There is no limit to the types of questions that can be asked at an interview for a mid-level role in supply chain management (SCM). We have selected five of our favourites which come up regularly…
There is no limit to the types of questions that can be asked at an interview for a mid-level role in supply chain management (SCM). We have selected five of our favourites which come up regularly but first, let’s pause for thought about what employers are looking for and why.
Supply chain careers of the future
According to Unilever, a big global employer with complex supply chains, future opportunities are in:
- Data analysis
- Customer service
The accepted way top employers assess your specific skills and technical competencies and your future potential is by conducting a behavioural based interview. You may be asked to describe situations or tasks you were involved in, your exact role and the results.
They may say “tell me about a time when ………” The skill here is to steer the answers to the best work you have done. Aim to demonstrate how you understand the challenges of today’s complex supply chains, especially theirs. This should lead the interviewers to outline their current problem areas.
What competencies are employers looking for?
Day-to-day supply chain management involves facing unexpected problems, failures and disruptions. Interviewers need to find out if candidates can identify issues and establish root causes. You may be asked to explain how you resolved types of situations or if you did not, what lessons you learned.
To stay competitive companies have to find ways to reduce costs, move goods more quickly and manage supporting operations. You will need to demonstrate your ability to find solutions and implement process improvements using available data.
Interviewers want to know how you can manage difficult situations such as an angry customer or unhappy service provider. They will try and establish whether there is likely to be a communication barrier between you and others, both internally and externally.
Businesses are becoming increasingly global; online connectivity is available 24/7. Interviewers are likely to try to establish your grasp of economics, cultural differences and current world events that may impact their business.
Five favourite supply chain interview questions
Q1. What is supply chain management? or What are the key elements of supply chain management?
A. There is no one correct answer. Basically, the purpose of SCM is to make goods or services readily available to fulfil customer demand. One possible answer is “supply chain management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities.” (CSCMP’s definition).
Consider adapting your answer to suit the employer; its business may be more involved in services than goods.
Q2. What experience can you bring this role?
A. This is where you can shine. Using what you know from the job specification, be prepared to explain what you have achieved in similar circumstances. .The key is to be specific and factual when describing projects. Include actual values such as savings achieved, processes improved and size of teams. Go on to describe how these projects benefitted your employer.
Interviewers use the STAR technique:
- SITUATION you were in
- TASK performed
- ACTION you took
- RESULT of this activity.
Important: do not overstate your level of experience. It is possible that the interview will dig deep.
Q3. How can you add value to our business?
A. Your research into the current financial and operational status of the company and its place in the market is useful here. Listen carefully to any additional information the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond directly to their problem areas in the supply chain.
Explain about your ability to use the new tools and technologies available, how you would improve supplier relationships and what you would do to save them money, (e.g. reduce inventory, eliminate wastage, procure better). The aim is to demonstrate your understanding of the role on offer and how you are a perfect fit for their needs.
Q4. How much do you know about our company and our supply chain?
A. Organisations expect you to know what they do, where they fit into their industry hierarchy and who their main competitors are. You have to demonstrate that you have done the required homework. They may ask for example: “what do you know about our products and services” or “what is our approach to sustainability?”
Fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers and retailers are particularly expert at this. Interviewees at L’Oréal and Diageo have been asked for detail about product ranges, customer bases and global sales figures.
Q5. How are you keeping up with the new developments in supply chain management?
A. Explain what you are actively doing to understand the new developments in processes and technology, especially as it affects their operations. However, be honest and realistic when you express how you will use this new knowledge to further their goals.
The interviewer is trying to assess your future potential. Consider your answer to an imaginary question such “ what do you think we can do to improve our supply chain agility?”
A hot tip
Many inexperienced interviewers ask silly and irrelevant questions. Some questions are just pointless such as “what is your greatest weakness?” or “how would you describe yourself in three words?”
Read up on these inane questions beforehand and be prepared to address them with stock answers.
At the end of the interview
Ask questions about any areas that you feel have not been adequately covered to your satisfaction. Remember, they may be interviewing you but you are also considering whether you want to work for them. After thanking the interviewer, ask about the next steps in the process and a possible time frame for an offer. This is the point at which you have the opportunity to close the deal.