Wouldn’t it be great to get into the heads of Tender Evaluators, and find out what they are really looking for?

Over the past three years, members of our team have made it their mission to do exactly that – and this article aims to share some of the most important insights we’ve gained.

Tender Evaluation is a Hard Job

The job of a Tender Evaluator is not easy. Although some are lucky enough to have an influence over the design of the Request for Tender (RFT) documents, for many, the first time they see an RFT is when a pile of tender responses hits their desk, with a scary deadline of a week or two to come back with their individual evaluation scores.

The number of responses is typically between four and ten. Although the size of the non-price attribute responses may be limited, together with appendices the documents may each be a hundred pages or more. That’s a lot of reading to cover!

Tender evaluators only sometimes have input into the supplier selection method. Simple, inexpensive projects may be evaluated using the Lowest Price Conforming Method – which cuts the evaluation time down as only the cheapest bid needs to be evaluated (provided it conforms). Very few tender evaluators actually fail bids, however.

More focus on Non-Price Attributes

Depending on your viewpoint, it can be really good or really bad that many Councils are introducing more focus on evaluation of non-price attributes – i.e. the ‘quality’ part of the equation. Maybe they are figuring out that cheapest offer is seldom the best value for money. You get what you pay for in today’s world – and nightmare cost over-runs due to shonky operators are the last things that Councils want to impact their strained budgets.

If there’s a significant component of evaluation based on non-price attributes, then Tender Evaluators are put to the test. Their job of thoroughly reading and fairly/consistently evaluating their large pile of tender responses is fundamental to the value that our community and (in many cases) future generations will get for the money spent today on public infrastructure.

Tender evaluators carry huge responsibility to our communities for making recommendations on public investment. So we should be listening carefully to their feedback, right?

Here are some of the comments that evaluators have given us:


  • “I am sick and tired of the amount of generic BS that I read in tender responses. They trot out stuff that is irrelevant or mindless mush, and some of it isn’t at all relevant to the job in hand.”
  • “If they can’t follow the instructions in the RFT documents, then God help us when it comes to doing the job. A tender that doesn’t put in all the requested information gets binned immediately.”
  • “It’s unbelievable that tenderers think they can get away with telling lies! They should remember that New Zealanders have two, not six degrees of separation. Saying they completed a project on budget when it blew out, or a secret plan to switch the A team for the B team after contract award, for example, are all too easily checked.”
  • “If I come across the name of another bid or another client in their document, I scrap it immediately. The least they can do is make sure their bid has no ‘cut and paste’ errors.”

... and here’s a scary one:
  • “We all say that presentation is unimportant – that it’s the content that really matters. But the reality is that the bid that looks professional and well-presented is the one that wins – more than 80% of the time. I guess it’s because the bidders who put effort into that kind of polish on the appearance of the document also are the best quality bidders”.

Not surprisingly, tender evaluators (like all of us) like to be able to do their job efficiently. If they can’t find the information that’s asked for – either because the response is badly structured or poorly written – then they find it hard to award good scores.
  • “It’s important to me that bidders give clear, concise answers; don’t try to hide past poor performance (which we probably know all about anyway); and explain simply and directly what advantages they bring to the contract,” one senior evaluator told us.
  • “If there is one piece of advice I’d give to tenderers, it’s ‘Answer the f**gging question!’ I simply hate trying to understand and interpret gobbled-gook that’s obviously been written for a different contract.”

So what can bidders learn from this?

We think it’s pretty simple:

  1. Make tender evaluators’ lives simple, and give them every reason to award you the maximum marks possible.
  2. Follow the structure in the RFT and use the same order. Use headings and subheadings to make it easy to find the information asked for.
  3. If you cut and paste previous bids (yes, we all recycle information!) get out your tooth comb to make sure there are no glitches. Irrelevant or mis-aligned material will scupper your chances – fast!
  4. Pay attention to your review processes. Sentences that make no sense; unsubstantiated self-serving blah; and irrelevant or inconsistent information will be marked down – there’s no doubt about it. Some evaluators have no tolerance for grammar or spelling errors either – so get your local wordsmith and/or grammar police onto your review panel too.
  5. Lastly, don’t tell porkies! If you screwed up, ‘fess up and spell out how you will avoid those mistakes next time. There are skeletons in every contractor’s cupboard, and kiwi evaluators can sniff them out without much trouble.

And lastly, those 5 things that tender evaluators would love you to know ...?

1. Don't assume we know who you are. Your evaluation team may not be the people you know best in our organisation. 

2. It's hard to give high scores if you don't follow the instructions or answer the questions. 

3. Show us how much better you understand what we're looking for than 'the other guys'.

4. Make your response easy for us to read and understand. Forget the jargon!

5. Your performance and your cooperation counts. We can - and must - do due diligence on preferred suppliers before awarding contracts. 

Good luck for your upcoming tenders!