If you’re on the market for a new procurement job, you may be prepping for an upcoming interview. Maybe you have even Googled “procurement interview questions” to make sure you come ready with the best answers for your potential future boss.
We reached out to MRA Global Sourcing, a supply chain management and procurement recruiting firm, to hear what questions they ask procurement job candidates and what the candidates' answers reveal about their skills and capabilities.
The Obvious or More General Questions
There are, of course, the questions most employers tend to ask job candidates, regardless of what industry they are in. These include:
- What type of culture do you prefer/thrive in?
- What attracted you to this job?
- Or, what is your motivation to make a change?
While these are more general, it’s still wise to be prepared to answer them in a procurement job interview. They reveal important characteristics about a job candidate and whether they will be a good fit culturally at the company and within the procurement organization.
That last question, too, the one about why a candidate is looking to make a change in jobs, is specifically revealing, according to MRA. The candidate’s answer tells an employer how serious she is about switching to a new company and if her reason is strong enough. Is it just for more money or a better title? Or are their larger drivers? (Hopefully, there are.)
Getting More Specific
MRA also suggests procurement job candidates be ready to get specific about their previous procurement experience. Organizations are demanding more highly skilled employees with expertise in niche areas, such as experience procuring services or insurance, rather than just raw materials.
MRA said one question it asks is “What categories have you sourced?” It’s a simple question, but it shows whether or not candidates have specific subject matter expertise or if they are more of a “generalist” buyer. It also reveals whether they have a preference between direct or indirect sourcing.
Taking that question one step further, a follow-up would be, “What is your favorite category to source?” Sometimes, the favorite category to source isn’t the category the job they are applying for is in. According to Naseem Malik, managing partner at MRA, this question gives recruiters further indication if a candidate is right for a specific role.
Other more specific questions include:
- What percentage of your current role is strategic versus tactical? This reveals how often candidates “roll up their sleeves,” as MRA said. It can also reveal their analytical skills.
- Give an example of how you’ve won over a difficult stakeholder. This illustrates how a candidate will go about building relationships and how he approaches dealing with resistance. According to MRA, “ A good answer should include signs of empathy.”
These specific questions, and the candidate’s answers, help recruiters narrow down who may be a good fit for a specific procurement job. It’s become increasingly important for recruiters and hiring managers to find the right person, too. Just a few years ago, Malik said, organizations were looking for more general candidates. Not so today. Employers are demanding more specific candidates who are able to source more complex categories, who already know a niche market and who have an existing network of supplier relationships. These stricter demands are making it harder to find ideal candidates.
“It is really, really tight outside,” Malik said. “To find good people is very, very difficult.”
Shine a Light on Your Leadership Skills & Accomplishments
Depending on what type of procurement job you are after, you may be asked about your leadership style and experience in a job interview. These questions are targeted at finding out how good a candidate is at building relationships internally and how they may approach leading your procurement organization.
- What is your leadership style? (Does the candidate have leadership qualities? Can they articulate this?)
- Do you have any experience building a procurement team from the ground up? (Is the candidate a change agent? How do they work with high levels of autonomy? Sometimes, it’s important that a candidate can create processes to drive the strategic vision of the organization, MRA said.)
- What are the top three accomplishments in your career? (This shines a light on what a candidate considers to be an accomplishment and what aspects of the job they feel are most important. Is it cost-savings? Is it the fact they connected their company to the right supplier?)
- What is your biggest achievement on the savings side and how did you accomplish it? (A possible follow-up to above, but more specific.)
The worst thing you can do in a job interview? Give cookie cutter answers, according to Malik. If you put on your resume that you saved your organization $5 million in spend last year — come prepared to explain exactly how you did that.