Separating Requirements From Preferences In Procurement Job Descriptions

Posted on July 26, 2016

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Special thanks to Charles Dominick, SPSM3 of the Next Level Purchasing Association for this guest post.

Improving procurement capability can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  I prefer to focus on the people side of procurement capability.

Believe it or not, there is a single document at the foundation of the people side of procurement capability that determines the degree of success the organization will or will not achieve through its procurement people.

What is that document?

It is the job description.

Each procurement position needs a job description.  If you get it right, it will provide a solid foundation for attracting and keeping the right people.  If you get it wrong, it is like a thin, wet, ripped card at the bottom of a house of cards – it will lead to the whole house of cards falling.  Or, in less metaphorical terms, poor job descriptions will make it extremely difficult for you to achieve world-class procurement results for any sustained period of time.

A fundamental aspect of getting your procurement job descriptions right is carefully separating your requirements from your preferences.

When you think about your ideal candidate, you may think of someone with a masters’ degree from an Ivy League university, experience getting results in exactly the category of purchased goods or services to which you’d assign her, every procurement certification available, and an inspiring personality.  It’s good to think big.  Seldom do people who achieve big dreams not dream even bigger.

But when you write the job description you use to recruit your next procurement professional, you may want to be cautious against getting too dreamy.

Charles Prioritizing soft skills

If you required that candidates have the aforementioned education, experience, certifications, and personality, there may be only a handful of people – or less – in the world who can meet those qualifications.  And they may already be happily employed.  Or living on another continent.  Or expecting compensation three times what you’d be able to pay.

You obviously don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry applying for your open strategic procurement position.  But you want to cast a wide enough net to give yourself some choice.

So, you may not want your job description to state that qualifications like that Ivy League MBA is “required.”  Instead, you may want to express the qualification as “preferred.”  This may encourage a candidate with the right experience, all of the certifications, and the right personality but only a bachelor’s degree from Harvard to apply whereas they would otherwise be discouraged from applying due to the master’s degree “requirement.”

So, think through all of the qualifications you value and determine if they are truly “required” or if you can consider them “preferred” so that you don’t have to turn away a rock star of a candidate due to a technicality.

In the next post in this series, I’ll share some insights on recruiting candidates that not only have the right qualifications, but are also truly serious about procurement.  Stay tuned!

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