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Good Interview Questions for Strategic Sourcing Managers

by Debra Kraft

Companies rely on strategic sourcing managers to maximize the value of business-focused purchases. Whether they're buying products or services, strategic sourcing managers are responsible for selecting vendors capable of delivering what's needed when it's needed at the best price possible. If your company is ready to hire someone to fill this role, prepare interview questions that can reveal candidates' leadership and management philosophies, in addition to their purchasing strategies, to ensure a good fit with your organization.

Explore Candidates' Leadership Styles

The strategic sourcing manager will be responsible for employee performance as well as supplier performance. Ask candidates to describe their backgrounds in management and leadership roles. Find out how many employees they've led and what management styles they've used to motivate and evaluate staff members. Ask what they've done to address performance problems, both with regard to internal staff members and suppliers. It's important to make sure the candidate has a leadership and management style that fits with the expectations of the company.

Evaluate Ethics Principles

An attention to ethics is critical in purchasing groups. The strategic sourcing manager will be responsible for enforcing clear rules about what's acceptable and what's not when it comes to suppliers paying for gifts, meals and entertainment events. The manager must also ensure supplier decisions and accounts are handled by buyers who have no vested interest with the supplier, whether through familial ties, stock ownership or other factors. Ask candidates what they've done to establish, implement and enforce ethics policies. Also ask them to describe any situations they've encountered where ethical factors may have come into question, and how those situations were handled.

Examine Sourcing Practices

How the manager approaches the sourcing process can have a strong effect on the company's overall business strategies and could impact the bottom line. Ask candidates to describe situations involving strategic sourcing, and to identify key factors. Find out how initial vendor selections were made, and how requests for proposals were developed, evaluated and negotiated for increased value before the business was awarded. Dig further into the details by having candidates explain the process for establishing, monitoring and, where necessary, improving key performance indicators.

Approaching the Starting Line

Whoever is hired, the first few weeks and months will be critical to the sourcing manager's success, and, in turn, to the company's strategic sourcing success. Ask for candidates to describe how they would get started. Find out their strategies for getting to know staff members and members of the company's management team. Make sure they address the importance of recognizing and fitting in with the company's organizational culture. The manager must be able to not only adapt to the workplace culture, but build upon it to motivate employees.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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