Hire Right in Procurement and Operations: Interview Approaches to Consider

Over on Supply Management's site, a contributor recently penned a blog that shares "crazy interview questions" which Google often uses in its interview process. For those that come from the management consulting world, these questions are pretty much the standard 'case interview' fare that we all spent time thinking about during the undergraduate or graduate recruiting process. Personally, while I think there's merit to case interview questions to discern analytical thinking skills and base-level intellectual horsepower, I think when taken alone they can provide a less than complete picture into how a candidate will perform in a real world setting. As I've written about before on Spend Matters, at FreeMarkets we used a modified case interview approach on occasion, dumping a bag of parts onto the conference table of an interview candidate and asking how they would source them. The secret to completing the case, in part, was figuring out an optimal lotting strategy.

But the challenge of case interviews even like this is that they can't tell you about a candidate's EQ, or emotional intelligence, another topic that I've offered up an opinion on in the past. For those not familiar with the term, emotional intelligence, which Michael Lamoureux has also written about, captures a person's interpersonal maturity and social judgment skills. To get a sense of what I mean by this, a good blackjack player obviously needs a strong IQ. A strong poker player, in contrast, also needs a high EQ to judge the actions and intentions of those around him.

In the Spend Management world, I'd argue that EQ is especially important when dealing with tough internal clients. Consider how the best sourcing strategies for marketing or legal spend might achieve savings, but you'll never be able to get to the RFQ phase -- let alone implement savings -- unless the stakeholders and business spend owners agree that it's in their best interest to play ball. High EQ can also be essential when working on supplier performance, development or quality initiatives and can play a critical role in global sourcing when the ability to perceive and react to subtleties in personality, intent, language and culture can make the difference between success and failure.

But how can you measure EQ in an interview? For one, I'd suggest asking for examples of past situations where soft-skills made the difference between success and failure. Here, as in a case interview, it's not just success that you're judging, but rather the thought process and approach the candidate went through and what they learned from it. But most important, the best way to measure EQ is through past performance from those who can speak to it. As an aside, those who have succeeded in sales roles in the past are often quite likely to have higher EQ levels than those coming from a technical or financial background (where IQ is often perceived to be more important than EQ).

Jason Busch

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