Tag Archives: procurement interview

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

Rio Tinto CPO: How To Fail Forward In Procurement

“No one is an Olympic caliber downhill skier from the outset!” Ramsay Chu, CPO Rio Tinto. That’s why procurement pros have to learn to Fail Forward! 

What better way to advance your procurement career than gaining inside information from the very best in the business.

If you only knew your CPO’s top priorities, what they’re looking for in new hires or how they see the procurement function evolving, you’d be perfectly placed to dazzle them with your foresight and intuition. Sound appealing, if not a little far fetched?

It shouldn’t do because Career Boot Camp 2017 launches today and promises to deliver with insights into all of the above.

Five days, five CPOs, five fifteen-minute podcasts to help you upgrade your procurement career. 

Featuring tips and guidance from the best in the business, each of our  CPOs will dedicate their week to coaching you on becoming the best procurement leader you can be!

There are a hundred and one reasons to tune in each day this week week but Rio Tinto CPO Ramsay Chu’s podcast is as good as any.

Need a little convinving before you sign up? Check out our teaser trailer below to hear what Ramsay had to say in reponse to our quick-fire questions.

Why Should Procurement Pros Fail-Forward?

As a CPO, it’s crucial to foster an entrepreneurial spirit within your procurement team, no matter how large the organisation. Ramsay explained to us that this happens when businesses create a safe environment for their employees to be creative.

” While that seems really abstract, I think a much simpler way to do it would be to create an environment where we can allow team members the emotional safety to speak up, develop the courage to share an idea that may not be part of the norm, and, more importantly, allow them to feel comfortable to fail.

“Trying and failing is really at the core of entrepreneurship.

“We think about some of the most transformative evolutions that any of us have personally experienced in our professional or personal careers. I can tell you that it’s almost always fraught with a history of failure and that failure is at the core of developing the entrepreneurial spirit.

“To use a more personal ideology, I think it would be very much akin to skiing. The best skiers have fallen many times. No one is an Olympic caliber downhill skier from the outset. It’s not a natural or innate talent that anyone’s born with. They get better by learning, pushing themselves to the limits, oftentimes falling, picking themselves up, and moving on.

“I think the fear of failure oftentimes casts a very long shadow, and potentially impairs our ability to really think big.”

Tech skills? Pfft! We can teach that stuff!

We were also eager to pick Ramsay’s brains on the procurement talent Rio Tinto is snapping up.  As the procurement function evolves, new skillsets are required.

Ramsay acknowledged that skillsets have historically been centered around supply chain, finance, operations or engineering, all, as he describes them “technical dicisplines.”

“What we’re trying to do [at Rio Tinto]  is find people that absolutely have what I would consider more specific experience in some of the more intellectual or emotional disciplines, in the form of either liberal arts or communications. Ultimately, it’s the ability to solve problems that I think will help and drive transformation within a company. It all comes down to having the capability to engage, to understand, collaborate, more importantly, to influence.

“We’ve had some great success with people that are creative writers, a couple of people with philosophy majors, and even a couple of communications experts. We have to be focused now on behaviors, and ultimately we can teach them those technical skills. It’s very likely and possible that we can take a philosophy major and teach them supply chain. It sometimes is harder to teach somebody that’s been rooted in the engineering discipline to think differently, so to speak, or create a different behavior.”

Listen to Ramsay’s full podcast when you sign up to Procurious. Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!) 

Already a member of Procurious? You’re automatically enrolled for Career Boot Camp! Click here to listen to Ramsay’s podcast in full.

5 Global CPOs Answer Your Top 5 Procurement Questions

How did the CPOs at Barclays, Vodafone, The Co-operative group, AstraZeneca and Rio Tinto fare when we put them to the test in a round of quick-fire questions?

BrAt82/Shutterstock.com

Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts  with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!)

Wouldn’t you like to know how the best in the business feel about the value in professional certifications? Or maybe you’re keen to hear their take on the biggest mistakes made by procurement pros?

There’s just one week to go until we launch Career Boot Camp 2017, sponsored by Michael Page Procurement and Supply Chain and we can’t wait for you to hear all five podcasts!

Featuring tips, insights and guidance from the best in the business, each of our five  CPOs will dedicate next week to coaching you on becoming the best procurement leader you can be!

Can’t wait that long? We thought we’d give you an exclusive sneak peak of what’s to come. 

We put each of our five speakers to the test with a round of quick-fire questions. Listen below to hear what they each had to say on the value of formal procurement certifications, the biggest mistakes procurement pros make and how to stand out from the crowd!

Day One: Ramsay Chu CPO Rio Tinto

There’s no question that Rio Tinto’s Ramsay Chu is passionate about procurement. He’s watched the profession evolve from a function that simply “saves money” to one that can transform and have a “scale impact” on the business: touching every employee in the organisation.

In his Career Boot Camp podcast Ramsay discloses what new skills he’s looking for in his hires and explains why technical skills are often of lesser importance.

And, if you’ve ever felt like a failure in your procurement career, Ramsay has some important words of comfort. Find out why failure is at the core of entrepreneurial spirit and how you can turn it to your advantage by “failing forward.” As he puts it “No one is an Olympic caliber downhill skier from the outset!”

Day Two: Ninian Wilson Global Supply Chain Director & CEO Vodafone Procurement

Vodafone CPO, Ninian Wilson, is a man with a lot on his plate. He manages a colossal spend of €22bn and oversees 1100 employees. But that’s not stopped his determination to innovate with new companies, new products and new services.

In his Career Boot Camp podcast Ninian explains why he strives so hard to foster this culture of innovation at Vodafone.

And if you’re wondering what Ninian is searching for in his new hires, it’s the “data rockstars!”

Ninian Wilson’s podcast will be available on Procurious from 5th September.

Day Three: Dapo Ajayi CPO AstraZeneca

It’s not a bad thing to forever shoot for the stars when it comes to innovating with your suppliers. But don’t be underestimating those smaller successes and achievements!

Dapo Ajayi is keen to remind procurement pros that the smaller ideas and innovations carry a lot of weight; building trust, improving collaboration and creating opportunities for greater change further down the line.

She also discusses what business acumen means to her in the context of procurement, how to better align procurement with business stakeholders and offers guidance on how to become a CPO

Dapo Ajayi’s podcast will be available on Procurious from 6th September.

Day Four: Fabienne Lesbros CPO Co-operative Group

Rigid processes can inhibit procurement’s ability to advance efficiently but there are ways to prevent them from getting in your way. Fabienne Lesbros has some welcome advice on the subject as she advises that procurement pros present the cake, rather than describe the recipe!

She also describes her vision for the future of procurement, the importance of continuous development and why we must resist using procurement jargon!

And, if you’ve ever assumed that today’s CPO’s followed a clear and well-crafted career plan, think again! Fabienne explains how her ascent to the top went a little differently!

Fabiene Lesbros’ podcast will be available on Procurious from 7th September.

Day Five: Al Williams Managing Director & CPO, Barclays

What are today’s CPOs looking out for in the high performing procurement leaders of tomorrow? For Barclays CPO, Al Williams, it’s all about embracing change. But he isn’t just looking for procurement pros that are simply able to tolerate, or adapt to, big changes. If you’re in the driver’s seat, you’ve got to take the wheel and drive the agenda!

Al also discusses how procurement can generate value, how the function should be positioned within an organisation and how he encourages his hires to think about positive change.

And, if you’re in the market for some new shining stars, find out what you can do to make procurement a preferred and enticing destination for the next generation of professionals!

Al Williams’ podcast will be available on Procurious from 8th September.

Career Boot Camp 2017 launches on 4th September, featuring podcasts  with 5 global CPOs. Sign up here (It’s FREE!)

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.

Best of the Blog: Overcoming Gender Bias In Procurement

Jackie Aggett, Regional Commercial Manager at Laing O’Rourke, discusses the gender bias she has come up against in procurement, and how she has overcome it to get to where she is today.

Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an interview with Jackie Aggett who explains the gender discrimination she’s endured and her advice on how to overcome it. 

Jackie Aggett hadn’t been in procurement long when she needed to spend weeks preparing a major annual report about the procurement of earth moving tyres.

She handed it over to the site manager and watched him hurl the report angrily across the room. It hit the wall and fell apart.

“What would you know about earth moving tyres?,” he bellowed?
The 28-year-old calmly walked over and picked up the report, and told him again that there were going to be changes. Like it, or not.

“Every part of me wanted to turn around and run out the door, but I’ve always found ways to overcome challenges in the workplace and turn them into opportunities,” Aggett says.

Finding a Voice

The experience did nothing to dampen her conviction. She has worked in male dominated roles for 25 years. She started out in a supply cadetship at BHP Billiton and then went on to work in rail, construction, marine services and a seawater desalination plant.

“I learned a lot in that cadetship. My boss at the time gave me the cadetship because he saw me as being very courageous, which was part of my upbringing. He sent me straight to Port Headland, where I was the only female.”

Her colleagues weren’t used to working with women. The only uniform available to her was the men’s trousers and shirts. “They were ill-fitting and very uncomfortable. Procuring some clothes to wear to work was high on the list in those early days,” Aggett says.

If anything, her presence among the male workforce was seen perhaps only as a novelty. But that all changed once she began finding her voice in the business, and began offering new solutions to old problems.

“I had a good work ethic and believed in what I was doing, and hit the ground running. But the team weren’t engaged when I started to suggest change, and that was a difficult process to go through. However, I didn’t give up. I continued to speak up and stand up for myself.”

Creating Trusted Advisors

Aggett’s depth of experience covers roles in commercial, contractual and financial management from project start-up through to close-out. This includes all facets of tender preparation, negotiation, contract award and subsequent on-site contract administration, claims, project controls, forecasting, financial reporting and risk management as the client asset owner or contractor.

Six months ago, she was tapped on the shoulder and offered the role of procurement head with international engineering enterprise Laing O’Rourke, which took her across the country from Perth to Sydney. She jumped at the chance.

Her focus in her role has been creating a vision – working to transform the procurement function from spend managers to trusted advisers, firstly among her team of 35 people.

“It is imperative we move beyond being seen and acting as a governance compliance function. We need to understand the business strategy and align our objectives to deliver sustainable value,” she says.

Challenging the Norm

Aggett has implemented a supply relationship management programme among other initiatives, which has been a big step forward for the procurement function within the business.

“A key part of this has been challenging the way in which we engage with the supply chain. The supply chain has a wealth of knowledge and capability which, if tapped into, can provide value creating solutions for our clients, ourselves and our supply chain partners.

“Unfortunately, the construction industry does not often afford the supply chain the opportunity to bring their knowledge and capabilities to the table. Our supplier relationship management program seeks to change this.”

Aggett wasn’t specifically chasing roles in such large corporate organisations, saying one thing just led to another.

“It certainly wasn’t planned that I’d work in male-dominated industries. I had four brothers and a working mother, and was raised to believe that girls can do anything.”

Overcoming Roadblocks

She admits that early on in her career, she came up against road blocks, but didn’t for a moment consider that had anything to do with gender bias.

“I definitely came up against a lot of unconscious bias in my early roles, and at times doing my job took some courage and self-belief. Being female has definitely been a challenge in the roles I’ve held.

“I’d wonder why someone wouldn’t listen to me, or how I could better showcase my skills. I’d work very hard to win someone over, and go through the problem solving process to try and work out why I wasn’t getting the result I wanted. The fact that I was a woman was always at the bottom of the list. Now, after 25 years working in the industry, I arrive at that conclusion a lot quicker and obviously have a lot more confidence in the role.”

Aggett hopes times have changed and that young women entering the procurement industry don’t come up against the gender bias she experienced.

“Saying that, I have been fortunate to work with individuals and organisations that have encouraged me to take opportunities, to believe in my abilities and to reward me for my efforts. I have experienced many organisations that have allowed flexibility in my working week, as I’ve raised two daughters as a single parent.”

While there are no requirements to do so, she advocates the importance of having a degree behind you for anyone working in procurement. Her law and finance degree has stood her in good stead, she says.

“It has absolutely served me well to have the formal qualifications behind me. When people are passionate about procurement and they’ve got the formal education, it gives them a seat at the board table in any situation they’re in.”

Procurious launched Bravo, a group to celebrate and promote women working in procurement. Get involved by joining here.