. Make sure you keep track of your achievements, and back up your claims with hard figures. Procurement employers like to see proof. For example, if you’ve achieved some excellent cost savings, make sure you include the dollar figure or percentage.

Start with a succinct personal introduction explaining your background, key strengths, and what makes you stand out for the role. You’ll never be shortlisted if you don’t communicate your strengths.

Frequently changing roles can indicate a lack of commitment, so try to stay in a business for a minimum of three years. Of course, sometimes it’s out of your control. If you are made redundant, don’t be afraid to put it in your resume – recruiters and employers won’t penalise you for redundancies because they’re so common.

Can you share some interview tips?

Make sure you’re well-presented. Read up about the organisation and find out about the people who will be interviewing you on LinkedIn. It’s important not to over-prepare and create a “script”, because it comes across as fake.

Remember to back everything up with examples. Think about the key competencies you’ll be asked about, and be prepared to talk about how you’ve demonstrated these in the past. You need to be able to explain what you do.

Do you have any stories of disastrous interviews?

We had a candidate who was asked to give an example of how she can balance priorities. Unfortunately, the example she gave was how she was juggling three boyfriends at once!

Another candidate took the advice to provide clear “evidence” of her achievements much too literally, and turned up at the interview with an enormous stack of printed-out reports and emails. She’d rummage through the pile to find evidence whenever she was asked a question.

Did either of them win the role?

Unfortunately for them, no!

What’s your advice for graduates considering procurement as a career?

Procurement is a good career. It’s growing fast, with heaps of opportunity to add significant value to a company. It’s a really diverse job. From the analytical side of things, to the sourcing experts, stakeholder relationship management experts, risk gurus – there are so many aspects to being a procurement professional.

The Source - Sanne GruterThanks Sanne, and all the very best for an exciting career in procurement recruitment at The Source!

 

 

The Source is a boutique mid to senior and executive recruitment and search consultancy with national reach specialising in the procurement market. For more details, visit The Source.