If you Google “top procurement question”, you get a bunch of links to articles about top procurement interview questions and how to answer them, including this Slideshare that has some decent questions and answers, but not questions the doctor would actually ask other than to see how sharp you were (at detecting hidden intent), and definitely not answers that showcase the true range of your Procurement capabilities — which is what the doctor would want to know (as he’d only interview for a senior position and only if a company wanted a true leader, which most companies, despite the talk, still don’t want — but that’s another book). To explain, we’ll take them one by one.
Question: Describe a suggestion of yours that was implemented.
Suggested Answer: Any suggestion you made that your employer adopted to some degree of success.
Problem: If your boss was the PHB’s (Pointy Headed Boss’) brother, then chances are your best suggestion wasn’t even understood, yet alone considered. Their failure shouldn’t be your failure just like their random success shouldn’t be your success. The real key to evaluating your innovation capability is the best suggestion you made (implemented or not), why, and the data you have to back it up.
Real Answer: The best suggestion that was implemented was … as it increased effectiveness/efficiency/sustainability in the following way … but … the best suggestion I ever had was … as it would have increased effectiveness/efficiency/sustainability in the following ways (and I did the following analysis to back it up) … but due to lack of risk tolerance / change management support / etc, it unfortunately never got implemented. Then ask, “how does your company support this process”?
Question: What Experience Do You Have in Procurement?
Suggested Answer Whatever you did to support Procurement, direct or indirect.
Problem: The best Procurement professionals ARE NOT from Procurement (fields).
Real Answer: I have the following Procurement experience, but the real contribution I am able to make is my background in engineering/manufacturing/IT/etc. as it will allow me to better support your engineering/manufacturing/IT/etc. as I know what they need, why, and where to find better alternatives, etc.
Question: What Is Your Greatest Weakness?
Suggested Answer What you honestly feel, why, and what you are doing to tackle it.
Problem: Your greatest weakness might be relatively harmless in your target role. Maybe it’s people skills, but you are applying to be the senior analyst to support the senior negotiator. Maybe it’s math, but the organization is one of the smart few with an optimization-backed sourcing platform. Etc. Little impact.
Real Answer: My greatest weakness is … and I am doing this to improve on it … but I feel, even though I’m relatively strong, the area I could most improve in is … as doing so would help me deliver my employer the following benefits …
Question: What Challenges Are You Looking For?
Suggested Answer Any challenge — past, present, or future — that will allow you to utilize your skills.
Problem: What you are seeking might be of zero help to your employer.
Real Answer: The challenges I expect to encounter in this position are … and I expect to be able to tackle them using … and expect these … benefits. You want to show that you’ve done your homework and know what you’d be getting into and are the perfect candidate.
Question: Have You Ever Had a Conflict? How Was it Resolved?
Suggested Answer Describe a conflict and how you handled it in a way that emphasizes your approach to conflict resolution.
Problem: If this is your first senior Procurement role, the conflicts of the past are playground to what you should expect to encounter.
Real Answer: Start out with the suggested answer, but move on to the methods you will use during communications and negotiations with stakeholders and suppliers to try and avoid conflicts in the first place. Conflict resolution is good … but conflict avoidance is better!