Happy birthday GPA – procurement recruiters for two decades

We’ve mentioned them before in the context of procurement recruitment, but today we’re offering congratulations to GPA on their 21st birthday as providers of both temporary and permanent procurement staff. That must make them one of the longest established procurement recruitment firms to have been under the management of the same individual – step forward Gail Pyrah. They’ve now gone solo again, following their joint venture association with CIPS, and have a new website here.

I’ve said nice things about them before, so I won’t repeat all that. Instead, I took the opportunity to ask Gail a few questions last week about the changes she has seen around recruitment in the procurement world in those 21 years.

Are your clients more professional in the way they deal with you?

Gail – It’s a mixed bag.  We used to deal almost exclusively with procurement people.  We liked that. We got to know them, to understand the candidates that would fit their organisation.  “Matching” was a big part of our role.  Now, we’re often dealing with third parties rather than procurement. That can be HR departments, or external managed service providers (MSPs).

So has that been good news?

It does vary but often it isn’t good for us or the procurement client.  Too often we can’t get close enough to really understand the need, because the third party doesn’t really know what sort of procurement person will work in a particular organisation.  But there is a big difference in MSPs – some are good, but some are just cv sorting shops and aren’t equipped to really analyse and understand those cvs. And others have a vested interest in placing their own candidates rather than considering ours. They’re not vendor neutral, and that isn’t good for the client sometimes.

In what way?

We had one recently – they weren’t interested in our candidates as they said they’d find their own. Then we get a call on Monday morning – can we provide several candidates for an assessment centre on Wednesday for the client because the MSP couldn’t actually find the right people and was going to be embarrassed!

What’s the best bit of advice would you give organisations recruiting procurement staff at the moment?

Look at the whole range of strategies, not just the cheap and cheerful approach. Recruitment is one of the best – perhaps THE best – form of investment in your procurement capability and performance. Getting the best people in the right slots is vital.

What do you mean by cheap and cheerful?

Some organisations think that sticking a vacancy on LinkedIn is enough. We’re embracing social media, and there is a place for it. But it is a very crowded space, with lots of noise.  It is hard to find good people, and they’re e not necessarily searching through LinkedIn every day.  By all means look at this as one route, but be flexible and consider others. And there are many “dubious” recruiters out there who may appear to be cheap but actually aren’t really doing very much for you.

And what about advice for candidates?

Well, many quite understandably want to stay anonymous – LinkedIn and similar aren’t too good for that! I would recommend you find 2 or 3 good agencies, listen to their advice, get to know them, and build a relationship.  A good firm will welcome that – they know that today’s candidate can become tomorrow’s client.

Back to GPA – are you ready for the next 21 years?

Well, I’m not sure I’ll still be in charge in 2032 - I’m not sure you’ll still be running Spend Matters either for that matter! But we are embracing change, and I think we’ll be around in a different form no doubt. I hope we’ll still believe that delivery to both parties – candidate and client - is equally important.

There’s no doubt that the Internet and now social media has changed our world considerably.  But we still think – and hope - there’s a need for good agencies!

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