Evaluating candidates for the essential 3 soft skills
Now that we have determined the three most important soft skills that contract managers must possess, let’s look at some of the ways you can determine whether candidates possess these qualities.
Prior to calling the candidate for an interview, you will have reviewed their resume, perhaps looked at their LinkedIn profile, and generally searched the Internet for any information on them. From this you should have a general idea about their employment history and education. You will know how much experience they have in the field of contract management or a similar role.
Some specific things you can look out for in this preliminary process are whether the candidate has worked in a number of different organizations and in varied roles as this may indicate they have interacted with many different types of people and have a capacity to effectively do so in many different contexts -- i.e., they are likely to have good relationship management skills. However, having too many varied positions could indicate the candidate has difficulty holding down a single position or lacks the ability to persist in challenging circumstances.
A candidate may describe a situation on their resume in which they’ve been responsible for solving a problem within an organization -- e.g., they may have written a business plan or policy. This would indicate they have good problem solving skills. A description of how they methodically went about solving a problem would indicate they have good organizational skills.
Interviewing Contract Managers
The relationship management duties of a contract manager involve keeping others informed, negotiating and collaborating with other teams within the organization. Keeping this in mind the following questions would be appropriate to ask via phone or in person.
1. Describe a time when you have had to persuade someone, perhaps someone working in a different team within your organization or from a different organization altogether, to accept your point of view. Were you successful in convincing them? And whether your answer is “Yes” or “No”, how would you have done it differently?
A candidate’s answer to these questions will give you insight into how they interact with others including whether they can empathize with others’ points of view and whether they have strategies for agreeably influencing others to consider alternative viewpoints and ideas.
2. Describe a time when you had to negotiate. What strategies or style did you use in the process? Why? What style did the counterparty use? Did you reach an agreement? Were all parties satisfied with the end result? How could software help with the process?
A candidate’s response to these questions will indicate whether they are aware of various negotiating strategies and when it is best to use each of these. It will also demonstrate their ability to understand another’s behavior and bargaining position in a negotiation and use this understanding to achieve positive outcomes.
3. Describe a time when you were responsible for ensuring others completed tasks assigned to them on time. How did you go about ensuring these people completed these tasks on time? Did you deal with a situation where someone was not on track and did not see the urgency in completion? How did you deal with this situation? If you have not faced this situation, how would you go about resolving it? How did you ensure your own tasks were completed on time? What was the end result of the project? Were all tasks completed on time?
A prospective employee’s responses to these questions provide insight into how he or she relates to others and influences them to ensure everything is completed on time as well as providing an illustration of some of their organizational abilities.
A contract manager is required to problem solve in the context of drafting and amending agreements. They also need to be able to think on their feet to solve and stay ahead of day-to-day issue that arise.
Appropriate questions to ask to determine whether a candidate has the ability to problem solve in this context include the following.
4. Tell me about a time when you have had to review information apply it to an issue and then make a recommendation based on your assessment of that information. You could also give the candidate some actual information or document to assess, such as a draft contract, provide them with some time to review it and ask them to give you a recommendation based on the information they have reviewed for an issue related to the material e.g. if the you provided them with a draft contract ask them what changes, if any, they would make to this.
Answers to these questions will give you an indication of how the candidate analyses information and applies it to scenarios for recommending options.
5. Tell me about a time when an issue has arisen unexpectedly. How did you deal with this issue?
An answer to this question will give you an indication about the candidate’s ability to think on their feet and be flexible.
Organizational skills including being technically competent are also essential for a contract manager. One of the questions included above addressed the candidate’s ability to ensure all people involved in a project as well as they themselves complete their tasks on time. This ability is essential for a contract manager. Some other questions that may help you assess whether someone possesses other organizational IT skills for the role include the following.
6. Describe a time when you used an IT system to help store essential documents and manage your time for completing projects. What was the type of system you used? Did you have any problems with this system -- i.e., was it a good aid or a hindrance to you organizing your work? What did you do when you ran into difficulty in this IT system?
If you follow the tips outlined in this article when searching for and recruiting contract managers you should end up the best contract managers who will ensure your company’s success.
What are your thoughts? How do you assess potential contract managers in the recruitment process?
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