How to get a procurement job in the private sector – part 2

In part 1 of our series aimed primarily at public sector staff who are applying for jobs in the private sector, we looked at making applications.  Now let's think about the interview.  (All of this applies equally well to private sector people at private sector interviews of course).

So; some tips for what you should do at interview (and tomorrow we'll have the 'should nots').

  • Do your research about the organisation, and demonstrate in the interview you've done that ("I  was interested to see you've made an acquisition in China...")
  • Speak the language of the private sector.  Make sure you drop in words (where relevant of course) like profit, revenues, return on capital, shareholders, the bottom line, competitors.
  • Work out which of your skills are transferable to the private sector.  Those may be general - in my experience, public sector staff often for instance have excellent communications skills, written and verbal, for instance - or technical / procurement related (strong knowledge of category management process, or contract law).
  • Two key areas that are strongly transferable are technology and change management.  If you have experience of using ERP, auctions, spend analysis, portals or eSourcing, or specific product experience (Intenda, Emptoris, BravoSolution, Ariba...etc), then tell them.  Similarly if you've led or played a key role in significant and successful change programmes, talk about that.
  • Demonstrate you are 'commercial' in the way you think - motivated by value, not just running a compliant process (which frankly is a big objective for many public sector staff).  Focus on results and outcomes, and have some examples ready where you made a real difference to the value your organisation derived from suppliers.
  • Look to provide evidence of those personal qualities that the interviewer may not naturally associate with the public sector - initiative, drive, commitment, independence.  Emphasise you are as committed to getting the job done as any private sector person; you're not a 9 - 5, go home early on Fridays pen-pusher.  Of course your interviewer may have no such pre-conceptions; but get on the front foot and make sure you address them, just in case.

And tomorrow; what NOT to do or say at interview!

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