Updated on August 30th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 39
What tools do you use to keep track of progress on your projects?
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How to Answer
You may get several questions around time management and prioritization. The key to answering these questions is showing that you have daily time and prioritization period, that you use it, and that it is accommodating to changes. A good answer to this question might also project you as someone who stays in command of his job.
"I am a power user of [insert project mgmt SW here]. I've also used [insert names of SW] on Mac/PC in the past and could be up to speed quickly if you use them"
This question is asked to determine if your career goals align with the career path that the company offers. It's important to think about how the position you are interviewing for will fit into your long term goals even as you apply for jobs
"I plan to be a PM for the next three to five years and then move to either a more specialized commodity role or a higher leadership role in the purchasing area. Ultimately, which role and when will be determined on where I can add the most value to the organization."
This question allows you to indicate that you are both technically competent as well as a good person. It also gives you an opportunity to project yourself as a good employee and a team player.
This question focuses more on your relationship with your superiors than on your points of improvement. The interviewer wants to know how you interact with your superiors and how you talk about them.
While answering this question try to avoid any sort of negative remarks about your superiors and also if there has been any remark about your performance from their side try to elaborate it here in a positive manner. Don't get carried away and start talking about their behaviour towards you etc.
"I believe that he will describe me as the employee who always came to work on time and did his work with full dedication. I have always been ready to go to that extra mile for the greater good of the company. I think thats what he will say about me but then of course you have to contact him to ask more."
The key to answering this questions is showing that you have daily time and prioritization period, that you use it, and that it is accommodating to changes.
"My priorities are the organization's priorities and can change based on this fact. I have to manage short-, mid- and long-term initiatives and prioritize my work according to them. Prioritizing is part of my daily planning process and I adjust as needed to serve the organization."
6. If we buy a customized product from a single source, how will you know if the price is fair? This is a "core knowledge" question as purchasing from a single source has unique risks that need to be minimized. Answering this question is fairly easy if you have good amount of experience in this industry.
You can explain what method you use for determining if the price is fair or not and why you trust your method. Here is an answer example: "core knowledge"7. Give an example when you have had a dispute with a supplier? How did you handle it? This question is about conflict resolution, your work style, and your ability to handle tough times. Strong companies will focus on data-backed decisions, and strong people skills to negotiate decisions based on data. Be prepared to present what YOU specifically did to get to the agreement. Here is an answer example: "Our supplier(s) of XYX part/product disputed with us on [insert price, quantity, quality, etc.,] and the dispute could have resulted in a material impact to our operation had we not resolved the issue quickly.
We had meetings to discuss the dispute, with the resulting agreement to [insert resolution]."8. Are you a CPM (Certified Purchasing Manager)? Certifications can be important for some roles. If the job description indicates one is required this will be an easy question. Here is an answer example: "Yes/No, if yes provide your certification number, date, etc."9. Why are you the best purchasing manager for us? The best way of answering this question is to be confident and cite your skills that make you the best candidate for this job. For this you may have to go through the job description in advance. Also, you should make sure that you don't sound over-confident.
You can check with your current team members and see what qualities they think you possess which make you good at your job. A little self-introspection might also be a good idea for preparing the best answer for this question. Here is an answer example: "The fact that I am tech savvy as well as very well experienced in my job along with the skills that I have accumulated with time make me a deserving candidate for this job. Also, I have always been recognized for my exceptional efforts by my supervisors, thus I believe that I can be an asset for you."10. If hired, how long do you plan on working for us? This question is about loyalty, but should be answered by indicating your desire to continue to add value to the organization. For answering this question you may need to go through the job description in advance and see how the job and the company's vision and mission align with your career goals. Try to figure out the right combination and prepare your answer accordingly. Here is an answer example: "I plan to be a PM for the next three to five years and then move to either a more specialized commodity role or a higher leadership role in the purchasing area. Ultimately, which role and when will be determined on where I can add the most value to the organization.
As long as I am challenged, continue to grow in my career and am recognized for my contributions, I don't see a reason to put a time limit on my employment with the organization."11. Have you completed your Bachelor's Degree in Supply Management or Operations Management? If not, are you interested in obtaining your degree? This question will give the information about your educational background as well as your future plans pertaining to your education. If you have completed your degree then it should be an easy question to answer but in case you haven't completed it and still doing it then you can tell that to the interviewer. You can add that you try to update your knowledge by reading, subscribing to newsletters if any, etc. But if neither of the two is the case, you can simply tell the interviewer that you plan on doing it in the future stating a time line for that.
Companies love individuals who try to keep themselves updated about the changes in their area of work. Here is an answer example: "I have been planning to get a certification in purchasing management since the last year. I have a Masters degree in Supply Chain Management, but I still want to get the certification done as it might help me in some new tricks."12. How do you ensure successful tracking of inventory? This question will be asked by only the most savvy interviewer and indicates a company that is thinking strategically. Your ability to drive the dialog around data, analytics and business intelligence will raise your value as a candidate.
For answering this question you will have to put pieces together from your experience and also some homework before the interview. It should be an easy question for someone who has good amount of experience in this field. Here is an answer example: "In the beginning of my career I was a huge fan of spreadsheets for keeping track of the inventory but with time I have adopted X which is a great inventory tracking software. I specially love the XYZ features that it provides for successful inventory tracking."13. When will your current project be completed, or when will be the next logical time to be able to leave on good terms with your team? This question demands for an honest answer, but at the same time you also need to be aware of the company's requirements and if there is an urgent need then you need to be prepared for that as well. If you are unable to leave your current job for certain time period, you should say so right here. You can figure out some way together to meet their requirements if needed. Similarly, if you have a project bonus that is paid out on a certain date, let the interviewer know. Here is an answer example: "My current projects are all stable and green. I can transition them to another team member (or my boss) and be able to start with a two-week notice."14. When have you had to change suppliers due to poor quality of their product? This is a bit of a minefield question. Suppliers should not be allowed to reach this point, but you will also need to show your ability to recover should a supplier drop their quality. Here is an answer example: "We identified a critical quality issue with a supplier of [part/product]. After several rounds of exchanges and meetings to attempt to solve the problem, we had to change suppliers as they were unable to meet the agreed upon quality standards"15. How will you go about determining this company's purchasing patterns? This question explores your technical skills. Purchasing patterns offer opportunities for insights to savings of time, money, etc. Here is an answer example: "Most modern ERP and Financial software have the ability to run reports to generate purchasing patterns, get KPIs as well as potentially extract data so that we can implement a more modern management dashboard."16. What kind of pressures have you encountered at work? You may get several questions around stressful situations and your ability and experience) in them. The key to your answer is to show that you don't lose control. Here is an answer example: "As a Purchasing Manager, I am constantly under presser to deliver value. That can be in decreasing spend, improving quality, delivery, insight into the function, etc. As the industry is global, pressure and new challenges can come from anywhere and at any time. Part of being a great PM is setting up systems that can accommodate these pressures."17. Do you work well on a team or prefer to work independently? This is both a culture and leadership question. Be prepared to answer the question and show your ability to work both as a team member and independently. You can also do a little research about the way the company functions and modify your answer accordingly. Here is an answer example: "As a Purchasing Manager, I am a part of an organization and a team. Even as a single contributor, purchasing is a strategic-level aspect of the overall business, and therefore I work with multiple areas of the organization on a daily basis."18. What kind of work environment do you thrive in? This is as much a culture question - match your answer to the culture of the organization. Here is an answer example: "I like a high degree of collaboration, transparency, and customer focus. It is important for me to be in an environment where we are all working towards a common goal, share the same vision and passion."19. What do you enjoy about this industry? This question intends to extract out information about how much you like your job and if you really enjoy what you do. To answer this question you might need to do a little homework about what this target job has on offer for you and try to direct your answer in such a way that this job appears to be a perfect match for what you enjoy about this industry. Here is an answer example: "Ever since I was a child I enjoyed shopping and this love for buying things has only increased with age. The fact that I get to do it professionally now is simply an add on to what I have always loved. In addition to the negotiations with the sellers that I have to do in order to strike a profitable deal what I also love is the traveling that is involved."20. What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it? The interviewer is interested in knowing how do you manage difficult situations, do you keep your head on your shoulders when difficulties arise or do you lose patience.
All the companies want to hire a person who is a problem solver and knows his way out of situations. Anyone who is willing to go that extra mile might be the choice of the hiring manager. An purchasing manager's job is to always come up with better solutions to the company's supply chain requirements and if you are someone who loves challenges then this just might be the job for you.
This can be answered with a difficult project encountered while in school or work. Difficult situations can be related to team dynamics, unrealistic expectations, incomplete directions, etc.
Describe the project, the difficulty and how/why it was difficult. Then describe how you dealt with it. Example might be taking a project team member aside and walking through the project elements, how they need to work on specific areas. If it was with a difficult teacher/boss, then describe how you communicated the issue(s) you were encountering, what you proposed to solve the issues, and ultimately the resolution. Here is an answer example: "One such situation I can remember of is from a few years back when one of our suppliers decided to stop providing us with supplies as he was getting better price from one of our competitors. We tried to talk to him but he was adamant so we had to find our new supplier in a week's time. This was a difficult task as this was a big supplier but we decided to use all our contacts and made sure that we get even better prices and quality by the suppliers we enrolled next. We did have to go for 3 small suppliers to fulfil the requirement but we were able to complete our orders in time."21. What will bring purchasing to the C-Level dialog? This question will be asked by only the most savvy interviewer and indicates a company that is thinking strategically. Your ability to drive the dialog around data, analytics and business intelligence will raise your candidate value. Here is an answer example: "Analytics and data science; Purchasing is affected by globalization and the ability to drive decisions based on analytics and data will bring it to the highest level of executive decision making. Some organizations already have Chief Procurement Officers who sit side by side with the COO and all other C-suite executives. They have embraced this model."22. Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn't know from reading your resume. This question can be your permission to be a little silly and share something unique about yourself. It's always important to make that great first impression or make an impact that the interviewer will remember you. Sharing a short story with the interviewer that had something to do with the job position would be a plus, but not necessary. Whatever you share, make it positive and not too personal. Don't share details about your night out with the girls last weekend. Here is an answer example: "I am a shopaholic person in real and I keep on looking for best deals in real as well. My family and friends always prefer taking me with them for shopping for getting the best prices. I believe that the skills of negotiation and my eye for getting the best deals were developed from this addiction and this greatly helps me in my profession as well."23. Give an example of how you dealt with a supplier who did not deliver on the agreed upon date? Purchasing Managers have to be able to navigate issues that are not 100% under their control. Key to this question is what business processes you put in place to prevent delivery delays, and how quickly those processes were implemented. Here is an answer example: "We manage our suppliers closely and have agreements that they need to inform us prior to being late on deliveries. With that said, if a supplier fails to inform us of a slip in schedule or non-delivery we have corrective action plans set within each contract that have specific remedies."24. Do you have experience visiting a suppliers plant before purchasing? What are the things you are looking for when considering their products? This questions is exploring the depth and width of your experience with vendors. Senior purchasing executives will visit key suppliers regularly and always visit new suppliers for key products and services. For answering this question, use your experience and mention the process you follow while deciding upon a new supplier contract. Here is an answer example: "25. Are you open and available to travel for work? Travel may be a key aspect of this role and should be indicated on the original job description. You need to be honest with this one and also mention any issues if you have some sort of a health problem or any other commitment. Here is an answer example: "Yes, I travel ##-percent currently and am able to travel up to [##] for my next role. I recognize that travel is somewhat seasonal and that I will probably have to travel more initially as I ramp up in a new role to meet suppliers I am not familiar with."26. What steps do you take to determine whether or not a price the suppler is offering is reasonable? This question deals with your process of deciding whether a supplier is giving you the products at the right price or not. As a purchasing manager you need to do proper research about the pricing of the products and also about the supplier's history.
To answer this question try to define your process of selecting a supplier into well defined steps so that its easy for the hiring manager to understand. Also mention any exceptions that you may consider to the process that you have mentioned. Here is an answer example: "We conduct price and cost analysis, evaluate competitive products and suppliers, examine pricing to state and federal agencies, as well as look at market and catalog pricing. Determinations can be affected by volumes, long-standing agreements, and market conditions."27. When have you negotiated a much lower price with a supplier? Purchasing is all about negotiating favorable pricing and identifying instances where significant savings can be found. The intention behind asking this question is to know a little more about your purchasing experience and also about your negotiation skills.
For answering this question tell the interviewer about some incident where you were able to get some big discounts for the company and be ready to support it with numbers too. Here is an answer example: "28. What makes a great Purchasing Manager? This question is an opportunity to show how you understand the 'whole picture' of the role. The term "great" is reserved for those that inspire others to also become great.
A great Purchasing Manager (PM) can be described by ten attributes:
1 They make decisions based on the best interests of their employer
2 They are collaborative - others in their organization are aware of their actions and participants in the process
3 Price is never the sole factor in making a purchasing decision
4 A great PM measures their performance and shows their value to organizational management
5 A great PM treats their suppliers fairly and does not take advantage of them
6 A great PM embraces new technology as a way to improve their work
7 A great PM negotiates knowing that the person across the table may some day be a partner or an employee of their company and shall be treated as such
8 A great PM knows that the economy is global and never makes assumptions that they know every supplier in the world
9 A great PM builds a program and enable team members so that they can carry on should a crisis arise, the PM leave, get sick or worse
10 A great PM will continue to improve their skills and ultimately deliver beyond expectations" Here is an answer example: "great"29. Tell me what you know about us. With any job interview, it is crucial to understand the organization you are applying to. We recommend visiting the company website to learn key information such as current events and hirings or promotions or anything that qualifies as a news. Watch the videos on their website, and take note of the information on their Careers page if one is available. Come prepared to list off 5-6 things you learned from the company's website such as number of clients they have, number of branches they have, when the company started, who started the company, mission statement, vision statement, core values, etc. Here is an answer example: 30. Why did you choose to apply at our company? With any job interview, it is crucial to understand the organization you are applying to. We recommend visiting the company website to learn key information such as current events and hirings or promotions or anything that qualifies as a news. Watch the videos on their website, and take note of the information on their Careers page if one is available. Come prepared to list off 5-6 things you learned from the company's website such as number of clients they have, number of branches they have, when the company started, who started the company, mission statement, vision statement, core values, etc.
Also, go through the job post carefully and think of how this job can contribute to your career plan. Here is an answer example: "Your strength in [insert area, market, product] makes you an interesting opportunity for a Purchasing Manager. I am looking for an opportunity to contribute to this area and further your position."31. Do you manage your time well? You may get several questions around time management and prioritization. The key to answering these questions is showing that you have daily time and prioritization period, that you use it, and that it is accommodating to changes. Here is an answer example: "I am a planner and time manager. I set aside time early in the day to plan deliverables, prioritize events, projects and calls/emails I need to get done. I also set some time later in the day to review the day, and pre-plan for the next day."32. If hired, how do you intend on making a difference with our company? Companies want people who make an impact. For answering this question make sure that you have a proper understanding of the company's mission and vision and that your career goals align with these two. Try to figure out ways in which you can help the company in reaching their target with your assistance. Its important to showcase yourself as a possible asset here. Here is an answer example: "My strongest area of purchasing is [insert skill] but before I make any changes, I will need to really dig in and see how you operate currently. I expect to make the first impact there, but also expect to contribute across all of the areas of purchasing that I interface with."33. What aspect of supervision do you find most difficult? Managing people is not necessarily easy - this question asks for your 'weakness' in this. The best answer is to move it to leadership, not managing. Here is an answer example: "I rather think of myself as a leader, not necessarily as a Manager. As a leader, my role is to serve my team, clear out obstacles that impede their work, act as the interface to the organization, as well as strategically and tactically move the organization forward. Difficulties arise when I am forced to vary from that mission. If my team is good at their jobs, engaged, motivated and happy, I can focus on the mission. Likewise, when they are not, it is my job to figure it out and solve the problem. This may include changing people, processes, roles, all of which can be a challenge."34. Do you have managing experience? Managing may be people, project, or programs - Clarify if you need to.
IF you do:
"I managed N people at [insert company] with responsibility for hiring, firing, reviews, etc."
"I have managed projects at [insert company] with N number of team members, a budget of N over N period of time"
"I have managed programs at [insert company] with overall responsibility for [insert area]. This program had an annual budget of N, and I was responsible for X, Y, and Z."
In all cases, be prepared to indicate results Here is an answer example: "I managed N people at [insert company] with responsibility for hiring, firing, reviews, etc."35. What techniques do you use in motivating employees? This is about leadership, not necessarily how much of a cheerleader you are. Every good manager knows when his team members need some sort of motivation and how to make sure they are feeling motivated from time to time to work together for better goals.
To answer this question start with telling the employer that you understand the need of having some motivation techniques for the employees and then move on to elaborating about some incident when you used some such technique for motivating your team. Here is an answer example: "I'd like to say that all employees should be motivated, they should be engaged, and bought into the mission of the organization. If someone on my team isn't, it is my responsibility to find out what is the core issue and if within my scope as the team leader to resolve the issue.
One of the techniques that I use for motivating my employees is by giving them personal rewards whenever they achieve some milestone. We also send team emails of recognition for such employees. Also, we provide regular opportunity for growth to the deserving members so that they can learn and be better in their job."36. Tell us about your experience in negotiations. As a Purchasing Manager this and many other interview questions will deal with various aspects of negotiations. Since your job is to do negotiations on a regular basis you will have to be prepared for answering such questions.
For answering this question start by telling how often you use this skill in your job and move on to mentioning some incident where you used your negotiation skills in getting an amazing deal for the company you have worked for in the past. Here is an answer example: "As a Purchasing Manager, I am negotiating on a continual basis. This includes negotiating with vendors and negotiating within the organization on materials decisions, budgets, product timing, etc. Negotiations are simply a part of the role."37. What are your long term goals as a purchasing manager? The intention of the interviewer behind this question is to determine if you have a long term career goal in this area of profession. Companies love employees who plan to grow with the company and have career goals that are aligned with the values and objectives of the company.
Start by telling the hiring manager that you want to grow as a purchasing manager and that you intend to grow by learning more and that this job seems to be just the right kind of opportunity that you have been looking forward to. Here is an answer example: "I plan to be a purchasing manager for the next three to five years and then move to either a more specialized commodity role or a higher leadership role in the purchasing area. I believe that this job will give me the right platform and experience that I have been looking for and also help me in achieving my career goal."38. If you could change one aspect of the purchasing process, what would you change? This is a great question to be asked; it shows that the interviewer sees purchasing at a high level. If you can present a strategic answer, your candidate value will increase. Here is an answer example: "Purchasing needs to be seen more as a strategic part of an organization and brought into business decisions earlier. An example is product design. Traditionally, purchasing is made aware of future products well into the design phase, sometimes even after a product has been fully designed. Strategic purchasing models, where we are brought in earlier in the process can affect products by making the business aware of purchasing issues such as the availability of materials, alternatives, or market conditions."39. How do you handle stressful situations? You may get several questions around stressful situations and your ability and experience) in them. The key to your answer is to show that you don't lose control. You can also add an example of a situation where you were encountered by some such situation and you emerged out as a winner with your patience and wisdom. Here is an answer example: "The important thing to do during any stressful situation is to maintain professionalism and be as transparent as possible. By making everyone aware of all the facts, assuring that we all can solve the problem, stressful situations can be energizing and opportunities to be creative to solve problems.
Few years back one of our main suppliers decided to stop working with us during the peak season. This was a real stressful situation as none of us were prepared for anything like this. We tried to talk him into continuing the supplies for at least that season but he refused as he was getting higher prices from some other company. We could not outmatch those prices. It was tough as we could not find any big supplier during that time of the year. So I contacted several small suppliers that were working with us and asked them to increase the supplies as much as they could. Also introduces some new suppliers. For quality checks we didn't have a separate team so I appointed some of the most experienced workers for this task and we were able to get over the crisis within a week's time."
Author of Purchasing Manager Answers and Questions
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace.
Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career.
Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise.
Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
First written on: 08/11/2014 Last modified on: 08/30/2018
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