17 January 2013 | Brodie Smithers
Your CIPS studies will impress employers at interview. But check they have systems in place to assist your professional development.
There is a grim irony attached to procurement recruitment during the current economic downturn. While our counterparts on the supply chain side are toiling for new business and career opportunities, the market for procurement professionals is still largely buoyant.
This may seem a back-handed compliment to the general value of procurement in tough economic times, but it also provides lots of openings for ambitious procurement professionals to make exciting career moves.
Recently, after seven years as a procurement officer at a large regional college, I successfully applied for a post as a procurement manager at a centre of procurement expertise within the education sector. While obviously delighted by the outcome, I found the recruitment process posed a number of challenges and considerations for my ongoing CIPS studies.
Address the specifics
Glance through a selection of procurement job vacancies and most will at some point mention CIPS, often both as a requirement for the role and as a benefit of the post. Depending on the level of the post they will usually cite MCIPS as an “essential” or “desirable” skill/requirement, or will request something along the lines of “MCIPS or studying towards full qualification”. Many will also mention supporting CIPS studies or refer to “relevant” CPD opportunities being available to the successful applicant.
But there is a massive difference between an organisation mentioning support for CIPS studies as a tick-box exercise on the job description and having an actual working study structure in place for procurement staff.
This is particularly relevant to organisations in which the purchasing department is quite small, marginalised or requires a lot of development. It is therefore very important to not only state your commitment to your CIPS studies in your application, but to also make sure you address the specifics at interview stage.
This gives you an opportunity to question your potential employers on the specifics of available resources, timescales and support for CIPS, as well as demonstrating your personal commitment to your studies.
And it will save you having to worry about coming up with a good interview question too, something increasingly more difficult in the age of instantly accessible company information and literature-heavy job application processes.
Assess your requirements
Key to getting this right is to properly assess your own CIPS study requirements before going to an interview. It’s all very well asking about funding and time for your studies, but it helps if you can respond to any potential counter-questions with your own specific requirements in terms of costs, time and support.
Ask yourself beforehand how many exams or case studies you intend to tackle in the next calendar year, whether you require membership fees, books and/or any other resources and exactly how much these will cost. The ability to answer these potential queries on the spot will hopefully present you as being dedicated to your personal development, focused and well prepared for the discussion.
Embrace the challenge
In the end, I found myself in the unfortunate position of having to move the start date of my new position to accommodate two Level 5 CIPS exams, which I had booked a few months prior to applying for the post.
Unsurprisingly, this led to a stressful fortnight for me, but luckily I had been able to find synergy between my exam revision and interview/job preparation and both seemed to go well.
This proved, to me at least, that among the stresses and excitement of a career move, the challenges and considerations around your CIPS studies can be turned into positive attributes and work in harmony with your career ambitions.
3 Key points
1. Always promote your commitment to CIPS on your job application
2. Use your CIPS studies to prepare for your interview
3. Research your requirements and ask about CIPS at interview
☛ Brodie Smithers is a procurement manager at Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APU)