This post is part of our series: Alternative Solutions for Staffing Procurement and Sourcing Positions

Let’s start with some good news. Supply Chain careers are actually becoming a desirable thing! Twelve years ago, I don’t know that any college-aged young adults would have been able to tell you the definition of a supply chain, let alone express interest in it as a career path. But times have changed. Companies like Apple have made supply chain, logistics, warehousing and demand planning hip and interesting. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but they are responsible for making those terms relevant and common. Even high-schoolers are learning about supply chain disruptions when their favorite technology provider can’t meet the demand for their next gadget. So maybe supply chain careers are not as cool as being a researcher at Google, engineer at Apple, or pharmaceutical rep at Pfizer; but at least the younger generation is aware of it as an option.

And universities and colleges have been listening to the business world. Most of the top schools now offer some sort of supply chain programs. And that’s just talking about people new to the working world. For those that have already pursued other interests to start their careers, there are plenty of programs to help transition into the exciting world of supply chain. There are a few good procurement certification programs and customized and specialized sourcing training programs. So even those looking to make a career change can do so gracefully.

So what does that all mean for you, the employer? Hopefully it means that recruiting should get easier in a few more years as schools continue to pump out students and those that have already left the programs get a few years under their belts. But in the meanwhile, how do you tap into a market of junior resources when the biggest (and wealthiest) Fortune 500 are trying to grab the same talent?

  1. Go the traditional route. Post on job boards and participate in career fairs. Don’t just use the alumni networks, students are constantly connected to the web and will seek out every resource they can to find a job. Therefore, continue to use the regular internet job boards including indeed, monster, careerbuilder, craigslist, etc. (skip the newspaper). Don’t forget to contact each school you are interested in directly. Most of them have FREE job boards specifically to recruit to the students. Don’t limit your search to schools in your geography, a lot of students went away for college and are looking for a job back home.

  2. Target students who didn't study supply chain or procurement. Yes, I know, you are looking for people that can hit the ground running. But, let’s be honest, supply chain programs will give students a good foundation knowledge, but you are going to wind up training them about your specific business and processes anyhow. Look for students in the specialty you need. Information Systems and Computer Sciences majors can make excellent IT buyers. Marketing students who don’t want to work trade-shows or grind out marketing portfolios at ad agencies for low pay can make excellent additions to your marketing and media sourcing team. And finance majors make great analysts and metrics trackers. Just be sure to test their analytic skills (excel and critical thinking) during the interviews.

  3. Make your job advertisements interesting and SEO rich. Students will search jobs by keywords. If you use a boring, flat, buzz-word laden job description you are not going to get good resumes. Don't let HR "handle" the recruiting on its own, chances are they can't explain what you do in simple terms. Explain your business, explain the perks, explain what they will do; but use plain language. Most students are going to ignore or never see things like “Track KPIs and report metrics” “Conduct BATNA analysis” or “Use Ariba to qualify suppliers”.

  4. Internships!!! Some of the best talent I have ever recruited started with an internship. And students really seem to understand the value of an internship now more than ever before. Internships are a great way for a student to test you as an employer, but also for you to test them as a worker. If you like the work they do, make them an offer for full-time employment and lock them in before they wrap up their degree. What’s really interesting is that students do not appear as focused on the pay they receive as they do the experience they receive in their internship. So make sure you use those students for things beyond data entry and number crunching. Let them see the interesting nature of a complex sourcing initiative and let them participate in a negotiation. And be realistic, while students are completely driven by money; the days of the unpaid internship are over!

  5. Use a recruiter. Believe it or not, good recruiters have access to top university talent as well (not just experienced pros). Specifically, they will have access to rising stars; those students who went above and beyond at their institution, or perhaps completed an extensive internship at a top company.

Now for the bad news. While we are certainly seeing an uptick in new talent and higher-education programs that cater directly to supply chain related curriculum, it doesn't really solve the immediate need for experienced professionals. While we've ran into (and recruited) some incredibly bright talent from both supply chain and non-traditional curriculum; those individuals are not able to hit the ground running on project work as a seasoned pro might be able to do. Sure, they might have learned what an RFP is and how to write a project plan, but following a methodically stagnant sourcing process isn't going to produce optimal results. Sure, they know textbook definitions, how to create a spreadsheet or run an e-sourcing platform and perform a BATNA; but do they really know how to draft a proper SOW and SLA or read through the marketing fluff that supplies spin back to them? Do they know how to motivate a supplier who doesn't want your business? Do they know how to get an internal stakeholder to give up “their” spend? Hint, they don’t.

You’re going to have to invest significant time and resources in training and bringing them up to speed. Students are not a “quick answer” to your resource deficit. And unfortunately, fresh recruits are not all rainbows and unicorns. As the world renowned poet, farmer and sourcing guru, Naseem Malik, points out in his critically acclaimed research exposé, Talent Management – The Millennial Challenge; Millennials have the highest turnover rates with an average 2.5 year career and are frequently looking for new opportunities to leave. He cites lack of training and mentors as a prime reason for their lack of loyalty. So while it’s not particularly difficult to get a recent graduate in the door, it is resource intensive to keep them.

Millennials have the highest turnover rates with an average 2.5 year career and are frequently looking for new opportunities to leave. He cites lack of training and mentors as a prime reason for their lack of loyalty. So while it’s not particularly difficult to get a recent graduate in the door, it is resource intensive to keep them.

You've got a few choices to help get these new recruits up and running though. Our next series will discuss building a sourcing and procurement team of leaders and learners.
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William Dorn

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