Is your approach to hiring top procurement talent a game of hide-and-seek?

Are you using the right methods to attract, identify and hire the right person?

What recruiting strategies are companies using to attract the best talent, and how does it align with what senior procurement candidates are doing to assess if the company they are considering is the right fit for them?

Whenever someone asks me this question, I always say that the hiring process should not be a game of hide-and-seek between a company and candidate, but a communicative process of mutual discovery. Specifically, are you using the right methods to attract, identify and ultimately hire the right person within the needed timeframe.

It is an important question and based on the ongoing challenges companies are having in finding their next procurement leader; there does not appear to be a ready answer.

The purpose of this article is to provide you and your talent sourcing team with that answer. 

Understanding the gap

When we discuss the ongoing topic of the war on talent and the growing talent gap, what exactly does that mean? In other words, is it the result of an external reality or an internal strategy?

Most people think of a talent gap as being solely a lack of qualified people in the general marketplace to fill their immediate needs. 

While this is true to a certain extent, what we have also found is that in addition to any external “general” shortage, a misaligned recruiting strategy magnifies the challenges considerably. In other words, it isn’t that the right talent isn’t out there, it is that the methods used to find and engage candidates at a senior level are not in alignment with the positions an organisation is looking to fill. 

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Finding a needle 

When you are looking to fill a senior position, you need to engage at a level that recognises the fact that these individuals are not likely to be randomly posting their resume using keywords on an indiscriminate number of job sites.

Unfortunately, and with the advent of technology which utilises AI and keyword searching, there is a potential perception that these low-cost high-volume activities are “silver bullets” capable of finding a niche expert in a sea of general practitioners. Of course, it would be far easier to find the proverbial needle in a haystack than hire your next Director of Procurement using this method.

At this point, it is important to stress that leveraging technology and emerging AI capability to sift through a vast job marketplace using keyword searches can be useful when hiring entry or mid-level positions. The reason is simple; you are better able to assess candidate qualifications within the framework of a functional position versus a strategic one in which there are greater demands and risks.

When you consider that in their efforts to hire for a senior position many companies, after 6 or 9 months (and some even longer) are still looking, you can see the point we are trying to make.  

Research proves the above to be true. According to a March 11th, 2020 article, less than 10 percent of jobs at a senior level is the result of candidates being on a job board. Conversely between 80 and 90 percent of hires are the result of networking.

It’s all about the network

Almost every person in business has read the book The Art of War. Of the many great words of wisdom or sayings, one that seems to stand out the most is the assertion that most battles are won or lost before the fight begins. 

When it comes to recruiting senior or niche talent, in which success is not due to what you know but whom you know, these are wise words. 

To start, the best and brightest candidates tend to research the market to identify potential employers rather than trawling through a sea of advertised job adverts. At this level, it is all about aligning career aspirations with the right organisation. So, long before you find them, they have probably engaged their network or been in contact via a head-hunter. What this means is that if you are not in their network of contacts, you’ve lost the competitive advantage.

Many top-level candidates with increasing frequency are also seeking advice from a career or executive search professional. These search professionals usually come from a similar background, sometimes having held senior executive positions themselves. 

The point here is that the strength of your network will impact your success in hiring someone for a senior position. 

Building your network

Regardless of where you are with your current network, you can take proactive measures to build it so that you are not in a hide-and-seek situation when looking to hire a senior-level procurement executive.

In addition to connecting with an established executive search professional, through whom you will gain access to a highly cultivated and strategically focused network, you can also research as to any movement within your industry sector.

You may also want to consider tapping into the networks of executives within your organisation for possible referrals. Remember, you are all on the same team and statistics show that 30 percent of all hires overall came through a referral from someone working within the same company.

Aligning with success

The current job market is highly competitive, and when there is a perception of a talent shortage, it is a “sellers” market.

What this means is that as a company looking to hire top talent, you have to adopt a proactive strategy that not only seeks the candidates but knows where to find them.

Then once you find them, your team must be well equipped to not only ask, but answer challenging questions. They must also project confidence by conveying a clear message regarding the position’s expectations and opportunities.

In this regard, the words of the Head of Talent Sourcing for a global management consulting company are worth noting; “when my company is trying to hire at Director level or above, we will dedicate a well seasoned and senior talent specialist to make the right hire.”  

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