40 Interview Questions for Purchasing Jobs (With Sample Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 26, 2022 | Published April 13, 2021

Updated July 26, 2022

Published April 13, 2021

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Purchasing professionals are responsible for making purchasing decisions to obtain the equipment and products needed to operate a business. You can pursue several roles in this field, including purchasing agents, assistants and managers. Applicants for these roles undergo an interview process, enabling you to demonstrate to potential employers why you are the most qualified person for the job due to your skills, knowledge and experiences. In this article, we share 40 common interview questions for purchasing jobs, along with several sample answers that you can use to prepare for your purchasing interview.

Related: Learn About Being a Purchasing Manager

General questions

During a job interview, your interviewer will often ask a series of general questions to learn more about you and your professional experience. These questions can help them understand your personality, working style and interest in the position. With these insights, the hiring managers can assess how you might fit into and perform on their team. Here are some common general questions that you might encounter during interviews for purchasing positions:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • How would your previous colleagues and supervisors describe you?

  • What has been your most significant professional achievement?

  • What do you consider your professional strengths and weaknesses?

  • What do you enjoy most about working in purchasing?

  • What do you least enjoy about working in purchasing?

  • What skills do you believe make a purchasing professional successful?

  • Where do you see yourself in five/10 years?

  • What is your preferred working environment or culture?

  • Why are you interested in working for our organization?

  • Why are you leaving your current position?

  • If we hire you, what do you imagine a typical day would look like?

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Questions about background and experience

Interviewers also ask questions related to your purchasing background and experience. These questions describe the work you performed previously and your relevant skills and qualifications. Hiring managers can use your response to evaluate whether you can perform the typical tasks and responsibilities effectively. When possible, provide specific examples of experiences that showcase your strengths. Possible experience- and background-related questions that you may need to answer during purchasing interviews include:

  • Can you describe your relevant experience working within the purchasing and procurement field?

  • Do you have experience working in a leadership or supervisory role?

  • What types of goods or materials do you have experience purchasing?

  • How have your previous jobs prepared you for this position?

  • Tell me about your experience with contract management.

  • What vendor management software do you have familiarity using?

  • What procurement management tools do you have familiarity using?

  • Describe a time when you improved the purchasing processes for your organization.

  • Tell me about a time when you successfully decreased the costs of an order.

  • How have you managed your relationships with past vendors and suppliers?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to end a relationship with a vendor or supplier.

  • Tell me about a time when you failed or made a mistake. How did you overcome this situation, and what did you learn from it?

Related: Guide To Procurement: What It Is, How It Works and Steps To Take

In-depth questions

In-depth questions refer to questions specific to purchasing roles, such as purchasing managers, purchasing agents or purchasing assistants. These questions often test your knowledge of this field. Interviewers may also ask behavioral questions that evaluate how you respond to typical workplace situations you may encounter in these roles. Here are some examples of in-depth or behavioral questions you may encounter during interviews for purchasing jobs:

  • When buying a product from a single vendor or supplier, how can you determine whether the price is fair?

  • What criteria do you consider when evaluating suppliers and vendors?

  • What criteria do you consider when making a purchase?

  • How do you ensure that deliveries arrive on time?

  • How do you identify the best products for purchasing?

  • How do you decide whether to enter into a contract or make an individual purchase?

  • How would you manage a situation where you wanted to purchase a product from a supplier but could not offer their asking price?

  • What is the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)?

  • What is a purchase requisition, and how do you process it?

  • Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult negotiation process with a vendor or supplier. What was the outcome?

  • How do you decide which goods to purchase and their quantities?

  • How would you handle a situation when a supplier fails to meet the standards set within an agreement or contract?

Related: 35 Behavioral Interview Questions to Prepare For (with Example Answers)

Interview questions with sample answers

You can use the following sample questions with answers as inspiration when preparing for purchasing job interviews:

What makes you the right person for this job?

Interviewers ask this question, or some variation of it, to assess your understanding of the position. Your answer should demonstrate how your skills, experiences and other qualifications align with the job's responsibilities and the employer's expectations. You can describe the unique traits and strengths you bring that showcase your value. When preparing for interviews, you can draft your answer by reviewing the job description and identifying the employer's candidate requirements or preferences. Incorporate those keywords into your response to show your alignment with the role.

Example: "I believe I am an excellent candidate for the purchasing agent role at your hospital. I have several years of healthcare experience performing this job, so I am already familiar with some of the industry's best vendors. I enjoy working in this field because I know that the work I do helps ensure the hospital runs smoothly and provides excellent care to its patients and their families.

Through my experience, I have demonstrated a proven record of strong communication and negotiation skills. These skills helped me lower vendor costs by 25% over the last two years in my most recent role. I also attribute this success to my relationship management skills, as I scheduled regular phone calls with our vendors and suppliers to keep everyone on track and build a strong rapport with them."

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Describe your negotiation tactics and skills.

One of the primary duties of a purchasing professional, such as a purchasing manager, is negotiating with suppliers. Interviewers ask about your negotiating skills and experience to ensure that you are prepared to take on this responsibility and handle it effectively. In your answer, you can describe some of your preferred negotiation techniques for different situations and your ability to build strong relationships with suppliers or vendors. When possible, you may provide an example of when you utilized your negotiating skills successfully.

Example: "I always enter the negotiation process with a fair-minded approach. My goal is to come to a solution that benefits and satisfies both of us in some way. I understand that it is not always about finding the lowest price possible, which may not always be possible to achieve financially for the supplier. I believe this tactic demonstrates my respect for the suppliers, which helps me build and maintain these relationships in the long term.

I prepare for negotiations by developing a plan that outlines my purchasing goals, along with a backup if the vendor cannot meet our requests. This preparation helps me feel more confident entering the conversation and understand where I can find compromises when needed. While I make sure to communicate my goals clearly, I also take time to stop and listen to the supplier and their needs. These tactics help ensure we're all on the same page to avoid misunderstandings, making the process run smoothly.

Related: Negotiation Skills: Definition and Examples

Tell me about a time when you had issues with a supplier or vendor. How did you handle the situation?

As a purchasing professional, you spend significant time interacting with suppliers or vendors. However, sometimes you may encounter conflicts or issues with these partners. Interviewers may ask a question like this to understand how you manage such conflicts while still maintaining a positive business relationship. They seek candidates who demonstrate strong problem-solving and interpersonal skills, along with the ability to stay calm under pressure. In your response, provide a specific example of a conflict you had with a supplier or vendor and describe the steps you took to resolve or manage the situation.

Example: "Last year, I had delivery-related issues with a supplier. In our initial agreement, we had set specific delivery schedules. Unfortunately, within a couple of months, this supplier delivered an order late with no warning. I contacted the supplier and told them that if they sent another order late that month, my company would need to start looking for another supplier who could meet our scheduling needs.

Luckily, the supplier received that message and apologized for the delays. I agreed to give them another chance to fulfill our agreement with their orders during the next month. Fortunately, all of their orders that month arrived on time. When they had delivery issues in the future, they made sure to contact me in advance so that I could prepare."

Related: 5 Common Interview Questions About Conflict (With Example Answers)

What matters more, the price or quality of products?

Price and quality represent two essential factors when making purchases. Interviewers may ask this question to assess your decision-making skills as a purchasing professional. Your answer to this question will depend upon the organization to which you are applying and the business they do. For some, lower prices may take priority over quality and vice versa. Think carefully, and make sure to use supporting evidence to back your decision. If you feel unsure, you can say that you focus on finding a balance between the two factors as a safe option.

Example: "I find that the choice between price and quality depends on the products I want to purchase. My aim is always to find products at a price that makes sense for my organization. However, there are times when I am unwilling to forsake quality. For example, my role as a purchasing manager at a high-end restaurant required buying ingredients of the highest quality. We wanted to ensure that we provided an excellent dining experience for our customers. Due to our high-end reputation, we knew our customers were also willing to pay more for such quality.

Earlier in my career, I worked at a more casual restaurant where I performed purchasing duties. In that role, I still sought high-quality food and ingredients. However, I prioritized pricing over quality on other purchases, such as the utensils provided to takeout customers. These utensils worked just as well as the more costly options, but we knew customers would be throwing them away, so it made sense to take the least expensive choice.

Jobs related to purchasing

There are multiple career opportunities related to purchasing, where you may need to answer similar questions in an interview. The job options include:

1. Logistics manager

2. Purchasing manager

3. Supply chain manager

4. Purchasing agent

5. Operations manager

6. Purchasing assistant

7. Procurement analyst

8. Procurement support specialist

9. Expeditor

10. Auditor

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