Becoming the CPO of the Future: Preparing for the Interview

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We are pleased to welcome another guest post on our Hot Topic for this month, Procurement Talent. This comes from Jon Milton, Business Development Director of Comensura, specialists in vendor-neutral managed services in categories such as temporary and contractor labour.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time? What are your achievements? Once the savings have been delivered what comes next? If you can’t deliver any more margin savings then what value do you deliver?

These are but a few of the direct questions that could be asked at your next interview, as your prospective employer assesses whether you could be their CPO in the future. They are also questions that we regularly get asked by prospective customers when we bid for their business.

As a market-leading managed service provider for agency staff, we’ve had to stay ahead of the pack to retain our position, and if you want to be a CPO in the future you’ll have to do the same.

Here are our ‘interview tips’ to help you become the CPO of the future:

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

The simple answer is ‘as your CPO’ but the interviewer will want to know how you plan to get there.

No-one has a crystal ball to predict the future but it is possible to understand the past to see how it got to the present. Without getting too ‘zen,’ buying behaviours are changing, so if you can place emerging trends alongside economic conditions, you should be able evidence your experience and where you think procurement is heading to articulate your master plan.

What are your achievements?

When we talk about our achievements we talk about how we have met contract expectations and how we have exceeded contract expectations. It is important to relay your answer back in a clear and methodical way. Use the STAR principle - highlight the Situation, define the collective Task, be clear on what were your Actions and explain the Results - to structure your answer. Being able to do your day job makes you a safe pair of hands – clearly articulating what you have achieved in a strategic way that is over and above your day job makes you stand out.

Once the savings have been delivered what comes next?

Obviously savings can be delivered in a number of different guises so it’s worth understanding what is meant here, is the interviewer referring to supplier margin savings? What are the stealth costs and are they under control? How well is demand controlled? Clearly there is a lot that can be achieved beyond just supplier margin savings.

If procurement’s role is to improve a businesses’ bottom line though it’s worth thinking about how suppliers can contribute to this – this means articulating how you understand your stakeholders and how the products and services that you have procured on their behalf contribute to business performance. You also need to learn the language of the C-Suite and Finance to communicate results in a way that aligns to the business strategy.

If you can’t deliver any more margin savings then what value do you deliver?

Procurement should deliver value at many levels, not just savings. A guest speaker at one of our forums once remarked that ‘there is a price point beyond which value goes out the door,’ so the real question here is what does value look like?

If you have procured for stakeholders and they are generally happy, then ask them why. Their answer is unlikely to solely revolve around cost, it is far more likely to be about having their business needs met, which is where true value lies.

Finally - do you have any questions?

An interview is a two-way street. You are investing in the employers’ future, and they are investing in yours. If you haven’t asked your interviewer about what their thoughts are on the questions above, now’s your chance. In particular find out where they expect you to be in 5 years’ time and where they think that their business will be in 5 years’ time.

If you want to be the CPO of the future then your employer should help you to achieve that aim. When we bid for contracts we want ‘win/win’ business that will form part of our future achievements. Winning bad business will not, and the same principle can be applied if you join the wrong employer.

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