Revising Your Job Postings to Lure Top Strategic Sourcing Talent

David Hearn
David Hearn
CEO & Founder, CPO Advisement Services, LCC

Hearn deployed Coupa at Juniper Networks and has been a Coupa evangelist ever since. He has led indirect procurement at three companies (Sun Microsystems, Kaiser Permanente, Juniper Networks) and now helps procurement teams transform the way they add value to the business.

Read time: 9 mins
Top Strategic Sourcing Talent

As I laid out in my Executive Guide to P2P, strategic sourcing is the future of spend management. As more companies automate tactical procurement and move in this direction, a talent shortage has developed. There are four keys to winning the war for talent. The first, which I discussed in my previous post, is to make sure you are making the most of the strategic sourcing people you already have. If you’ve automated and done this first step, you may find you don’t need any additional people for a while. But, at some point you will.

If you've done the work of putting in modern spend management tools, but you haven't looked at your organizational structure and your job descriptions since then, both are probably going to have roles and tasks from what I'll call the old world, before automation.

Updating these things isn’t usually at the top of anyone’s list, so it’s not uncommon to see organizations keep reposting job descriptions that are five or even ten years old. I’m as guilty of this as anyone—I don’t really enjoy process documentation and I don’t know a lot of people who do.

But, if you’re going to attract top talent, it’s vital that you find time to do this. I came to that realization when I was trying to recruit for a role, and the internal recruiter at my company remarked that the job I told her about and the one in the job description sounded like two different positions.

I figured it didn’t matter; I could just talk to the candidates about it when they came in to interview. That’s the wrong way to think about it. If you’re trying to attract top strategic sourcing talent, posting those old job descriptions telegraphs to them that you’re still operating in an older model.

Some people will still apply for those jobs, even though the job description sounds like the company is stuck in the past, but they won’t be the best people out there. You’re not even going to know what the best people look like, since they won’t be interviewing with you.

To write better job descriptions, you really have to take a step back and look at the organizational model, and rewrite it to reflect the roles and tasks the way they are now that you have better tools. Once you have that clarity, then you can rewrite the job descriptions.

This will have two effects. First, it will help your own organization understand the new expectations for each role, and second, you will be able to communicate to prospective hires that yours is a modern organization where they will have an opportunity to use their skills to the fullest extent and advance their career.

Most of your job descriptions are likely out of date, and you should rewrite them all, but the one that is the most critical is the one for strategic sourcing, so that is what I’m going to focus on here.

I'm not going to write the job description for you, but it better clearly convey that you're looking for people to partner with the business to develop proactive business strategies to source the goods and services needed by the business to accomplish their goals. 

The key words there that convey you’re operating from a modern vision of procurement and spend management are partnering, proactive, and business strategies.

In the old world of procurement, much of what we did, and our corresponding attitude, was reactive. We did what people asked, when they asked for it. That’s not how the leading organizations are thinking about this today.  

It’s no longer about supplier strategy. Of course you want to find the best suppliers, but that has to be in the context of how it fits into the business. Proactively partnering to develop business strategies conveys senior skills and high level challenges, not the tactical skills that probably conveyed by some of the words in those old job descriptions. 

Looking back at some of my own old job descriptions, I see words about manual development, storage, and retrieval of contracts; setting up and updating of webpages with preferred suppliers; and creation of templates for the structure of purchase orders with these new suppliers. That all sounds really outdated to me now.

Most of these tactical activities go away with good tools, and as I discussed in my previous post, those that remain should be done by other people—not your strategic sourcing people. Therefore, they have no place in your job descriptions. If they’re still in there, go back to part one of the exercise--looking at your organizational structure and make sure you put those tasks on someone else so your strategic sourcing people can devote the majority of their time to partnering.

I hear a lot of people in the industry complain about how hard it is to find good people. If that’s you, take a look at how your job postings are representing the job, and the organization. Would you want to work for you based on what you see there? It could be that people are steering away from you because they don't want to work for a company that's a decade behind in terms of how they look at professional procurement and spend management

If you really are a decade behind, get the best new tools and get with the program. If you’re not, but you look like you are, update your job postings and find out what kind of talent is really out there.