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5 Purchasing Agent Interview Questions and Answers

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Q:

What point-of-sales systems have you encountered during your work in retail?

A:

Purchasing agents will typically need to be familiar with the company's point-of-sales (POS) system, where they can create and maintain purchase orders. Depending on the needs of the company, they may also have to create stock keeping unit (SKU) numbers or codes, update the inventory and handle the computer aspects of the receiving paperwork. What to look for in an answer:

  • Level of experience
  • Demonstration of computer literacy
  • Versatility within the retail environment

Example:

"I've worked with the Eagle and Epicor systems, creating purchase orders and performing routine inventory maintenance as well as handling customer transactions when needed."

Q:

Have you had any other relevant purchasing experience whether in retail or a different field?

A:

Your potential purchasing agent should be familiar with the goods that are sold by the company, but the ideal candidate might have gotten their start in an entirely different field. For example, if your company sells beer and brewing products and they have worked as a server/bartender in the past, they might have enough relevant experience to make them the right person for the job. What to look for in an answer:

  • Work history and background
  • Demonstration of a range of skills
  • Ability to think outside the box

Example:

"In my work as a bar manager for a busy dining establishment, I handled the weekly orders for beer, wine and liquor."

Q:

Do you enjoy meeting and chatting with sales representatives about their products?

A:

In this position, it's important to maintain a friendly yet professional demeanor when meeting with vendors. While the salesperson will generally bend over backwards to sell their products at first, the client won't return if the purchasing agent is surly, difficult to work with or otherwise unresponsive. The ability to be receptive and responsive during business conversations is a must. What to look for in an answer:

  • A positive, upbeat attitude
  • Familiarity with this aspect of the business
  • The ability to carry the conversational ball without monopolizing

Example:

"I've always looked forward to meeting new people, and I especially enjoy listening to them describe the products they're most passionate about."

Q:

Would you be willing to travel out of town — or even out of state — to attend forums and meet with salespeople?

A:

A purchasing agent will usually need to have this flexibility as they might have to attend conventions or other meetings in remote locations, depending on what products and services your company offers. While you might be able to bridge the gap by sending a different employee from time to time, it's best if the purchasing agent remains familiar with all the products in stock. What to look for in an answer:

  • Willingness to adapt to the company's needs
  • Flexibility, in case they ever need to cover shifts
  • Understanding for what's required for the position

Example:

"As long as I've received sufficient notice as to when and where I'll be traveling, I would be happy to take on this role."

Q:

As a purchasing agent, what experience have you had with the types of products we sell?

A:

A good candidate should become familiar with the product list in a hurry, but it helps if the candidate already has advance knowledge of the industry. The purchasing agent for a marine supply store, for example, might have previously worked on a fishing boat or perhaps at a shipyard. If their relevant experience took place in the same ballpark location as your business, that's even better. What to look for in an answer:

  • Familiarity with the industry
  • Willingness to work a variety of jobs
  • Enthusiasm for the product list

Example:

"I feel confident that I'll be able to accurately read the athletic-wear market given my years as a retail clerk in a sporting goods store."

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