Recruiting the right people into leadership roles within the supply chain industry is critical. As well as helping to define the strategy and direction for your business, strong executives inspire and coach your teams to reach that objective.
Skills for tomorrow’s supply chain
Supply chain is in a period of rapid technological and environmental change and businesses are struggling to keep pace. The people leading your business through this period need an expansive skill set beyond operational or category experience.
Gone are the days where being technology averse is acceptable. Leaders of all business functions must be able to understand, evaluate and leverage technology. And not just software platforms; Big Data, connected devices (Internet of Things) and AI driven analytics are among the technologies supply chain executives are grappling with.
The large scale change to both systems and people requires skilful and strategic leadership. You should look for executives that are highly adaptable to change and adept at balancing cost pressures, conflicting customer demands and global market complexity.
The inevitable tensions that arise with uncertainty and change requires Emotionally Intelligent leaders who can artfully engage with employees, suppliers and partners to engender success.
How to assess soft skills
Many of the skills and attributes that set great supply chain leaders apart can be classified as soft skills. These are notoriously difficult to assess during an interview due to the propensity for candidates to overstate their capability, either deliberating or because they lack self-awareness.
The trick to teasing out the truth is a combination of behavioural questions and some savvy probing. You should be asking for specific examples with every question, consider the following sample questions and the quality of the response you can expect:
- How do you approach partner management?
- How do you manage conflicting customer requirements and priorities given limited resources? What should be outsourced to partners (decentralised) and what should be controlled in house (proprietary)?
By asking the second question you can gain deeper insight into the candidates views and motivations. Do they understand the specific factors that underpin partner management strategy? Do they take a collaborative decision making approach? How do they handle conflicting priorities? Are they influenced by practical factors (data/cost) over emotional factors (impact to people), or vice versa?
The way they phrase their response can also indicate whether they are willing to adapt and take on new approaches, or if they are attached to past methods.
How to identify people who get results
One of the major aims of interviewing is to establish to what extent the candidate contributed to the results they claim to have generated. Your business has lots of challenges and the pressure for results is high. You need the leader you hire to be able to execute effectively and to be generating real business value.
Consider the following sample questions:
- What are your strengths?
- Please give an example of how you were able to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace that resulted in improved pricing and or service?
Question 1 will generate a well practiced answer which provides little value in predicting the candidates true potential to succeed in your business. The second question will highlight skills and knowledge (aka strengths!) in action as well as their capacity to drive commercial outcomes.
At the same time the candidate can show their depth of understanding of market dynamics, pricing factors and customer demand.
The ultimate list of questions to ask
The above examples are just scratching the surface of what you need to ask to accurately assess executive candidates. You should walk out of the interview feeling confident that you’ve made a complete assessment and can compare and benchmark candidates. By having a structured set of questions that you ask in every interview, you reduce the chances of hiring on gut feel and the potential for poor hiring choices.
You can download a list of my 15 go to questions which are specifically geared to identifying high performing supply chain executives. I’ve interviewed thousands of senior professionals in the decade I’ve been recruiting in this industry, so I’ve learned what questions yield results.
These questions will test the candidate’s ability to think on their feet, expose their depth of operational knowledge and highlight those with strong soft skills and leadership capability, which is critical for success in complex organisations like yours.