Chasing the Purple Unicorn: Attracting Supply Chain Superstars

Recent graduates often make promising hires, especially for organizations who tech-savvy younger workers for their supply chain departments. At the same time, unemployment rates are at an all-time low and finding and attracting the right candidates can be challenging.

Today, the availability of college grads is at a record low.  It might be easier to catch a purple unicorn.

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

Photo courtesy: Pixabay


“Talent is an amazingly interesting thing for procurement,” said Steve Hall, director of content and community at analyst firm Procurement Leaders. “It’s a challenging job that is changing fast, and organizations need to adapt. There are interesting roles being created but they are struggling to get the talent they need.”

Among people age 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or more education, the unemployment rate was 2.1% in April 2018, slightly lower than the rate of 2.4% a year ago, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison, the general unemployment rate was 3.9% in April.

Part of the problem is that, as a career path, supply chain remains nearly invisible to many college students. “Procurement and supply chain have a marketing issue,” said Hall. “At many academic institutions, students don’t know what procurement is or how it works.

To attract the cream of the crop, some leading organizations are focusing on attracting, developing and retaining talent in order to close the gap. Some are, for example, creating rotational programs where supply chain and procurement professionals have an opportunity to move through several different roles, serving six months in each. At the end, often, people are much clearer about where their passion meets the needs of the organization.  Some companies are also creating “road shows,” said Hall. “It’s a deliberate strategy to visit other offices and demonstrate what the procurement organization does. The deliberate focus on marketing is key.” Others have begun offering employees procurement academies. “We are seeing organizations set up centers of excellence in order to train individuals with potential to do something more,” Hall said

It shouldn’t be a hard sell to attract people to the profession. In reality, procurement and supply chain positions offer many opportunities and pays well, Hall explained. Working in these positions offers professionals the opportunity to work with just about every part of the organization. Especially in high-tech, organizations are looking to these functions to influence risk and help the organization become more resilient to disruptions. “It’s like receiving the equivalent of a mini-MBA given the way these professionals work across every function of a global organization,” Hall said.

Further, supply chain and procurement functions offer an opportunity to contribute to business goals of the organization in measurable ways. “People who are young in their career sense the possibilities of helping the organization solve problems, getting a chance to do different things, and have an influence,” Hall said. “One young future leader said that she appreciated the opportunity to get your hands dirty with the suppliers and also be in the board room.”

Once the candidates start lining up to apply, organizations should choose carefully. “Hiring someone who is a poor job fit can hurt your business by hindering productivity and eroding team morale,” said Ryan Sutton, district president, Robert Half Technology. “Current employees who are likely already stretched thin must scramble to fix mistakes or handle extra work.” 

Robert Half Technology offers a handful of best practices to avoid costly hiring mistakes:

  • B e clear about what you want.  Start by creating a solid job description. For existing position, make sure to review the job description and re-assess the responsibilities of the job to make sure it matches to current requirements of a role. In a new position, include the full scope of duties to avoid confusion.
  • Get your team involved.  Early in the interview process, peers, direct reports and other colleagues should meet with the candidate. BY doing this, you can assess the interpersonal skills of the potential hire and see if they are a good fit with the current team and corporate cultures.  
  • Be flexible.  Especially in tight hiring market, your potential candidates may not meet 100% of the requirements. Consider which skills and experience are must haves and which a promising candidate might learn on the job or with some extra training.
  • Take a trial run.  Consider bringing on a contract employee when you're hiring for a critical role. This offers a big opportunity to evaluate the candidate's fit for a full-time position.

It’s important to take time and find a good fit. See the infographic below to see some of the most common interview issues and hiring mistakes in high-tech hiring.

— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page Friend me on Facebook

1 comment on “Chasing the Purple Unicorn: Attracting Supply Chain Superstars

  1. Rahim
    August 24, 2018

    It is very easy to over specify job qualifications, especially for unfamiliar roles. This will most likely lead to frustration and failed hiring. There has been a back and forth on how tp properly interview job candidates. While I won't wade into this debate, most companies doom their chances of a successful hire before interviewers even get into the room with a candidate.

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