For businesses involved in the production of material goods, effective supply chain management is key to profitability. A strong supply chain strategy boosts productivity and reduces costs whilst ensuring high-quality materials are sourced, and all orders fulfilled.
Responsibility for this strategy falls to the supply chain manager - the person accountable for each and every stage of an organization's supply chain.
A supply chain manager plans, monitors and develops both incoming and outgoing supply processes to bring increased efficiencies. It's a complex job that requires a diverse set of skills and abilities.
In this article, we look at what those skills and abilities are, how they relate to the day-to-day duties of a supply chain manager, and how to test for them when recruiting for the role.
What should a supply chain manager be able to do?
A supply chain manager is responsible for logistics, tracking inventory and monitoring a company's operational activity. They work with suppliers, vendors and third-party providers to ensure the correct materials and procedures are in place for a business to meet customer demand.
On a daily basis, a supply chain manager may:
- Collaborate with procurement to source high-quality, cost-effective raw materials.
- Build new relationships with suppliers and negotiate contracts.
- Oversee all logistical activity including the delivery, movement, storage and distribution of goods.
- Maintain accurate records including inventories and forecasts.
- Solve any issues that may arise at any part of the supply chain process (e.g. delayed deliveries).
- Continually monitor performance to identify cost-saving measures and operational efficiencies.
- Implement new initiatives to lower the environmental impact of supply chain activity.
- Ensure all practices meet quality standards, legal requirements and health and safety guidelines.
- Train, manage and motivate staff across the internal processes of the supply chain.
A supply chain manager should also have a good working knowledge of relevant software and enterprise planning systems.
Skills to look for in a supply chain manager
When hiring a supply chain manager, it's important to look for candidates highly skilled in project management. This will give you the confidence that they are capable of managing the entire process - from the sourcing of raw materials to the delivery of an end product.
Under the umbrella of project management sit many soft skills. Those that should be seen as essential include:
Problem-solving: supply chain management is a fast-paced environment that involves many moving parts, all of which rely on each other. When one of these parts fails, a supply chain manager must have the problem-solving skills to keep operational activity on track.
Decision making: closely tied to problem-solving, a supply chain manager will often need to make tough decisions quickly. They must have the skills to base these on operational data, and keep them aligned with the best interests of the business.
Time management: the daily tasks of a supply chain manager are often time-critical, so anyone in the role must be able to manage their workload effectively. The ability to prioritize, juggle competing demands and plan well in advance all fall under the soft skill of time management.
People skills: supply chain managers work with many different parties. They collaborate with internal departments, negotiate with suppliers and instruct third-party logistics providers. This means they need well-honed people skills to get the best results in every situation.
Leadership: a good supply chain manager will encourage and motivate both their own staff and their supply chain partners to collaborate, innovate and find better ways of working. This requires strong leadership skills.
Useful abilities for a supply chain manager
As well as essential soft skills, it's crucial to look for the core abilities that complement them. Doing so will help you identify the strongest candidates in your applicant pool.
For a supply chain manager, these core abilities include:
Analytical thinking: to identify areas for improvement, a supply chain manager must be able to evaluate each individual part of the supply chain and how it affects the process as a whole. This takes well-practiced analytical thinking.
Adaptability: from environmental considerations to global trade deals, supply chain management is an ever-evolving profession. The strongest assets to your company will be those able to adapt to meet future industry challenges.
Attention to detail: accuracy is critical to the supply chain process. It ensures things run smoothly and highlights cost-saving opportunities, which often rest on the smallest of margins. To maintain this accuracy, a supply chain manager must have a strong eye for detail.
Numerical reasoning: as they are responsible for data-driven decisions, a supply chain manager must be able to analyze and interpret numerical information. A natural numerical reasoning ability will also help them spot patterns and trends that could inform more effective processes.
Professional judgment: a supply chain manager should be able to navigate workplace scenarios with professionalism, and must apply sound judgment to ensure their actions are as effective as they can possibly be.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a supply chain manager?
Alongside traditional techniques like CV screening, interviews and assessment days, it's advisable to incorporate soft skills tests into your recruitment strategy. These tests allow you to measure skills that are otherwise difficult to assess before a candidate enters the workplace.
Soft skills tests applicable for supply chain management include:
Decision making: this multiple choice assessment looks at an individual's ability to make logical decisions based on information made available to them. Just as they will do in their day-to-day role, candidates must evaluate a situation and decide on the best course of action while working under the pressure of time constraints.
Interpersonal skills: this test will measure a candidate's people skills, assessing how well they're able to interact and engage others in varying scenarios. Interpersonal skills are key for a supply chain manager, who must build and maintain multiple working relationships.
Time management: a time management test asks a candidate to state how they'd respond to time-critical situations. It gives insight into how they're likely to structure their working day and how capable they are of meeting key deadlines.
Adaptability: those that score highly on an adaptability test are likely to cope well with pressure and be comfortable changing course when circumstances require it. These are vital traits in a fast-paced environment like supply chain management.
Leadership: a key part of a supply chain manager's role is strong leadership. This test will show if a candidate has what it takes to motivate, inspire and get the best out of others.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a supply chain manager?
To further inform selection, it's recommended that you also administer appropriate technical and/or aptitude tests in the early stages of recruitment.
In the case of supply chain management, the tests likely to prove most informative are:
Numerical reasoning: here, multiple-choice questions require the test taker to evaluate and draw conclusions from data sets presented in various forms. Results will tell you how capable they are of making vital data-driven decisions.
Abstract reasoning: this test is a measure of lateral thinking. Through a series of questions based on sequential rules and relationships, the test taker must use new information to identify patterns, using the same thought process they'd apply when analyzing supply chain performance.
Verbal reasoning: the verbal reasoning ability will determine how well a candidate is able to interpret written information and instruction. Use this test to ensure they have the appropriate level of language comprehension, and are able to form logical conclusions from complex texts.
Error checking: a supply chain manager must be able to identify errors or mistakes in inventory levels or shipping dates to ensure an efficient process. This can be measured with an error checking test, highlighting those candidates most likely to demonstrate attention to detail.
Our recommended test battery for a supply chain manager
When choosing pre-employment tests, you should focus on those that help you build well-rounded candidate profiles, addressing key skills, competencies and behaviors.
For roles in supply chain management, our recommended test battery includes:
Numerical reasoning: to ensure a candidate is able to make effective decisions based on the logical interpretation of data.
Verbal reasoning: for checking essential language comprehension and a candidate's skill for pulling key details out of complex information.
Project management: a project management test covers all the soft skills required of a supply chain manager including adaptability, decision making, problem-solving and time management.
Leadership: use this test to ensure the candidates you progress with have all the qualities of an effective leader.
For more information on how to hire a supply chain manager, visit Picked's supply chain manager test page.