Friday, July 29, 2011

5 Ways To Screw Up A Purchasing Job Interview


Getting an interview in today's purchasing job environment is tough. Not only are there few good jobs available due to the high unemployment rate, but having your resume not get lost in the shuffle is an accomplishment in itself because of the pure volume of people looking for work and bombarding job postings with their resumes.

So, if you get a rare interview, you better not screw it up. Unfortunately, people make one or more of these five mistakes and end up not getting jobs that they may have had:

Mistake #1: Taking An Interview Late In The Process. If you are given a choice, take the first interview you can. By the time the last interviewee walks into the hiring manager's office, a decision has probably already been made. Once a hiring manager finds "the one," all future candidates are compared to that person. It's tough to be good enough to defeat the memory of a great candidate. In fact, if the first thing you say is less impressive than the best thing that "the one" said, your chances of getting the job are probably already up the creek less than a minute into the interview. Plus, have you seen the faces and body language of people who have interviewed 20 people in a week? They are weary. It's hard to sell yourself to - or even be listened to by - someone so mentally exhausted.

Mistake #2: Not Being Prepared For The Most Ridiculously Common Interview Question In The History of Man-Freakin'-Kind. What is this question, you ask? It is "Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?" You'd think if there was one question that people would have anticipated and practiced for, it would have been this one. However, I've seen plenty of interviewees be totally unprepared for this question. And then they ramble on and ramble on and ramble on and include some stuff that is really irrelevant. Four or five sentences can sum a person up pretty well. Here's an example...

"I am a purchasing professional with nine years of experience. My three most recent employers were ABC Company, Widgets 'R' Us, and Big Bank. In all three of those roles, I achieved several millions of dollars in annual cost savings, improved relationships between the purchasing department and its stakeholders, and transformed supplier performance. I am a person who loves overcoming challenges and exceeding my goals, so I'm very excited about discussing the purchasing manager position here at your company."

Mistake #3: Not Distributing Eye Contact. It's pretty common for multiple people to interview you. Make sure that you distribute eye contact as evenly as possible to every single person on the interviewing team, not just the person who asked you the question. Keep in mind that the decision-maker - or at least a strong influencer - may be someone who doesn't ask any of the questions but sits back and quietly observes.

Mistake #4: Saying Something - Anything - Negative. Saying something that sounds like a complaint makes you naturally unattractive. Even beyond that, seasoned hiring managers believe that candidates should have read enough about interviewing to know better than to say something negative. They may even see if they can draw negativity out of you. For example, if you said "My last job was a great job. It was stressful at times, but overall it was great," the hiring manager may follow up with "So, what was stressful about it?" They will give you a rope just to see if you will hang yourself with it. Can you go an hour without saying anything negative? You better be able to if you want to maximize the number of job offers you get.

Mistake #5: Using Slang Inappropriately. Business taboos fall year after year. Still, the purchasing profession tends to be a little more conservative than other disciplines like marketing or IT. So, be careful how you use slang. Look to your interviewers for clues as far as how casual the conversation should be and try to match the level of formality displayed in their speech. Even if the interviewer is young, that doesn't mean that they embrace informality or that the company culture is informal. One time, I had a candidate tell me in an interview "I'm really anal about things like that." I knew what she meant. I've used the term myself in casual conversation. But the candidate's comfort in speaking like that in an interview process made me uncomfortable about how the candidate might fit into the company culture. Sure, I said "Man-Freakin'-Kind" in this blog post but would I say it in an interview? Uh, I don't think so!

So, those are five ways to screw up a purchasing job interview. Now don't screw your next interview up, OK!

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The NLPA Dedicated Member of the Month for July 2011 Is...

Every month, the Next Level Purchasing Association (NLPA) recognizes a purchasing professional who has made impressive progress in learning more about his/her field. We are excited to announce that the NLPA Dedicated Member of the Month for July 2011 is...

Jennifer Goodwin, SPSM, a Purchasing Professional from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. During the month of June, Jennifer completed all six Senior Professional in Supply Management® Program classes.

Jennifer was kind enough to share some of her tips for completing the SPSM® Certification and to give some insight into how important a procurement certification is when seeking employment:

"The biggest thing for me is I spent every spare minute studying the information and I took REALLY good notes. Even if the information is in the lesson I find that I can more easily recall what I have written down- that's the next best thing to working knowledge.

"I have 15 years experience in the procurement industry, international and domestic (US). My last position was as a Purchasing Manager for the largest construction project in North American history- and I still learned quite a bit in these courses!

"I have been out of work since my last project ended a year ago. I would think that with my knowledge, background, and references that I could land a great job, but I haven't had any luck. My last two interviews were successful... they liked me, my references, my 'fit' in their organization, and I went to final interviews for both. I lost out on both jobs because I didn't have CERTIFICATION!! After the second one I decided to just buckle down and get my certification. I decided on SPSM® because it is internationally recognized, and most large companies have begun to institute Global Sourcing programs. It will give me the additional edge that I need."
Next Level Purchasing and the procurement community around the world congratulate Jennifer and her dedication to having a more successful purchasing career!

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The NFL Lockout Negotiations: What Can Procurement Take Away?


The big news in the past 48 hours is that the NFL players have approved the deal negotiated with the owners and that there will be professional football played in the USA this year.

This news obviously excited football fans. But it also excited me as more than just a football fan, but also as a teacher and student of the art of negotiation, specifically procurement negotiation.

There was an interesting technique used in the negotiation between the NFL owners and players to end the lockout that had persisted for nearly five months. That technique was described in the article "Hackenberg: Ace in hole flips labor landscape" published in last Wednesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In the above-linked article, Dave Hackenberg writes that "the players had a mighty big card hiding in the hole, a weapon so secret that the vast majority of NFL Players Association members didn't even know of its existence. Neither did the league's owners. But since they were enlightened Thursday morning, negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement have proceeded at warp speed."

What was this secret weapon that transformed a stalled negotiation into one that suddenly accelerated the reaching of an agreement?

It was having, and revealing at precisely the right time, what is known as a BATNA - Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. I'm not 100% sure of the origin of this term, but I believe it to be from the groundbreaking negotiation book "Getting To Yes."

When you have a BATNA, you have much more leverage in a negotiation. If the other side finds out about your BATNA and it is a decent alternative, they won't be able to "push you around."

What was the players' BATNA?

It was having an insurance policy that would pay each player $200,000 if a lockout preempted the entire 2011 football season. This insurance policy reportedly cost the players $10 million.

The article says that the attempts to reach agreement "were at a standstill despite a marathon negotiating session a week ago. Afterward, [the players' association's executive director, DeMaurice Smith] and his executive committee decided it was time to flip over their hole card in this high-stakes poker game...It would be an understatement to suggest [the revelation of the insurance coverage] got the attention of the owners."

Selecting the right time to reveal their alternative undermined the owners' negotiation strategy, which was "to wear the players down by dragging [the lockout] out." As you heard on last week's Next Level Purchasing Association monthly webinar on IT negotiations, "the key to victory is not defeating the enemy, but in defeating the enemy’s strategy; therein lies their vulnerability." (Sun Tzu, "The Art of War")

The article closes by saying that, to "some millionaire athletes, $200,000 might be chump change. But it would pay the light bill and put groceries on the table. Most important, it would foster the solidarity needed by the players to dig in for the long haul. The owners and commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has been battered in the court of public opinion, thought time was on their side. But DeMaurice Smith flexed his muscle, showed his ace in the hole, and the owners blinked."

Now, I know that this negotiation process isn't an easily applicable template for procurement situations. You can't tell your suppliers "We have lockout insurance" and then suddenly expect them to give you the price reductions you've been pushing for.

But, you know what? DeMaurice Smith didn't have a template for his negotiations. If previous labor disputes had been resolved in exactly this way, the owners would have been prepared and that "secret weapon" would have been powerless.

So, sometimes, you need to come up with never-done-before ways of breaking a negotiation deadlock. Use the NFL lockout negotiations as inspiration for you to find new, creative, and surprising ways to persuade your suppliers. The "we'll just buy from another supplier" line is old, predictable, and sometimes easy to see through.

What type of out-of-the-box "ace in the hole" can you think of to use in your negotiations with suppliers? Post in the comments below and help your fellow procurement professionals.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Supply Risk Checklist

I hope that you have enjoyed the article "A 19-Point Supply Risk Checklist."

The editions of PurchTips that we've dedicated to checklists have become some of our most popular editions. We are planning to continuing to publish them from time to time. Here are the other checklists available so far:

A 13-Point Procurement Ethics Checklist

A 20-Point Proposal Evaluation Checklist

A 21-Point Negotiation Checklist

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

Who's Going To ProcureCon Indirect West?

One of the most memorable procurement conferences I've spoken at and attended this year was the ProcureCon Corporate Sourcing event in February. That conference had a great lineup of speakers and a pretty amazing group of attendees with whom to network (including many CPO's of household name-type of companies).

If you missed that event earlier, you have a chance to rectify the situation. Our friends at WB Research are hosting ProcureCon Indirect West with a similar (if not slightly better) agenda on July 26-28 in Las Vegas. As an example, they have procurement executives from companies such as Pfizer, Warner Brothers, and MeadWestVaco speaking - and that's just the first day!

Unfortunately, a family issue is preventing me from attending this particular edition of ProcureCon. But if you are going (or decide to go based on this post), I'd love to hear your takeaways from the conference and live vicariously through you. If you're reading this directly on my blog, just click the Comment link below. If you're reading this on LinkedIn, you can feel free to comment in this discussion or directly on my blog at http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/blog.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Highlights From The IT Negotiation Webinar Yesterday

In case you missed yesterday's Next Level Purchasing Association monthly member's webinar yesterday, I thought I'd post a few highlights here. And there were many highlights due to the fantastic presentation from ClearEdge Partners' Tom Demarco. Some excerpts from Tom's sage advice...

  • On incumbent supplier's inflexibility with pricing: "They know you won't leave them unless you've kicked the tires with someone else."
  • On the three things an organization needs to do if it wants to have any leverage when negotiating with IT suppliers: "Play early, have supplier intelligence, [and] act as one team." If you deploy these negotiation strategies, you will be "a shark against a shark" not a guppy against a shark.
  • On what you should train your IT counterparts to say to suppliers when they ask what are the business drivers prompting the procurement process: "I really don't know. I'm just here to validate the technology."
  • On the goal of a salesperson: "Know you've won the transaction before negotiating."
  • On why salespeople are so adept at controlling sales processes: "US enterprises spent $6 billion training sales professionals in 2007." (Source cited: ES Research Group, 2008 Sales Training Vendor Guide)
  • On testimony given by a large IT firm during anti-trust hearings: The CEO said that they charge what they think their customers are willing to pay.
  • On the need to structure the procurement process before it begins: "You have to start early. You cannot start at the time that you need the technology."
  • On clues that salespeople look for in order to resist procurement negotiation tactics: "If I know you have a $3 million problem, you'll never get me down to $50,000."
  • On why procurement departments need to have a negotiation plan for their big IT suppliers: "Almost every supplier that views your transaction as strategic to them has a playbook on you."
Keep an eye out for the August NLPA webinar to be announced soon! Not a member? Click here to join - it's FREE!

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Announcing "15 Rules For Ethical Supplier Interaction" - A New Online Course From Next Level Purchasing!

Though procurement departments are largely responsible for selecting and managing a company’s suppliers, other employees of a company frequently interact with those same suppliers and most of them don’t know anything about procurement ethics. This leaves those companies vulnerable to the large number of ethical traps that can get even the most honest of business people into bad situations. A new online Express Course, “15 Rules For Ethical Supplier Interaction,” from Next Level Purchasing will comprehensively teach all employees, not just the procurement department, to identify and avoid ethical supplier interaction traps- even the most subtle and tricky ones.

“There are CEO’s out there who haven’t given much thought to the interactions people in their company have with suppliers and how ethical those interactions are, but they should,” said Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2 President and founder of Next Level Purchasing. “We’ve all seen some very big-name companies fall victim to embarrassing, and often costly, ethics scandals. Our Express Course ‘15 Rules for Ethical Supplier Interaction’ is an easy way to prevent that ethical vulnerability. This Express Course can help leaders put the classic ‘ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ adage into action."

The “15 Rules For Ethical Supplier Interaction” course is the newest Express Course available from www.NextLevelPurchasing.com. Express Courses are 1-lesson in length and can be completed in about 30-60 minutes. The enrollment fee for “15 Rules For Ethical Supplier Interaction” is $14.99 US.

To learn more about what is covered in this course, please visit http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/online-ethics-course.php.

To enroll in "15 Rules For Ethical Supplier Interaction" or any of Next Level Purchasing's other online courses, please visit http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/registration.php.


Friday, July 15, 2011

One of My Pet Peeves With Certain Suppliers, Part II


Yesterday, I posted that one of my pet peeves with certain suppliers is when they try to sell you what they want to sell instead of what you want to buy (http://goo.gl/HSqSg). I gave an example of a situation from over 10 years ago when a procurement technology provider tried hard to sell my employer a spend analysis solution instead of just focusing on the eProcurement system we wanted to buy.

I promised another more recent example today. And here it is!

Next Level Purchasing recently awarded a contract for the redesign of our website and that project is now in process with the new design to be unveiled this Fall. During the bidding and negotiation process, one of the prospective suppliers tried hard to get us to commit to a package deal involving outsourced marketing services (e.g., creating brochures, presentation slides, etc.) on a long-term basis.

Everything about this supplier’s communication made it clear that they really wanted to sell the long-term marketing services instead of just website redesign – from their proposed contract template to the topics they wanted to talk about during our conversations to even the subject lines of their emails. They were looking past what we wanted and that was, quite frankly, a red flag for us.

We ended up going with another supplier and the aforementioned behavior of losing bidder was one of the big reasons.

How do you feel when suppliers try harder to sell you something you are not even sourcing for instead of focusing on what you are sourcing for? How often does this happen to you? Is this a pet peeve of yours too, or just mine?


To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One of My Pet Peeves With Certain Suppliers, Part I


Since I first began interacting with suppliers as a new buyer in the mid-90's, I've dealt with countless suppliers between then and now. Some of them left me thinking "Now THAT'S how ALL suppliers should be" while others just plain ticked me off. One type of supplier that got under my skin is the supplier who tries to sell you what they want to sell instead of what you want to buy.

I have a couple of examples, one in today's post, one in tomorrow's post. Let's get started with the first example...

Back in the dot-com era, I just joined a new employer and I was responsible for leading a team that was charged with selecting and implementing an eProcurement system. Now, we didn't have a formal budget yet and the initiative could have gotten pulled off the table at any time. The senior management of my organization believed our message of eProcurement's value. They saw that our procurement department was processing tens of thousands of paper requisitions a year and knew that there had to be a better way. But, if anything made the project seem too complicated or costly, their support could be yanked without notice.

We evaluated demos and proposals from probably around a dozen providers and found one that seemed to fit our needs rather well. We engaged that provider in discussions of implementation matters to confirm whether the relationship could work. No contract was signed yet.

During one of the discussions, the provider started asking us about non-eProcurement-related things, specifically about how we analyzed our spend. With no "real" budget for technology yet - the eProcurement implementation would be the deciding factor in terms of whether senior management would trust us to spend their dollars on technology - we had an effective, if less than optimal way of using our data warehouse and Microsoft Access to get the spend information we needed in the short term.

Immediately, the provider went into "sales mode" and tried to convince us to also purchase their just-released spend analytics module alongside their eProcurement solution. This would essentially double the cost and add a new project to our agenda. While we knew that getting a more technologically advanced approach to spend analysis was the right thing to do long-term, we also knew that anything less than a quick, successful, and relatively inexpensive solution to our current paper requisition problem would result in management tiring of supporting us.

But, despite our requests for the supplier to focus solely on winning our eProcurement business, they continued to push hard to sell us on their spend analytics platform. It was a frustrating battle. We basically had to be unpleasantly firm to get them to sell us what we wanted to buy, not what they wanted to sell.

I found myself in a similar situation with a different supplier of a different service just recently. I'll share that example with you tomorrow...

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Procurement Parable - You Already Know That? Yeah, Right!


At the end of another hectic day in the life of a procurement manager, Bob was about to shut down his computer and head home. As he usually does before logging off, he checked to see if any new email had arrived.

Sure enough, there was a new message waiting for him. It was from Rick, a procurement specialist from a company across town in Western Pennsylvania.

Bob had known Rick for about three years. The two had met – and frequently saw each other – at the monthly meetings of the local procurement association.

As Bob read Rick’s message, he couldn’t help but feel disappointment. Bob was really excited to share what he felt was a helpful article he got from Next Level Purchasing, entitled “A 21-Point Negotiation Checklist.” So, he sent a link to the article to Rick earlier in the day.

Rick’s disappointing response?

“Thanks, Bob, but I already knew all those things. See you Tuesday.”

It reminded Bob of a feeling he had the last time he had seen Rick. It was at the previous month’s procurement association meeting. Bob had brought a copy of a book he loved - Supplier Evaluation and Performance Excellence by Sherry Gordonso he could show and recommend it to Rick.

After taking a quick look at the table of contents and leafing through a few pages, Rick handed the book back to Bob, saying “Looks like a good book, Bob, but I already know that stuff.” Despite being surprised by Rick’s somewhat rude response, Bob just shrugged it off and kind of forgot about it.

But hearing this same type of response in today’s email? It rubbed Bob the wrong way.

The weekend passed and, once again, it was the third Tuesday of the month. Time for the local procurement association meeting.

As was customary for the past three years, Bob and Rick met at a table near the back. This time, it was Rick who brought a resource to share – handouts from a presentation that Rick did for his company’s senior management. According to Rick, this presentation was what “sealed the deal” and got Rick’s department the authorization and funding to implement an eProcurement system.

Sure, implementing eProcurement in 2011 wasn’t exactly cutting edge – it was becoming common practice a decade earlier – but Bob was glad to hear that his friend’s procurement department was making progress. Bob had heard many a story throughout the years about the failure of projects that were intended to modernize procurement at Rick’s company. Rick’s company seemed to be firmly stuck in the 1980’s when it came to things like supply chain technology, sourcing strategy and best practices.

At the end of the meeting, the association’s president announced the workshop that would be held at the next month’s meeting. The workshop would be covering purchasing project management, including an overview of all the project management best practices that are being adopted by the most advanced procurement departments. Bob was certainly excited about this topic!

“Can I count on seeing ya hear next month, Buddy?” Bob asked Rick. “It sure sounds like an amazing workshop.”

“Nah,” Rick replied. “I already know that stuff.”

Bob let out a disgusted sigh and looked away. His irritation was palpable to Rick.

“What’s the matter, Bob?” Rick asked.

“Nothing,” Bob replied.

“C’mon, Bob, you can’t fool me,” Rick retorted. “I read suppliers’ body language all day in negotiations and your body language is telling me that you are ticked about something.”

“Well, Rick, it’s just…it’s just that I’m a person that believes that you can never learn too much and you…you act like you know everything sometimes,” Bob said, almost sheepishly.

“You gotta understand, my friend,” Rick spit defensively, “When I first started my job 10 years ago, they put me through some intense purchasing training – I probably had 30 hours of training that first year. So, I kinda know a lot of stuff.”

“Dude!” Bob said at a near shouting level. “Things change. You’re excited about implementing eProcurement in 2011! Modern companies are doing things way beyond that. What you do in your company is behind the times and yet you know everything?”

Rick had heard enough. He violently turned and left the meeting facility without uttering another word to Bob or anyone else.

That was the last time Bob saw Rick although he kept tabs on Rick’s whereabouts through a mutual acquaintance. Rick had spent another two years at his company. The eProcurement implementation went relatively successfully. And the company brought in a consultant to help establish a strategic sourcing plan. But, even then, the company had no green procurement program, no supply risk mitigation plan, and no other best-of-breed procurement technology.

Rick then moved to his home state of Wisconsin to be closer to his parents after his elderly mother fell ill. Unfortunately, Rick had no luck when applying for purchasing jobs there. Even when he got interviews, Rick couldn’t sufficiently articulate any significant level of expertise in the areas valued by employers, which ironically included negotiation, supplier evaluation, and purchasing project management.

Meanwhile, Bob continued to build his educational credentials and got promoted to Director of Procurement. Bob never regretted having an open mind and learning.

Moral of the Story: If you think you already know everything, challenge yourself to prove that thought wrong. You can learn every day.

For additional procurement parables, see:

Execute, Da**it, Execute!

Hiring Buyers With Potential

The Procurement Promotion That You Lost (But Didn't Even Know That You Were Considered For)

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At
www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

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