39 supply chain interview questions (plus example answers)

Updated 5 June 2023

Supply chains facilitate the movement of goods and enable businesses to get their products to consumers. This can involve various production stages, from transporting raw materials to manufacturers to getting products to retailers. If you're applying for a supply chain role, knowing some interview questions to expect can help you prepare and get the job you want. In this article, we list 36 supply chain interview questions in multiple categories and provide explanations and example answers for three additional questions.

12 general supply chain interview questions

General supply chain interview questions help an interviewer learn a little about you, develop rapport and establish how much you know about the field. At this stage, interviewers are unlikely to ask in-depth questions that require comprehensive explanations and examples. When they ask you a general question, give an answer that's concise, accurate and demonstrative of your listening ability. Topics for these questions include your personal attributes, your motivations, your strengths and weaknesses and broader industry-related enquiries. Here are some questions to consider:

  1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?

  2. What do you know about our work here?

  3. How did you find out about this vacancy?

  4. Why do you want to work for this company?

  5. What are your main strengths?

  6. What are your key areas for improvement?

  7. Why do you think you're the right person for this job?

  8. Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

  9. What do you think are the most important skills for supply chain work?

  10. How would you describe your organisational style?

  11. Why are you leaving your current job?

  12. How would you describe the function of a supply chain?

Related: What is a supply chain administrator? (With skills)

12 experience and background questions

After asking you some general questions, the interviewer may shift to some enquiries about your background and experience. These may vary depending on the seniority of the supply chain job you're applying for. For instance, an interview for entry-level supply chain roles might involve questions about your education and training rather than work experience. For experience and background questions, focus on demonstrating that you have the right skills for the role and give examples where possible. Some questions you might hear include:

  1. Do you have any experience working in supply chains?

  2. What was your first supply chain job like? What did you learn?

  3. Do you have any coordination experience?

  4. Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake? How did you fix it?

  5. Which of your professional achievements are you proudest of?

  6. Could you explain why you chose to study that subject?

  7. Which previous experience do you believe has prepared you best for this job?

  8. If you could change one thing about your career so far, what would it be and why?

  9. What have you done in the last year to improve your skill set?

  10. Can you explain the employment gap in your CV?

  11. Do you have any experience or familiarity with stock or inventory control?

  12. Can you describe a time when you used your skills to solve a problem?

Related: 33 supply chain manager interview questions (with answers)

12 in-depth questions

In-depth questions are a useful way for an interviewer to assess some of your key skills and knowledge areas. A good answer to an in-depth question demonstrates your critical thinking, organisation and problem-solving abilities. Some of these questions could be situational, where the interviewer describes a hypothetical scenario and asks how you might deal with it. Others might be questions about supply chain work and related functions to assess how much you know about the field. Give clear and organised answers to these questions, supporting them with examples where possible. Questions you could get include:

  1. How would you describe the difference between the supply chain and logistics?

  2. What is the role of the supply chain in a large company?

  3. You discover we're about to run out of stock prematurely. What do you do?

  4. You receive instructions that you believe are wrong. How do you react?

  5. How would you evaluate potential suppliers for a limited-run product?

  6. How important would you say forecasting is for supply chain coordination?

  7. You receive an unexpected delivery and don't know what the crates contain. What do you do?

  8. How might inefficiency impact supply chains? What issues could arise?

  9. A delivery is late, and the recipient is complaining to you. How do you handle the situation?

  10. What would you do if you were the only person to witness a colleague make a mistake?

  11. How would you approach mentoring a new logistics assistant?

  12. Do you have any questions for us?

Related: What to expect in an interview (in-depth guide with tips)

3 questions with example answers

Here are three additional questions that you might encounter in a supply chain job interview, along with explanations and example answers:

1. What are the advantages of foreign versus domestic suppliers?

Making choices about sourcing products can be a key aspect of supply chain work. While people in senior positions typically make these decisions, it's useful to understand these concepts early in your career. For an entry-level position, this type of question tests how well your education has prepared you for supply chain work. For a more senior position, this is an opportunity to show your experience. To answer this question, consider giving at least two advantages for both foreign and domestic suppliers.

Example: 'One of the typical advantages of a domestic supplier is the ease of transport. Being in the same country usually means shorter journeys and no imports to consider. Additionally, everyone involved is in the same time zone. Another benefit of using domestic suppliers is stability, as there typically aren't any changes in tariffs or other import-related rules to consider.

Despite this, there are some reasons for choosing a foreign supplier. One is cost, as some suppliers abroad can supply goods at much lower prices, especially in large quantities. Another benefit of foreign suppliers can be their expertise. Many foreign suppliers produce high-quality goods due to local competitive advantages.'

Related: What is importing and exporting? (With practical examples)

2. What are the stages of the supply chain?

This is a question that you may be more likely to hear when applying to non-senior positions, as someone experienced in this type of work is typically familiar with the answer. Knowing the answer to this question shows that you know what the work might involve and understand the context of the role. There are multiple ways of describing the stages of a supply chain, so aim to summarise at least three or four phases. List these and give a brief explanation of what each means.

Example answer: 'There are typically five stages in a supply chain. These are planning, sourcing, producing, sending and returning. In the planning stage, the company considers supply and demand to determine what it requires and in what quantities. In the sourcing stage, the business identifies suppliers for the products it requires based on its plans. In the producing stage, the organisation uses the supplies to manufacture the final products for distribution.

In the sending stage, the company delivers these products to consumers, either directly or through distributors. The final stage is returning, which concerns the post-delivery activities relating to customers' product returns. Another name for this stage is reverse logistics.'

Related: What is a supply chain diagram and how do you make one?

3. What's the difference between upstream and downstream?

This question enables the interviewer to assess two things. First, it assesses your knowledge of supply chain terminology, which could indicate your experience, education or both. It's also useful for assessing your in-depth understanding of the work, depending on the answer you give. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge by first defining upstream and downstream, then explaining additional considerations, such as differences in priorities.

Example answer: 'In a supply chain, upstream refers to anything relating to suppliers. Downstream refers to consumers or distributors. These refer to the earlier and later stages of the supply chain, respectively. The key differentiator is the kind of relationship. In upstream interactions, the company is the customer or client. In downstream interactions, the company is the seller. This means you have different staff working on each to manage these relationships.'

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