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impress your interviewer with the right questions

Common Supply Chain Interview Questions

During an interview for supply chain jobs, knowing the right questions and answers is important for the employer and the candidate. Whether you have an upcoming interview for a supply chain position or are facilitating the interview yourself, asking and discussing the right questions helps determine whether the candidate is the right fit for the position.

Questions About Your Background

These types of questions usually start the interview out. Even though the employer has this basic information from the candidate’s resume, it’s a good way to develop a rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee.

As the employer, you can ask questions about the relevant experience from past jobs and education. It also gives you a chance to learn more about gaps in employment, why the candidate is seeking new employment and other similar information.

If you’re the interviewee, be sure to give more than what’s on your resume and cover letter. These questions give you a chance to go into more detail and talk about other things that you left off of your resume and cover letter.

How to Explain Why You Left Your Last Job

There are three reasons why you left your previous job – either you quit, you were laid off, or you were fired. If you quit your position, you’re going to want to mention why you quit. Make sure that you emphasize the positive reasons for quitting instead of highlighting any negative reasons if there were any. For example, explaining that you’re looking for new challenges, new experiences or are looking for a different way to pursue your dream job.

If you were laid off, talk about the circumstances. Employers tend to understand that being laid off is often beyond your control, whether it was because your company had to make major cut backs due to the loss of a client or because there was a change in direction of the company’s strategy, to name a few reasons. Some of the most talented and skilled employees have been laid off at one point or another.

If you were fired, you’ll want to be very careful with how you answer the question. You’ll want to explain any extenuating circumstances, but do so without trying to put the blame for your firing on someone else – this won’t look good. In fact, avoid putting the company that fired you down in any way. The hiring manager isn’t going to want to hire someone who might speak ill of the company should they be fired. If you were fired because expectations or requirements changed after you came on, explain this. Make sure you explain what you learned from the experience.

Technical Supply Chain Questions

After those basic questions are asked, the interview typically goes into technical knowledge. Asking about specific methodology, terminology and other industry knowledge lets the employer know that the candidate has the technical knowledge to get the job done. Questions about what certain terms mean, how much different materials cost and other similar questions that are relevant to the specific job are to be expected.

Scenario Questions

The next most common supply chain interview questions are ones that test how the candidate would act in different scenarios. These are great questions to ask because they help show how well the candidate can think on their feet.

There are two types of scenario questions: ones that are completely hypothetical and ones about how candidates actually handled similar situations. Asking how a candidate handled working with a difficult colleague and how they got through a difficult situation are ways to see how the candidate got through a real-life issue.

It’s also helpful to ask questions about how the candidate thinks they would react to a situation they have not encountered before. Questions about emergencies or other scenarios specific to the position are important to ask too.

Tips on Answering These Questions

When you’re preparing for an interview, most people will tell you to practice and prepare answers to possible questions ahead of time. While this does ensure you come up with good answers to some of the trickier questions, it does have one negative consequence — it can leave your responses feeling pretty robotic.

Interviewing successfully for a supply chain position requires more than good answers. Most supervisors are looking for personable, genuine employees. How can you convey your positive personality and also come up with good answers?

  • Before the interview, come up with a list of possible questions, and think about how you may answer them if they are asked. Do not, however, rehearse specifically worded answers. You’ll come across as authentic if you pause a few times when formulating the actual response during the interview.
  • Don’t be afraid of pauses. It is perfectly okay to stop and think for a second. Pausing doesn’t make you look incompetent; it makes you look thoughtful. Avoid chattering on and on to fill blank pauses.
  • Have a friend or family member run through a practice interview with you a few days before the real interview. Among the questions you should ask your practice interviewer following the session are “Did I appear natural?” and “Was my body language comfortable and relaxed?” If your practice interviewer has suggestions for improvement, implement them and practice again.
  • Instead of focusing on getting the “correct” answers, focus on your delivery of your answers. You want to come across as passionate, interested, and engaged. Responding naturally to questions rather than reciting memorized answers makes it easier to express your passion for the position and subject matter.

Questions for the Interviewer

Once the employer has asked all of their questions, there should be an opportunity for the interviewee to ask their interviewer some questions of their own.

The candidate will want to figure out whether the job is the right fit for them, too, during the interview. As the interviewer, you should be ready to answer questions about the company itself, about the company’s culture and even questions about salary and benefits.

During an interview for a supply chain position, asking the right questions and giving the right answers helps determine if a candidate is the right fit for the position. If you find, as the employer, that you cannot find the right candidate, you may need extra help.

  • What role will you fill? – The role that you are applying for is much more than just the job title since today many positions are a blend of more than one position. You will be filling a vacant role, which means the company should have a good idea of what they are expecting from the perfect candidate, whether it’s to mentor other individuals on your team, to come up with creative ideas and process improvements or to work within certain parameters and to follow all the rules. Remove rest
  • What have your predecessors done to be successful? – This is a great way to figure out what the expectations of your role are. Hopefully, the company will describe some of the positive and negative attributes of your predecessor. You’ll not only be able to compare your own attributes and way of working to what has been expected, but you’ll also get an idea of what the company culture is like.
  • What is expected of you within your first three months, 6 months and first year? – You should have an idea of what you are capable of, but find out what the company will expect of you in terms of getting the hang of things and how they work and growing into your role.
  • What is the company culture like? – Company culture varies greatly from company to company. Some companies have a very formal company culture in which everyone dresses up for work, shows up on time and gets their work done. Others have a more casual approach where work hours are flexible as long as deadlines are met. Asking about the company culture is important to figuring out if you will fit in as an individual.
  • What can you do to make their job easier? – This shows that you want to know why they are hiring and what they are looking for out of the position.
  • What is the biggest hesitancy they have about hiring you? – This gives you a chance to understand how they are viewing you as a candidate. It also gives you the opportunity to address whatever issue they might have. For example, if it’s an experience issue, then you could bring up a previous position you excelled at without having had a lot of experience going into that job. If it’s because they think you are lacking a skill, emphasize that you are willing to work hard to lean whatever additional skills are necessary.
  • How do they feel about risks and experimentation? – This question shows that you are willing to adapt. Some companies like it when their employees take risks or experiment in certain areas in order to achieve results. It shows initiative. However, some companies prefer that you stick to the proven path and work within the structured environment that they have established.
  • Who are their most recent hires? – Find out about some of the other positions that were filled. Follow this up by asking whether some of their hires have worked out or not. This can help you figure out what you need to do in order to be successful if you are hired and it shows the employer that you are already thinking ahead.

Contact us at Optimum Supply Chain Recruiters to start the process of finding top talent for any open supply chain positions in your company.

Don Jacobson
Don Jacobson
Don Jacobson was born and raised in New York City, and graduated with a B.A. degree in Management from the City University of New York. For 10 years, Don managed Operations and Supply Chain departments for consumer products companies. He then turned his attention to supply chain recruiting and for the past 27 years, has specialized in recruiting and placing supply chain executives throughout North America. Don is certified by the National Association of Personnel Consultants. He was a Partner at Hunt Ltd., and more recently was the Founder and Managing Partner of LogiPros LLC, a logistics recruiting firm. Don is a regular contributor of topical human resource articles for DC Velocity magazine, the CSCMP Supply Chain Comment, and The WERCSheet, published by the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC). He is Past President of the NY/NJ/CT chapter of WERC

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