34 procurement manager interview questions (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 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.

During a job interview, the interviewer asks you a series of questions to determine your capability to do the job. They assess your answers against those of other candidates to help the hiring manager hire the right person. Understanding what questions an interviewer may ask you can help you to prepare for the interview. In this article, we provide a list of 34 procurement manager interview questions, with tips on how to answer them.

Related: How to prepare for an interview

What does a procurement manager do?

A procurement manager is responsible for the sourcing and buying of goods, services and equipment for a company at competitive prices. This enables a company to operate successfully and within a budget. The role involves sourcing, building and maintaining relationships with suppliers, arranging contracts and negotiating prices throughout the procurement process. A procurement manager helps a business save money and increase profits while considering sustainability, risk and ethics. Common responsibilities of a procurement manager include:

  • sourcing materials and components used in the company's products

  • acquiring goods the company sells for a profit

  • purchasing services a company might use, such as advertising and marketing services

  • predicting the levels of demand for products and services

  • researching products and suppliers to determine the best ones for the company in terms of quality, service and value

  • negotiating and agreeing to contracts with suppliers, providing the best value for money for the company

  • sourcing and building good relationships with new suppliers while maintaining relationships with existing contractors

  • managing the procurement team and providing direction

  • reviewing existing contracts to ensure the company is receiving the best money for value

  • designing and implementing the company procurement strategy

Related: What does a procurement manager do? (Plus salary info)

General procurement manager interview questions

Interviewers ask generic procurement manager interview questions at the beginning of an interview. The purpose of these questions is to help you feel more comfortable and give you an opportunity to understand what the interviewer is looking for. Some typical opening questions might include:

  1. Tell us about yourself.

  2. What do you know about the company?

  3. How did you hear of this role?

  4. Why do you want to work for us?

  5. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?

  6. What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?

  7. How do you spend your free time?

  8. What is your biggest achievement to date?

  9. What makes you qualified for this role?

  10. How do you ensure continuous professional development?

Related: 14 common interview mistakes and how to avoid them

Questions about background and experience

Once the interviewer has a better understanding of you, they move on to your managerial background and relevant experience. These questions are to help the interviewer understand what makes you qualified for the position. This part of the interview may focus on your training, relevant work experience and the skills you have that are specific to the role. The interviewer may go through your CV or application form and ask you questions relating to your previous roles. Some questions the interviewer may ask include:

  1. Tell me about your role at your previous workplace.

  2. What relevant work experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?

  3. How much experience of being a purchasing manager do you have?

  4. What, if any, professional certifications do you hold?

  5. Give an example of a time you worked on a project that involved leading a large purchasing team.

  6. Tell me about an occasion you achieved significant cost savings.

  7. Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a vendor and how you resolved it.

  8. Were you ever unsuccessful with a purchase? What did you learn from the experience?

  9. How do you address an underperforming employee?

  10. How do you motivate and ensure the success of a procurement team?

Related: Things to do before an interview to prepare (plus benefits)

In-depth questions

These are questions gauging your knowledge and expertise in the role. They're more in-depth, and interviewers use them to assess your suitability for the position. Some examples of role-specific questions are:

  1. What qualities does a successful procurement manager possess?

  2. Please explain purchasing process step by step.

  3. What is a qualified products list?

  4. What are the most essential criteria when selecting a supplier?

  5. How do you keep records of supplies?

  6. What is the most challenging aspect of procurement?

  7. Can you explain the key procurement metrics?

  8. Please explain what category management is, and provide an example of using it.

  9. How do you assist a difficult stakeholder?

  10. What is your negotiation experience, and what negotiation skills and tactics do you have?

Related: Procurement management: a step-by-step guide (with tips)

Interview questions with sample answers

Here are some questions the interviewer may ask with sample answers:

1. Can you tell me of a particular challenge you faced in your last role and how you overcame it?

A procurement manager can face many challenges throughout the day. The interviewer wants to see examples of how you approached challenges and solved problems in your last role, bringing the situation to a positive outcome. They also want to ensure you handled the problem in a professional manner. Start by explaining the challenges that procurement managers could face, followed by your approach and solution to the challenge.

Example: 'Procurement managers can face many challenges, such as small budgets or supply issues. In my previous role, the company encountered considerable delays with supplies, which could have resulted in a delayed product release. As I anticipate such issues arising, I had alternative vendors already detailed in my procurement management plan. I was able to source alternative supplies and keep the product release date on track.'

Related: 9 common work challenges and ways of overcoming them

2. Describe your relationships with suppliers. How do you prefer to work with them?

In this question, the interviewer is looking to assess your understanding of supplier management and procurement. They look for an answer from both an ethical and technical point of view. When answering this question, focus on your own ethos but also a technical explanation of the techniques used to maintain good relations with suppliers.

Example: 'Having a good relationship with suppliers is one of the most important aspects of my role. The company relies on suppliers to provide timely deliveries of necessary goods and equipment and also to enhance the company's reputation. All relationships with suppliers are professional, with no personal preferences made or inferred.'

Related: What is vendor management? (Definition, benefits and tips)

3. How do you decide on contracts and if you need one?

This question gives interviewers an opportunity to measure your preference for contracts and examine your judgement on the necessity of a contract. It also allows you to demonstrate that you understand how important contracts are in procurement management. Start your answer with an explanation of the importance of contracts, and provide examples of scenarios when a contract is unnecessary.

Example: 'Contracts establish a legal relationship between a company and its suppliers. They're an important element of every procurement management plan. Sometimes, small purchases from a regular vendor still work equally well for both the company and supplier without a formal contract in place.'

Related: Frequently asked questions about fixed-term contracts

4. Please explain how you plan to determine the purchasing patterns for the company

The interviewer wants to know if you're prepared to follow the company's established procurement pattern or refer to your own strategy. By evaluating the pattern, you can identify any areas where improvement is necessary. To answer this question, explain the reason for the evaluation and include various tools and techniques that you can use when checking the purchasing pattern.

Example: 'Conducting a spend analysis can help determine a company's purchasing pattern. It identifies information such as the amount of money available for equipment and resources. It can also analyse the expenditure with each vendor and changes to spending. I find the best tool to perform a spend analysis is a pivot table.'

Interview tips

Here are some useful tips to consider when interviewing for a procurement manager role:

  • Use the STAR method. Employing the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method allows you to use your demonstrable experience to answer questions. To use this technique, provide the background of the situation, what your task involved, the action taken and what the final outcome was.

  • Detail what you can offer the company. Interviewers want to know what value you can add to the company. Highlighting your skills, qualities and experience help to demonstrate what you can do and how it can be of benefit to the organisation.

  • Provide up-to-date knowledge. Keeping up to date with a changing environment and industry is an essential component of procurement. Awareness of trends and opportunities can help the company stay ahead of the competition.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

Related:

  • 10 Manager Interview Questions (With Example Answers)


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