Traditional or Nurturing? 2 Methods for Recruiting Procurement Professionals


Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Zelim Suleymanov, chief executive of PrECA.

It is not easy to find a top-class procurement professional. On the one hand, purchases require best practices expertise, and on the other hand, they need unconventional thinking and a creative approach. Highlights and challenges of up-to-date recruiting techniques with a focus on procurement can be found in a number of resources. Among them is procurement talent management and related issues described by Charles Dominick of the Next Level Purchasing Association.

I would suggest two possible headhunting models that can be used either individually or in combination when recruiting employees. They are what I call traditional and nurturing methods.

Тhe Traditional Method

This is when we’re looking for someone with a good knowledge of the industry, experience in procurement, and expertise in purchasing categories. If an employee is looking for a position with an international company, we add relevant experience to the vacancy requirements, since the way of thinking and professional approaches in Western and Russian companies vary fundamentally.

This approach can be effective when:

  • Purchasing activities are similar to other companies, but vary in scale/industry specifics.
  • Expertise in complex purchasing categories is required, for example, in raw materials, marketing or IT.
  • Procurement procedures in the company lag behind market trends, professionals are needed to restructure them.
  • There is no time to train employees. You need quick wins.

The traditional method has a number of advantages. The employee is loyal to the industry and procurement sector. S/he makes fewer mistakes and is able to start projects quickly and deliver results.

And there are, of course, some disadvantages. The employee may not always be open to new ideas and techniques, potentially showing an irrelevant self-confidence that goes against the corporate culture. S/he may rely only on practical experience, unprepared to deal with mistakes. And such hires are inclined to compare current job conditions with their previous place of employment.

The Nurturing Method

This method calls for hiring an employee with no experience, but one who is loyal to the corporate culture and possesses outstanding intellectual abilities and empathy. Nurtured hires have high potential and are motivated for personal development and career.

This approach can be effective when:

  • Your company is in a unique or highly specific field.
  • Your company actively applies its own unique procurement methodology, IT tools and analytics
  • The procurement process is well-adjusted, but the old team no longer has a fresh vision and some new blood is needed.

The main advantages here are that the nurtured hire will already work well with others in the company, getting along well with internal clients. S/he should be easy to train and open to new approaches and techniques. However, hiring a professional without a procurement background is a gamble. Lack of experience may lead to frequent mistakes, and it is also possible that the professional will discover later on that s/he is not a good fit for the procurement field.


In short, a traditional hire can be relied upon to perform functions that require experience and specific skills. However, such hires may not prove to be good team players, instead acting as they believe to be fit and right. When interacting with such an employee, coaching is preferable, rather than inflexible goal setting and control. Beginners are good for places where innovative approaches to work are practiced and fresh ideas are encouraged.

However, for highly specialized segments of procurement, such employees are hardly suitable. Let’s say, for example, that a new person is employed to save purchasing budget in the IT category. As a result, the employee not only fails to deliver the result expected, but also upsets the department's relations with IT guys, who do not like buyers not versed in their field. Obviously, for such an area it is more practical to select an experienced employee who is able to quickly establish relations with the business function and launch burning projects.

Don’t forget that different approaches can be combined. At PrECA we often use the method of nurturing our employees, since the specifics of outsourcing and consulting in procurement differ greatly from the operations of internal procurement departments in a company. A professional services company is more focused on project activities and proprietary technologies, and it is aimed at specific results and achievements.

Readers, how do you select employees for procurement department? Do you prefer experienced candidates or rookies? Tell us in the comment section below!

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