How Good are Your Interviewing Skills: Do You Listen or Just Talk?

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Interview2.jpg“Procurement professionals spend quality time preparing for their sourcing activities and negotiations with suppliers, but they are generally poorly prepared for interviewing job candidates”, Elaine Porteous, Managing Director of CA Procurement, told SmartProcurement. With job-hunting season fast approaching, you may find yourself recruiting to fill key vacancies, so here are a few tips...


Common Mistakes Made by Inexperienced Hiring Managers:

  1. To enter into a monologue on the organisation, the procurement marketplace and the job role straight away.  This is wrong!  This opens the door for the candidate to use this information to promote themselves to fulfill the interviewer’s expectations.
  2. To talk to the candidate with passion and in detail about the job and the opportunities that the organisation is offering without establishing the candidate’s capability to do the job.  Listen to what they have to say.  


Some Key Procurement Interview Questions
Please describe your professional procurement experience, including the types of products and services purchased, monetary amounts involved, and your role or involvement in the development and administering of procurement bids.  Be specific in describing your role and functions in carrying out your duties.

This question will provide the foundation for further questions or will reveal the candidate’s inexperience and inability to do the job!

Please describe one programme or project in which you displayed initiative to change an existing procedure or start a new procedure.  Provide details as to what the project / programme entailed, your role, involvement, and the outcome.

This question should provide almost all the answers you need to establish whether this is the right candidate.  Listen carefully and then drill-down into the person’s exact role and involvement.  If the answers are too loose or vague, press for more detail. 

Some useful words to use when trying to pin-down details are:

  • “Explain how you…”
  • “Tell me more about…”
  • “Describe your relationship with...”
  • “Please expand on...”

If you use the above, you will dig deep and uncover gaps in knowledge and skills.

Experienced interviewees will have been through some of this before as procurement people look for a new job every three to four years.  There are many resources available to candidates to research and prepare ‘best answers’ and the unprepared hiring manager is often out-maneuvered. 


Three Tough Questions
In the book Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions, Martin John Yate tells the interviewee to be ready for tough questions like the following:

  • Rate yourself on a scale of 1–10. 

What is the right answer?  Hint:  If the answer is less than 7, you should expect the interviewer to get up and leave.  10 is probably not the best choice either.  Rather justify an 8 or 9.   

  • Describe a difficult stakeholder or vendor situation that you found yourself involved in and tell us how you handled the situation and solved the problem.

This will uncover quite a lot about attitude and behaviour.  Anyone not understanding the importance of the term ‘stakeholder’ will struggle with this one.  Take the answer about the vendor and establish the outcome and then go back to the stakeholder or ‘internal customer’ problem.  Every real procurement professional has an example for you!  

  • What are your weaknesses?  

The weakness mentioned should not be critical to the job.  In the procurement field, poor verbal skills and being overly assertive are no-no’s.  Look for a gap in content knowledge which can be remedied, rather than a poor basic personal quality.  When asked what is being done to remedy the weakness, the answer should include something positive.  Also, watch out for a strength that is presented as a weakness, e.g. ‘I’m a workaholic’, or ‘I’m a stickler for detail’.  This does not come over well and is seen as an attempt to dodge the question.


It is a good idea for aspiring procurement heads and CPOs to work on the above skills which will assist in ensuring that the selection process is effective.  Hiring the wrong people is very time consuming and very expensive.


Article submitted by Elaine Porteous of CA Procurement in the interests of assisting procurement professionals to be more efficient in the interviewing and appointment process. 

Elaine Porteous can be contacted at the details below:
Cell:  +27 82 412 5831
E-Mail:  elaine@caprocure.co.za

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