35 buyer interview questions (plus example answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for a buyer position within a company, you will hopefully receive an invitation to attend an interview. This interview is an opportunity for the employer to discern whether you're a suitable match for the company and whether you have the traits desirable in a buyer candidate. It's important to adequately prepare yourself for some of the questions asked in a buyer interview to improve your chances of success. In this article, we share some buyer interview questions and provide sample answers.

General buyer interview questions

Here are some general buyer interview questions an employer may ask during your interview:

  • What's your management style?

  • Why are you passionate about the buying industry?

  • What do you enjoy most about being a buyer?

  • Do you see yourself as an agreeable person?

  • What's your negotiation strategy?

  • When was a time you disagreed with your supervisor?

  • What skills do you think are essential for a successful buyer?

  • How do you handle supplier conflicts?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Why do you believe you're more qualified than other candidates?

Related: How to become a buyer (with salaries, duties and skills)

Questions about experience and background

Here are some specific buyer interview questions about experience and background an employer may ask during your interview:

  • What are your educational credentials?

  • How much experience do you have within the buying industry?

  • Are you willing to travel to meetings with potential suppliers?

  • Can you describe an unsuccessful experience as a buyer?

  • What buying achievement are you proudest of?

  • To what extent do customers affect your buying decisions?

  • How do you maintain positive relationships with your suppliers?

  • What responsibilities did you have in your previous job(s)?

  • How familiar are you with purchasing and inventory software?

  • How do you ensure clear communication among colleagues in the workplace?

Related: How to write a buyer CV (with template and top tips)

In-depth questions

Here are some in-depth interview questions an employer may ask during your interview:

  • What would you do if a product experiences a drastic decline in sales?

  • Can you describe the differences between internal procurement and retail buying?

  • How do you incorporate client feedback into your buying decisions?

  • What would you do if a product you're interested in is initially too expensive for purchase?

  • How is a sole negotiation different from negotiating as part of a larger team?

  • What's your research process for finding new suppliers?

  • When was a time that miscommunication affected your work and how did you correct this?

  • How do you believe body language affects a negotiation with a supplier?

  • What are some of the tell-tale signs you need to adjust your negotiation strategy?

  • How does an in-phone or video negotiation differ compared to an in-person negotiation?

Related: What is a vendor? (Plus types and selection process)

Interview questions with sample answers

Here are some interview questions commonly asked in a buyer interview plus sample answers:

Is the price or quality of a product more important to you?

This is a challenging question that employers ask to gauge where your priorities lie within negotiations with suppliers. They seek to understand which of the two you focus on in negotiations and whether this aligns with the company's values. For example, some companies prefer to secure quality over price as it ensures they please their customers. When answering this question, state a preference between the two factors if you have one but aim to strike a balance and state how both are key. This demonstrates to employers that you're a well-rounded buyer.

Example: 'When finding the right supplier for products, I believe price and quality are equally important. While it's true that price is important as we want to ultimately turn profits, quality can't be underestimated when it comes to satisfying customers and ensuring customer loyalty. That's why I endeavour to find a great price-to-quality ratio when negotiating as this secures us the best products at an affordable rate. Ultimately, I'd say the quality is slightly more important and I'm willing to pay a little more to secure the best products if it means we retain customer favour'.

Related: How to conduct market research (with types and benefits)

What does your typical workday look like as a buyer?

This is a standard question employers ask to get a better sense of how you worked as a buyer in your previous role. This is an opportunity for you to elaborate on your previous buyer experience and demonstrate competence in the role. When answering this question, aim to not only explain any prior duties you have but also link them back to the job listing you're applying for. This demonstrates to employers that you understand what the role entails and have the experience necessary to handle the role with confidence.

Example: 'In my previous job, my typical workday was incredibly varied. Most days began with me responding to emails to maintain a good relationship with my suppliers. Once I'd caught up with all of my correspondence, a lot of my time was spent researching new supplier potential and following up on new product leads. If there were any leads I sought to explore further, I'd go ahead and schedule a meeting with that supplier. My previous buying experience has taught me to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the company as necessary to meet customer demand'.

Related: Sales technique: definition and types of sales techniques

Do you believe in-person negotiations are a necessity for businesses?

This is a common question employers ask to see if candidates are confident enough to approach in-person negotiations. Many companies prefer to arrange in-person negotiations where possible as it allows buyers to build a better rapport with suppliers, increasing the chance of securing a deal. When answering this question, aim to state the importance of in-person negotiations and list some of their main benefits. You may also wish to explain in-person negotiations aren't always necessary and that, in some cases, remote negotiations are preferential.

Example: 'To a large extent, I believe in-person negotiations are integral to the success of a business when it comes to buying new products from suppliers. This is because in-person negotiations allow you to build a stronger relationship with suppliers, meaning you're more likely to strike up a mutually beneficial deal. I acknowledge that in-person negotiations aren't a necessity. In some instances, remote negotiations are better than in-person ones. For example, if we intend to use a supplier for a single event, then the expenses associated with in-person negotiations outweigh the end deal'.

Related: What is a price quote and what makes them important?

What was the most challenging negotiation you have ever had?

This is a frequently asked question by hiring managers during a buyer interview. Companies understand that negotiations can be challenging sometimes, which is why they desire candidates who demonstrate strength on such occasions. This question is an ideal chance to explain a situation in which you found the negotiation challenging and, most importantly, to explain how you overcame these challenges. When answering this question, aim to end your explanation on a positive note, even if the outcome itself wasn't positive. For example, explain what you learnt from it for future negotiations.

Example: 'There was one stand-out negotiation at a previous job. The company sought to expand our existing product line-up and had found a reputable supplier that offered what our customers wanted. I set out to negotiate with the supplier, but they initially wanted a price that was above our budget. I didn't want to walk away without a deal, so I offered a longer-term trade deal with the supplier in exchange for more reasonable prices. They agreed, so not only did we gain the products we desired but also cemented a prospective long-term relationship with a new client'.

Related: Answering 'Tell me how you handled a difficult situation'

Why the buying industry in particular?

This is a general question employers ask to learn more about you as an individual and to see why you're passionate about the buying industry. Companies are aware that being a buyer is challenging at times, so they seek applicants who have a genuine enthusiasm for the role. When answering this question, specify why you chose to pursue a career in the buying industry and what elements of the role you enjoy the most. Speak with candour when you do so, and remember to demonstrate positive body language by smiling and gesturing.

Example: 'I chose to go into the buying industry following completion of my degree in business studies because I believe it's a varied and challenging career that allows me to grow as a professional. I enjoy the hurdles I sometimes encounter as a buyer, such as a difficult negotiation. In particular, I love the thrill and satisfaction that comes after securing a tricky trade deal. I'm also a people person, so working as part of a team and getting to communicate with a range of people daily is deeply rewarding and fulfilling for me as an individual'.

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