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Contract & Commercial Skills

October 4, 2012

Are you by nature  suspicious, incisive, critical, exacting, organized and of high standards?

According to an expert writing in Workforce, these are traits often associated with people who have strong analytical skills. These skills are widely considered to be of increasing importance. In part that is because routine jobs can be automated; and it is in part because automation itself enables more analysis since it generates so much additional data. Those in contract and commercial management are not immune from this trend. Indeed, creative professionals have always needed strong analytical skills in order to resolve problems. That need is growing and the potential we have to analyze contract content, performance, the inhibitors to good relationships, the factors that damage value delivery are all potentially there for the taking.

One of the major distinctions within our community has been between three classes of practitioner:

  • the administrator – people who simply follow the process, monitor and report, oversee compliance
  • the reviewer – people who are able to check, validate and identify problems for others to take action
  • the solution provider – people who examine the problems and identify ways they can be fixed or turned to advantage

It isn’t hard to guess which of these categories is most valued. But a challenge for recruiters is how to identify the people who are either in, or have the potential to join, that class of ‘solution provider’. How do you identify analytical capabilities? The article provides some useful ideas. For example, you might ask:

• Describe a situation when you anticipated a problem. What, if anything, did you do about it?

• Give an example of when your diagnosis of a problem proved to be correct. What approach did you take to diagnose the problem? What was the outcome?

• Describe the most difficult work problem you’ve ever encountered. What made it difficult? What solution was implemented and how successful was it in solving the problem?

• What steps do you take toward developing a solution?

• What factors do you consider in evaluating solutions?

As a more extreme, but perhaps more revealing approach, I recall having dinner with Seth Godin some years ago. He described an interview approach where he asked candidates to tell him how many gas stations there are in the US. Of course he did not expect them to knwo the answer. He was simply interested in their reaction. Most professed to ignorance and would not even venture a guess. A couple were so upset that they either walked out or burst into tears. Just a few sat back and though through an answer. It was those few who wereof course of interest to him; and his next question was to understand the process they had gone through in reaching an answer.

If you want analytical skills, it probably isn’t a bad way to assess them. What do you think?

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