Five must-have soft skills to show off in a procurement job interview

Benedicta Banga
posted by Benedicta Banga
17 August 2015

In my previous blog post I talked about the importance of soft skills in getting hired, so it seemed logical to follow up with the skills a procurement professional should showcase in an interview and why this would be important.

1. Negotiation. Finding a middle ground with suppliers can be extremely challenging when your own objectives lie in the balance as a result. A solid example should demonstrate the challenges pertaining to achieving the negotiated result. Being a big account for the supplier and asking for standard expected rebate or savings doesn't count as negotiating. It’s the give and take beyond the expected that should set you apart.

2. Time management. Time is money – timely decisions can create real savings or cost avoidance. The ability to place urgency on varying demands and still come out on top should not be taken for granted. Not everyone is able to grasp and prioritise the most urgent, important and valuable activity they should be pursuing. Do you cover for your manager in a high profile meeting with your senior leadership, drive to see a supplier who is going on holiday for two weeks leaving you with a problem and no plan, or do you go on the training you’ve been waiting to go on all year because it’s part of your development? Show the interviewer how you managed your time.

3. Communication. The best way to demonstrate you are an excellent communicator is in practice. This could be in the way you greet your interviewer, conduct your interview, the choice of your words, the pace and delivery of your answers. If you can demonstrate being cool, calm and collected yet personable in a high-pressure situation you give confidence to a potential employer that you have the ability to behave in such a manner in the role.

4. Presentation. You get one shot at making a first impression and it apparently takes seven seconds to make it. This is how much information is being processed by our senses at any given time- so you can see why this would be the case (Sight – 83 per cent; Hearing – 11 per cent; Smell – 3.5 per cent; Touch – 1.5 per cent; Taste – 1 per cent).

Presentation encompasses how appropriately dressed you are, communication also comes into it and the ability to present ideas clearly and concisely to an audience in cases where PowerPoint slides are requested. The way you carry yourself and your body language says a lot about you. As a procurement professional you are going to be representing the company to other businesses. It’s an important consideration at this stage to ensure you understand the company’s brand and demonstrate that you can fit in.

5. Cross-cultural teamwork. A lot of companies either have or deal with cross-cultural teams. This is most probably not the appropriate time to share jokes, your faux pas or anything that might be perceived in the wrong way, as you may not get the opportunity to explain yourself. Instead focus on your awareness and your positive development to understand how best to work in such teams.

Benedicta Banga is a procurement professional and the founder of career management agency Gradstrategy

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