Top interview questions for Supply Chain roles
Are you preparing for an upcoming interview within Supply Chain? Given this area’s technical and operational focus, along with the need for strong stakeholder management skills, below are the areas our recruitment experts within supply chain have put together to focus on.
How to prepare for a Supply Chain interview?
The best approach is to go back to the most basic of principals – the essential information. Think about how best you can sell yourself and your experience to date, and then think about other information an interviewer may want to find out about you. This could include your personality, what motivates you, your strengths and weaknesses, etc.
We caught up with Sharlyn Soh from the Singapore office, whose daily role includes regularly preparing candidates for interviews within Supply Chain, Procurement & Operations. She shared with us first-hand on what supply chain hiring managers would look for in an interview.
Typical interview format for Supply Chain
Questions asked in an interview flows in two folds:
- Experience and examples
For instance, hiring managers can enquire about the automation projects you have done before, or your capabilities in systems implementation. Following which, you may even be asked to share people management experiences, and give examples of dealing with difficult employees.
With that, here are top 5 questions that you can prepare for.
- Why did you leave your previous job?
It’s best not to be overly negative about a previous employer or employers. Although you may have had a bad experience with a particular workplace, and may have your own issues with a previous manager or co-worker, highlighting that excessively in an interview may reflect badly on you. While you don’t have to be glowingly positive about every place you’ve worked in, a neutral attitude is better in most cases as it doesn’t raise alarms bells for future employers and gives out a positive first impression. You want to portray yourself as one who’s great to work with.
- How do you deliver cross-functional projects and what’s your capability in influencing stakeholders?
Stakeholder management is key in supply chain and companies would want to ensure that you have the capabilities to keep stakeholders engaged. It will be important for you to demonstrate that you possess deep knowledge of business categories, suppliers and markets, and that you are able to curate conversations with stakeholders to showcase that value. Communication and interaction is essential to build any relationships, and you can also share activities that you were involved in such as ‘supplier days’ or even internal roadshows that enhances stakeholder relations.
- How can you add value to a business with your experience and competencies?
Put yourself in the interviewer’s position – judging by your answers, would you hire you? As you may be aware, strengths and weaknesses are a common interview question. However, you should ensure that the weaknesses you give are not directly relevant to the criteria required for the role.
A good well-rounded Supply Chain Expert is always in high demand, but they are also scarce. Supply Chain Managers must be able to deliver cost, quality, deliverables and lead time goals. And this should come with day-to-day focus on metrics. Effective Supply Chain Managers work towards building credibility over time and they do it by being consistent, showing competence, commitment and concern for people. You should possess strategic agility and business acumen to see the big picture to ensure alignment of your team’s work with the business goals.
- How do you manage to leverage the conflicting Manufacturing, Planning & Financial objectives in past experiences?
One requires a strategic business plan which focuses on profitability, productivity, customer lead times, and other key areas for the business. On top of that, having a Sales and Operations Plan (S&OP) will allow for a cross-functional, coordinated plan that involves sales, marketing, product development, operations, and senior management. From this, market potential can then be assessed and future demand can be forecasted. The updated marketing plan is communicated with manufacturing, engineering, and finance. It is essential for you to elaborate on how you have managed to do this while measuring the efficiency, utilisation, and productivity of workforce and machines.
- Is your CV reflective of your expertise?
The one top tip is to ensure that you never lie on your CV. While you may play up and upsell your experience as best you can, never lie about somewhere you’ve worked at or a skill you’re claiming to have. Don’t put anything down which you would not be comfortable speaking about if quizzed. Likewise, if you are interviewing at other organisations, don’t lie about this either. It is much better to be open and honest, rather than accepting another role and leaving employers hanging. Moreover, it is a small industry and you want to make sure you don’t sour any relationships you may need in the future.
Towards the end of the interview, there is almost always an opportunity to ask questions. Many people overlook the importance of this, but this is actually your chance to set yourself apart from the crowd and show how interested and motivated you are by the role. You can ask about something industry specific or revert back to career progression and even global mobility within the business further down the line. By choosing something less generic, it will help make your interview more memorable and hopefully allow you to stand out as a potential candidate to the hiring manager. Make this a lasting impression!
She shared "I think at the end of the day, you can always gauge and prepare yourselves for any interview. What actually matters most is, there wouldn’t be a right or wrong answer. Interviewers wants to understand thought processes of the individual and interviewees working memory works in respond to some questions.
Stay composed and confident. Supply Chain talent often have to be the point of contact with major stakeholders, and they must be able to bring across their story with confidence and clarity to amplify their ability to position themselves in such scenarios. Ensure their experiences are structured in a concise manner that will be easy for interviewers to understand at that instant."
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