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Purchasing manager interview questions and answers

This Purchasing manager interview profile brings together a snapshot of what to look for in candidates with a balanced sample of suitable interview questions.

Nikoletta Bika
Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta holds an MSc in HR management and has written extensively about all things HR and recruiting.

purchasing manager interview questions

10 good purchasing manager interview questions

  1. Imagine a batch of products that was just delivered doesn’t meet specifications. How do you handle it?
  2. If an order of raw materials is delayed, there may be a stop in production. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?
  3. Walk me through the purchasing process.
  4. What criteria do you use to evaluate a supplier?
  5. What is a QPL (Qualified Products List)?
  6. How do you go about finding new suppliers?
  7. What is your supervisory experience?
  8. Have you used a vendor management software?
  9. What is a purchase requisition and how would you process it?
  10. What is your experience with contract management?

Here are 10 essential interview questions and sample answers to help identify the best candidates for this role.

1. Imagine a batch of products that was just delivered doesn’t meet specifications. How do you handle it?

This question assesses the candidate’s problem-solving skills in a real-world scenario.

Sample answer:

“First, I would immediately quarantine the batch to prevent it from entering production. Then, I’d contact the supplier to arrange for a return or replacement, while also reviewing our quality control processes.”

2. If an order of raw materials is delayed, there may be a stop in production. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?

This question gauges the candidate’s ability to manage supply chain risks.

Sample answer:

“I would have contingency plans in place, such as alternative suppliers or buffer stock, to ensure that production is not halted.”

3. Walk me through the purchasing process.

This question evaluates the candidate’s understanding of the purchasing cycle.

Sample answer:

“The process starts with identifying needs and specifying the product. Then we send out RFQs, evaluate bids, and select suppliers. After receiving the goods, we conduct a quality check before processing payment.”

4. What criteria do you use to evaluate a supplier?

This question tests the candidate’s ability to make informed decisions when selecting suppliers.

Sample answer:

“I look at price, quality, reliability, and supplier history. I may also consider conducting a site visit for further evaluation.”

5. What is a QPL (Qualified Products List)?

This question assesses the candidate’s knowledge of procurement terminology and procedures.

Sample answer:

“A QPL is a list of pre-approved vendors and products that meet the company’s quality and performance criteria.”

6. How do you go about finding new suppliers?

This question gauges the candidate’s proactive approach to improving the supply chain.

Sample answer:

“I use a combination of methods, including industry research, networking, and attending trade shows.”

7. What is your supervisory experience?

This question assesses the candidate’s leadership skills.

Sample answer:

“I’ve managed a team of 10 buyers, overseeing their training, performance reviews, and day-to-day activities.”

8. Have you used a vendor management software?

This question evaluates the candidate’s familiarity with tools that can improve efficiency.

Sample answer:

“Yes, I’ve used software like SAP Ariba and Coupa to manage vendor relationships and streamline the procurement process.”

9. What is a purchase requisition and how would you process it?

This question tests the candidate’s understanding of internal procurement procedures.

Sample answer:

“A purchase requisition is an internal document requesting the purchase of specific items. I would review it for accuracy, approve it, and then proceed with the purchasing process.”

10. What is your experience with contract management?

This question assesses the candidate’s ability to manage contractual relationships with suppliers.

Sample answer:

“I have experience drafting, negotiating, and reviewing contracts to ensure they meet both legal requirements and company needs.”

What does a good purchasing manager candidate look like?

A strong candidate will have a deep understanding of supply chain management, excellent negotiation skills, and the ability to make data-driven decisions. They should also be adept at managing relationships with suppliers and internal stakeholders.

Red flags

Be cautious of candidates who lack problem-solving skills, have poor communication abilities, or seem unfamiliar with procurement software and procedures.



Purchasing Manager Interview Questions

Purchasing managers, or procurement managers, are responsible for buying goods for a company’s operations. In large businesses, they supervise a team of buyers, while in smaller companies they may have sole responsibility of procurement.

Experience and critical thinking are highly valued in this profession. In some industries (e.g. manufacturing) sector-specific experience is preferred. Certifications may also be helpful to determine how serious a candidate is about developing in this role. Feel free to ask questions about their technical knowledge or their approach to purchasing strategies.

A vital part of their role is evaluating suppliers and negotiating contracts. Questions about past experience can help you assess their abilities in this aspect. A great candidate will also show understanding of cost-saving tactics and quality standards. If you expect them to have subordinates, dedicate some time to discover their leadership skills as well.

Let’s summarize some of the questions and add a few more divided into specific types.

Operational and Situational questions

  • Imagine a batch of products that was just delivered doesn’t meet specifications. How do you handle it?
  • If an order of raw materials is delayed, there may be a stop in production. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen?
  • If I asked you to achieve cost savings in a limited time, what would you consider?
  • Imagine one of the departments are asking for equipment that exceeds budget claiming they really need it. How do you resolve this?
  • If a buyer or purchasing agent was consistently underperforming, what would you do?

Role-specific questions

  • Walk me through the purchasing process
  • What criteria do you use to evaluate a supplier?
  • What is a QPL (Qualified Products List)?
  • How do you go about finding new suppliers?
  • What is your supervisory experience?
  • Have you used a vendor management software?
  • What is a purchase requisition and how would you process it?
  • What is your experience with contract management?
  • What are some questions you could ask when getting supplier references?
  • Are you familiar with UCC (Uniform Commercial Code)?

Behavioral questions

  • Have you ever had to cancel a supplier contract? What happened?
  • Were you ever faced with a disagreement with a supplier? How did you resolve it?
  • Describe a time you achieved a significant discount to a supply contract
  • Have you ever made an unsuccessful purchase? What did you learn?
  • Tell me about a time you had to lead a team of buyers for a project. Were you successful?

Frequently asked questions

Ready to fine-tune this interview kit?
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