Interviewing for a procurement position is tough.

Even with good preparation, there’s a chance you’ll be asked a question that you didn’t expect.  For every predictable “Tell me where you see yourself in five years,” you’ll get a “Tell me about a time where a superior delegated a task to you and, as you began work on the task, it became clear that following the superior’s instructions would lead to problems.”

Those types of questions can make you a little nervous.

In some cases, you may just end up saying “I apologize, but I’m drawing a blank on that one.”  And, in some cases, that’s OK.  You’re probably not the only candidate that drew a blank.  The hiring manager is human, too, and likely understands the uncomfortable position you are in.  In fact, those types of questions may be designed to weed out liars who make up unbelievable stories.

But there is one procurement interview question that should make you sweat if you don’t have the right answer.  Because there is no getting around it.  There is no “I’m drawing a blank” that will suffice.  There is one great answer and one somewhat acceptable answer and no amount or quality of talking will save you if your response is not one of those.

What is that question?

It’s this…

“Do you have a procurement certification and, if not, why not?”

Your answer better be “yes” or “no, but I’m x% complete and my plan is to be certified by [insert a date here].”

Think about it.  What other answer could possibly make you look good?

“I haven’t had time?”  You have the same 24 hours a day that everyone else has.  And I bet it wouldn’t be hard to find many people who have earned their procurement certification that have a fuller calendar than you.  Poor excuse.  Hiring managers will interpret this as “I am not serious enough about the procurement profession and my career to schedule time to become certified.”

“I haven’t thought much about it?”  If you haven’t thought much about becoming certified, you haven’t thought much about advancing your career or learning all you can about procurement.  How do you think that will work out for ya?

“With my experience, I don’t feel I need one?”  Anyone can “take up space” for years in a job and not really be good at what they do compared to others in the field.  Sure, in your current or previous employers, you may have a track record of work you’ve done well.  But when you apply to a new employer – or even if your current employer changes management, which we all know happens frequently – they haven’t personally witnessed your track record.  So, what objective information can they use to determine whether you’re a “space taker” or someone with skills?  A procurement certification can.  But if you don’t have a procurement certification, a hiring manager may think that you may just lack the talent to earn one.  And, they may be right.  After all, you have no evidence to prove that theory wrong.  And, even if you have the talent, a lack of a procurement certification can show that you lack drive.  Hiring managers want talent and drive.

“Certifications and education aren’t guarantees that someone is good?”  While there may be some educated people who don’t work out well in all positions, do you really think you’ll impress a hiring manager with this kind of “logic?”  As if having no certification IS a guarantee?  If this doesn’t scream “I’m lazy and defensive” to a hiring manager, I don’t know what will!

“I don’t have a college degree?”  It is a common myth that you have to have a college degree to earn a procurement certification.  You don’t!  The SPSM® Certification does not require that you have to have a degree.

“I don’t have enough years of experience?”  It is another common myth that you need “x” years of experience to earn a procurement certification.  You don’t!  The SPSM® Certification does not require experience as a prerequisite!

Are you seeing how no excuse is a good one?

So, on your next procurement interview, will you have the right answer to that big question?  Or are you going to be one of those sweating and trying to explain why you’re not certified?

It’s probably easier to actually earn your procurement certification than it is to successfully justify why you don’t have one.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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