“There is a close link between producing food products safely and both building up and subsequently maintaining a positive image – and all of these things are essential to future-proof your food company. The QA manager plays a key role in achieving these aims,” comments Remko van Aarst, Business Unit Manager at Foodrecruit. But the food industry is continuously changing, and so too is that role. “Today’s QA manager is no longer an all-rounder, but has become a specialist instead,” explains Remko. “They are a member of the management team and have a strategic role within the organisation.”
Remko and his team provide advice and support to food companies looking for suitable QA specialists and vice versa. He is driven by a passion for recruitment and a love of the food industry. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of finding the right QA specialist for the job, time and time again,” he says enthusiastically.
One noticeable trend in quality assurance is that of enlisting specialist knowledge as necessary. “Due to the huge number of rules and standards in the food industry, it’s simply not realistic to expect one QA manager to gather, remember and apply all the necessary knowledge,” explains Remko. “Therefore, the new-style QA manager no longer tries to do everything themselves; instead, they seek out the right expertise, such as by bringing in external specialists. The best results are achieved by working with the very best people in each field. The same strategy can also be applied in the search for suitable QA managers.”
The specific QA manager profile varies from one quality department and/or company to another, of course, but Remko believes that all future-proof QA managers have a number of competencies in common: “A competent QA manager is a sounding board for other colleagues. He or she takes the views of their colleagues as well as industry experts on board when formulating and executing the company policy. He or she facilitates the handling of a quality issue from start to finish, is not afraid to make adjustments, and attends training sessions, courses and networking events in order to acquire new knowledge and stay up to date on the latest trends. That really is essential in order to anticipate all the industry-related developments effectively. It’s not a matter of survival of the fittest, but rather of the one who is best at adapting to the changing environment – and the QA manager is faced with that changing environment on a daily basis. Other important characteristics: a good QA manager motivates the team, builds and maintains relationships and optimises the product quality. It’s worth investing in this.”
In practice, QA managers are (all too) often hired purely based on having the right qualifications. “It’s actually more effective to think beforehand about what kind of experience and competencies the ideal QA manager should have in order to optimise the Quality Department in the ever-changing and trend-sensitive food sector,” states Remko. “Asking situational questions during the job interview can help you to find the right person. For example: ‘What do you consider to be the latest techniques and trends in quality assurance?’, ‘What’s the most recent change you’ve made in your quality policy?’ and ‘What are the upcoming regulatory/legislative changes and how could they affect our organisation?”
According to Remko, it’s not wise to re-use vacancy texts from a few years ago; they simply no longer contain the right information. “Just think about all the knowledge and experience needed for the latest quality systems,” he says to illustrate his point. “That’s why it’s better to rewrite the vacancy text based on today’s tasks, responsibilities and practices; the job description must be aligned with the competencies and characteristics expected of the ‘QA manager of the future’. That substantially improves your chances of finding a good match.”
“The new-style QA manager is no longer won over by a company car and laptop,” says Remko, summing up. “What counts is a relevant, innovative and strategic job profile.” His advice: “Don’t just go for whoever can start the soonest; choose the best person for the job instead. Be bold, dare to think out of the box, dare to hire someone who’s better than you are. Don’t try to cut corners during your search. Hiring a well-suited QA manager requires a specialised approach, so do your research into the industry and enlist the help of a professional if necessary. Finding the right QA manager will help your company to flourish – I guarantee it!”