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supply chain skills to look for

When you have openings in your supply chain management, you want to fill every open position with the best talent possible. However, it can be challenging to determine what skills your future employees will need to perform at their best in your supply chain. Below are several traits and abilities to look for when hiring new people for roles in your supply chain operations.

Hard vs. Soft Skills: What Is the Difference?

As you begin hiring, you should consider what various skills you want your employees to possess. In general, potential employees should have a variety of hard and soft skills to make them well-rounded candidates. 

In short, hard skills are tangible industry skills that talent will acquire with more experience. Specifically, supply chain hard skills may involve using computer software, bookkeeping, operating heavy machinery and more. While many people gain hard skills through experience, they can also learn them through education or training programs.

Alternatively, soft skills are interpersonal skills that candidates bring to the industry, including attributes like leadership, communication and time management. Because they are often more abstract concepts, soft skills are more challenging to teach than hard skills — they gradually improve over time. These specific skills are typically harder to judge than hard skills.

When searching for new talent to support your supply chain, it is vital to look for a solid mix of hard and soft skills for a well-balanced employee who can handle various situations and tasks.

Skills Needed for Supply Chain Executives 

These leaders are a crucial part of the supply chain, helping guide employees and make essential decisions. If you are looking for someone to fill an executive role at your company, you want to ensure you hire someone who offers the right abilities to head up the supply chain. 

Some valuable technical skills for supply chain management at the executive level include understanding:

  • Technology: The supply chain comes with many tools to help employees manage them. To best make decisions and lead initiatives, supply chain executives should have a solid understanding of the existing systems for supply chains. Areas like warehouse management and enterprise resource planning help chains run smoothly, so having an executive who thoroughly understands them can strengthen their functions.
  • Market dynamics: Because market demands constantly shift and affect supply chains, executives must understand the market’s complicated nature. Knowing demands and what causes them to change can make better decisions for plans, costs and other company factors.
  • Negotiations: Because executives are leaders, they will need to negotiate with outside organizations to access tools and resources. A good executive will need to work with their external teams to serve their company best and build long-lasting relationships.

The two most essential soft skills in supply chain management for executives are flexibility and support, especially when it comes to innovation. Often, successful supply chain management requires a change to new techniques. It’s important for executives to foster an open, collaborative environment for new ideas to give employees the confidence to make the supply chain more efficient.

executives will think of the bigger picture.

Skills Needed for Supply Chain Managers and Directors 

Of course, managers and directors hold another essential position for supply chain leadership at companies. While executives will think bigger picture and make decisions for the entire company, your managers and directors are responsible for smaller decisions that still have significant impacts.

As essential leaders in the supply chain, some hard skills for supply chain management you may want candidates to possess include:

  • Project management: Like executives, your managers and directors will need to understand managing projects. While executives might have more general skills in project management, like communicating expectations with teams, managers and directors will need to know how to distribute tasks and schedule time to meet executive expectations.
  • Financial statements and cost accounting: To better allocate resources and plan projects, directors and managers should understand how to process financial resources like statements, where they can view and analyze company spending habits. When managers and directors have a solid understanding of financing and accounting, they can use their project management and leadership positions to help cut costs and optimize spending and profits.

Additionally, managers and directors need soft supply chain management skills. Though many executive soft skills can apply to such positions, managers and directors can also benefit from strong time management skills. Because they are working on different projects and with many team members, they will need to know how to allocate their time to best serve themselves and the company.

Skills Needed for Supply Chain Analysts 

These employees are essential for ensuring that the supply chain functions at its best on a daily business. The most important hard skill for analysts is experience analyzing data. Because analysts use reports and trends to spot inefficient areas in the supply chain where you are overspending or overutilizing resources, you will want someone who has extensive experience in that regard.

While data analysis is the most important hard skill, analysts can possess several soft skills that will improve their work at your company, including:

  • Problem-solving: While analyzing data is crucial, analysts will need to know how to fix issues to make a difference with that data. This process may require some creativity as they determine how to make the supply chain more efficient. Ultimately, analysts will have to determine how to best approach a problem by weighing the issue, possible solutions and company resources.
  • Communication: After determining ways to fix problems in the supply chain, analysts will work with other departments and executives to address issues and propose possible solutions. Especially since they work directly with executives, analysts should know how to present their ideas professionally and clearly state points and answers. After receiving approval for changes, they will need to understand how to best reach and communicate new plans with other teams and departments across the company.

Overall, analysts are essential for ensuring the supply chain’s function.

Supply Chain Management Skills to Include on Your Resume 

Specialists in hiring and recruiting look for certain skills and keywords when looking through applications to find the right employees for a given position. Because employers may not spend much time reviewing your resume, you will need to quickly and efficiently convince them that you are the best fit for the job.

To effectively use that time, you should condense your resume as much as possible and only feature relevant experience. Some impactful skills include:

  • Project management
  • Problem-solving
  • Organization
  • Understanding of relevant legal aspects
  • Communication

The above skills can apply to several positions across the supply chain, highlighting how you can benefit the company with essential skills. As you list your abilities on your resume, you should include specific ways you’ve applied your talent in past roles. By showing examples of your talents and their impacts, you can stand out as a standout candidate.

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Don Jacobson
Don Jacobson
Don Jacobson was born and raised in New York City, and graduated with a B.A. degree in Management from the City University of New York. For 10 years, Don managed Operations and Supply Chain departments for consumer products companies. He then turned his attention to supply chain recruiting and for the past 27 years, has specialized in recruiting and placing supply chain executives throughout North America. Don is certified by the National Association of Personnel Consultants. He was a Partner at Hunt Ltd., and more recently was the Founder and Managing Partner of LogiPros LLC, a logistics recruiting firm. Don is a regular contributor of topical human resource articles for DC Velocity magazine, the CSCMP Supply Chain Comment, and The WERCSheet, published by the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC). He is Past President of the NY/NJ/CT chapter of WERC

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