We live and work in increasingly uncertain times. While global economies are taking a significant hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demands on supply chains are equally notable.

For the many organisations who were in the middle of searching for top procurement talent to fill key leadership roles, the task has become increasingly challenging. The previous limitations of the standard or traditional processes are, in the new remote or virtual environment, magnified given that in-person interviews are not possible in most instances, especially during this pandemic.

Let’s put aside for the moment questions such as how will you identify candidates whose digital footprint is limited. As studies show, many of the best and brightest will be virtually invisible to search platforms that rely heavily on things like keyword matching.

Instead, we will focus on the “burning question: which is this; how do you hire your next procurement leader from home?

Virtually daunting?

It is reasonable to assume that we are all to varying degrees comfortable with using one or more of the myriad of remote communication and collaboration tools that are available. However, it is one thing to have a virtual team meeting, and quite another to rely on these platforms to hire your next Director of Procurement.

Determining Procurement Directors qualifications beyond a preliminary list of skill sets and job experience – what I call the menu assessment stage requires a different approach. For example, you need to be able to assess essential intangible qualities such as manner of speaking, body language, as well as several other in-person attributes. Otherwise, there is no other way to accurately determine if there is both a cultural and personality fit.

Let’s face it, using Zoom may be better than email or a phone call, but it still isn’t as effective as actual physical face time. For this reason, hiring someone from home is for many a daunting prospect with some degree of risk.

That said, remote hiring is and will continue to be a reality for the foreseeable future. As someone who has been hiring people in this manner for many years – with a 98 per cent success rate, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few tips on what to look for in a candidate during a virtual interview.

Of course, it is important to remember that before conducting any video-based interview, you must compile a unique, well-structured set of both open and closed questions, which are precise and thorough. It is also essential that you engage all interested internal stakeholders in this process because in decoding the following areas, no stone should be left unturned:


1 – Creativity: Listen to the responses to specific questions regarding their creativity levels in how they solve complex problems, which will ensure that they are not the “standard” responses. Using this method helps you decipher what new ways of thinking they can contribute to the business. Make sure you document their reasoning skills. Also, walk through their overall calculations to ensure that they are basing them on sensible reasoning and presumptions as this is a positive sign.

2 – Emotional Intelligence: We have highlighted the importance of this many times in previous publications. However, in a digital environment, having emotional intelligence is equally important, especially when managing a team. You need to decipher how they connect on a human level through their facial and body language cues. To do this kind of evaluation, ask questions around, ambiguity within a team, relationship with stakeholders, how they self regulate, their management style, manage difficult suppliers, challenging scenarios. Look at how their reactions, do they smile, frown, and is there a change in their voice pitch. Observe critical facial cues, such as facial expressivity. For example, a blank expression is a good indicator that in specific scenarios, the individual is conveying an attitude of aloofness, boredom, or dismissal.

3 – Body Language: During a virtual interview, assessing body language is a fundamental part of the evaluation process. Monitor their posture, how does this change when you ask challenging questions, i.e., what was their comfort level. It is worth noting that when someone tends to exaggerate the truth somewhat, they are likely to increase hand-to-face touching. A sub-conscious response to your questions such as frequent face touching is predominantly due to cognitive overload, otherwise known as the fight or flight response, and presents itself during times of stress. Therefore, increased hand-to-face contact is a good indicator of stretching the truth, so if this happens, probe further.

4 – Preparation: Ask an applicant about their knowledge of the company, the role, and what encouraged them to apply for your Director position. If someone has meticulously researched your company and history, this is a good indicator that they are organised and have demonstrated a quality which, among others, is vital for virtual leadership.

5 – Organisation: Knowing how someone organises their day is equally essential for a virtual leader. Ask questions around how they monitor their productivity and the completion of both their and their team’s tasks? Ask them what does a typical day look like for them, how would they modify this to adapt to a virtual work environment. Virtual adaptability is especially important given that remote working is now and for the foreseeable future a reality for everyone.

6 – Vision: If you ask the procurement leader to produce a plan, I would suggest asking them to prepare a plan for their first 100 days beforehand. This method enables you to “visually” understand what areas they would tackle immediately, their strategic vision including short, medium and long term goals. You should also evaluate their organisational skills, ability to delegate, and their comfort and competency with technology. The devil is in the detail.

7 – Enthusiasm: Listen to the pitch in an applicants voice when they respond to your questions. If their voice increases in some areas of your conversation, that’s positive. It’s a natural reaction for many of us to raise our pitch in our voice and to speak louder and faster when a specific topic enthuses us.

8 – Ability to embrace technology: Assessing a candidate’s understanding of technology, focusing on how they see leveraging it to accomplish daily objectives is one element of digital competency. Another is how they envision boosting team morale and addressing the risk of individual isolation in a remote working environment such as their thoughts regarding the importance of having regular calls with their team.

9 – Don’t forget to Sell: Being mindful that the interview process is a two-way street; it is essential to remember you are not only interviewing an applicant; they are interviewing you as a potential employer. Make sure you sell your vision, their career progression path, and why you are different from any other organisation in your marketplace. It’s important to note it’s a seller’s market. Therefore you need to be mindful of this.

In the coming weeks, we will be doing a series of posts expanding on each of these points. We will also be scheduling a webinar so that you can ask questions that are specific to your situation. So stay tuned.