Three things a CPO should do before hiring

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Iain McKenna, managing director at Sourcing Solved, talks about the challenges faced when hiring a new executive and how you can make the process more successful.


Hiring a new senior procurement executive is never an easy task. However, if you collaborate with internal stakeholders and take time to consider the function’s and the company’s needs, you can be successful.


Here are the three steps you should take before embarking on the process.


    1. Collaborate


Before starting the search for a new senior procurement executive, you should first consider your company’s business strategy. It is essential that you have internal alignment on how to approach the objectives of the CPO: Is this new executive being brought in to pull together synergies from acquisitions, to steer the boat for strategic business transformation, for cost reduction, or for innovation? The business maturity and strategy will define how this new appointment is to be orchestrated.


When you begin your search, it’s inevitable that everyone involved will have their own expectations: CPO, CFO, COO and HR functions. Often there is little collaboration in advance to produce a job specification that ticks all the boxes.


Instead collaboration often comes in the form of each business unit separately adding information to the specification, which quickly becomes a long list of things that everyone wants, without any cohesion.


To get to the heart of what is important, you could try running a workshop involving the CPO, CFO and HR. Here you should focus on the team that the hire will be joining, and agree together on a structured specification that works for everyone. One aspect of this could be to ensure that the budget is suitable for the role you’re recruiting for. For example, if you need a procurement director but you only have the budget for a procurement manager, what are your options? What is essential and what can be spared?


    1. Profile who you are looking for


You should identify any gaps in the management team, not only in terms of skills but also personality and cultural fit. This is as important as experience and demonstrated skills. You should know what type of management style will suit the business. If you’re looking for a procurement director who will focus on cutting costs, this will require a different mind-set than someone who is more strategy-focused.


Headhunting reduces the risk of finding an unsuitable candidate because they will often come from a competitor, and may be doing a similar job. While they may have a relevant skill-set, to understand the individual you will still need break out of the normal process; the executives themselves must roll up their sleeves and get involved.


If you pass over responsibility to HR, you risk them not understand why the business needs such a procurement executive and what impact they’ll have on the business. They may even revert to a series of competency-based questions that are standard for the organisation, and not specific to the role.


The outcome from this will be similar to that for many businesses; you may get lucky, but you may also find that six months down the line it doesn’t work out and you have to start the process again.


    1. Know your own selling points


An executive considering a new role will also be assessing your company. Unless you are a multi-national company whose reputation is well established, you will need to think about how you can attract the right talent. Take the time to profile your company as well as the role, and consider how you will sell the company to the candidate. Who is in the network of executives you are trying to attract, and how will they perceive your brand?


You should also conduct some research to determine how comparable you are in the market place.


Ultimately, you need to know the ins and outs of your business, as well as the industry. It will take some extra time, but once you have that knowledge you’ll find it hugely beneficial in making your search as efficient and productive as possible.


Iain McKenna is managing director of executive search firm Sourcing Solved

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