B2B Firms – Be Very Careful When You Recruit Procurement People!

We had a lot of posts last month (February) about recruitment, but I wanted to come back to one point that was raised and share some personal experience.

At a couple of periods in my life, before I actually became a management consultant in 2000, I was looking seriously at that career path and doing the rounds of quite a few of the firms. This was both just before I got my first Procurement Director role and whilst I was in one of my CPO positions. Although I didn’t join any of the firms in the end, it was illuminating in a number of ways.

One of the very biggest blue-chip US strategy firms (you know who I mean) were rigorous to the point of exhaustion. About six interviews, most case-study-based, maths tests (the highlight of my performance actually), until I finally blew it by having a pretty big argument with the interviewer at my final session. I don’t think I was really cut out for their culture actually, but I finished that process with a lot of respect for their people and the effective way they ran the recruitment process.

Another large firm, with a strong reputation in the procurement market, was chaotic. The interviewer did not seem to know why he was seeing me, and after that day I failed to get any feedback at all – I gave up trying after a while, deciding they weren’t for me anyway. But then about six months later I got a call from a head-hunter saying “Firm X are recruiting at a very senior level, would you be interested”? Well, I said, I haven’t heard back from the interview in January so I think I will pass on that one, thank you ...

I had a somewhat similar experience with a second large firm too. But my point is not to moan about consulting firms or recruiting processes. Rather, it is to point out that I remained a CPO for quite a few years after these experiences. Which firm do you think I felt better inclined towards? And which firms, oddly enough, never won any business over which I had any influence throughout my time as a CPO?

That wasn’t a revenge/sour grapes sort of response either. It was just I felt that if either the attitude or the processes (or both) were as bad generally as I had observed them during the recruitment process, then I did not trust these firms to do great work for me as consultants.

Another friend of mine was treated very badly when she applied for a job with a large Finnish technology firm a few years back, coming up against a fine combination of arrogance and complacency. Not long after that, she was CPO of a substantial organisation that bought a lot of technology. How do you think she felt about the tender responses from that firm?

There is no excuse for treating candidates badly, or incompetence in general, in the recruitment process. “If you don’t hear from us, assume you have not been successful.” That is unacceptable, an email takes two minutes to send. But if you are any sort of B2B business, there are very good business reasons for handling procurement candidates in particular with great care. Today a candidate; tomorrow a customer!

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Voices (4)

  1. Nick @ Market Dojo:

    Goes hand in hand with thanking suppliers for their tender responses. Another area where you hear little back that does make you think twice before buying their products as a consumer / using their services in your own organisation.

  2. Ian Heptinstall:

    Fully agree Peter. There is a flipside to this coin where companies use pseudo recruitment opportunities (done well) as part of their marketing strategy just to give a decision maker more insight that the arms-length selection process usually allows, or to encourage them to favour their bid. There is too the UK Government version where a paying job does exist and is waiting to top up the pension

    An interesting variation on the theme comes when you move jobs. It is enlightening to see which of your keenest suppliers when you are CPO of one company, dont even return your calls when you move to a different job. This cost one company a great opportunity to win a multi-million order, but since the CEO never rang back, they never knew….and I never bothered again.

    “Be careful who you offend on your way up. YOu never know who you will meet on your way down”

  3. Bob Beveridge:

    I feel sorry today for the young people who have to spend hours doing on-line applications and tests to get at best an automated email response. It is so very disrespectful. Maybe recruitment firms do have a long term role after all!

  4. Garry Mansell:

    I smiled when I read this post Peter. It reminded me of the often used phrase “Remember, they may be your boss one day”….How many times did you and I hear that during our corporate careers? It was, and still is good advice.

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