Great Procurement Interview Questions – Negotiation Skills

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What’s the toughest negotiation you’ve ever had to handle?

This is a classic question where you need to carefully select an answer that illustrates success and your positive attributes (see our Introduction). An answer should therefore relate to a negotiation that had a successful outcome – if the negotiation failed to reach its goal, then unless your contribution was stunningly and obviously brilliant, it probably won’t reflect well on you.

So choose an example with a successful outcome. It doesn’t have to be for huge value – focus on the toughness of the problem and how it showed your skills as the main reason for choosing it, although clearly if it was also significant in size, risk or value then that’s even better.

Then think about what aspect of your skills it highlights.

I just kept going till they backed down” is an answer I’ve heard frequently to this question, and while it does demonstrate something positive about you (persistence), it doesn’t show much else. So it is not as impressive as something that shows for instance a technical understanding of negotiation, along with strong influencing and persuading skills.

"I worked with a really difficult supplier – they’d always been in a very strong market position with us, and when we got into a difficult supply position because of shortages in the market, they came in looking for a 25% price increase.

So I managed to hold them off for a while, while I worked to develop a stronger BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), which took a few weeks. But it was still a tough negotiation – I had to be persuasive, I must admit I bluffed a little about how much the alternative supplier could provide! But I eventually persuaded them that we did have alternatives, and on the positive side explained how we could be a really great reference site for them. So we got them to agree to guaranteeing supply despite the earthquake, and a price freeze for 12 months”.

 

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