Hardly a needle will move in the production process without raw materials and other supplies. But what quantities to order, and when? And where to allocate the stock in the warehouse, to make it accessible at the right time, for the distribution within the organization? These are not easy questions to answer, especially with the slim profit margins, and tight cash flow most companies battle with, when each minute and each dollar matters.

Working as a Materials Manager, you will try to find the right answers. Communicating with other managers in the company, and understanding the supply needs, you will respond for ordering, allocation, and distribution of raw materials and other supplies needed in the production process.

Let’s have a look at 13 questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting and well paid job.

 

Can you tell us more about your previous working experience?

It will be hard to succeed in the interview, if you lack experience in logistics, supply chain management, or at least in procurement. If that’s the case, you can try to find some connection between the other jobs you had, and the position of materials manager.

Maybe you worked just in a store before, or managed employees somewhere. Still, you communicated with people, negotiated, and perhaps responded for distribution of shifts, or labor. Now you will also take care of negotiation and distribution–just it will relate to materials instead of people.

At the end of the day, everything relates to everything. Any job you had before will help you in this one. It’s just about discovering the connection, and explaining it to the interviewers.

If you worked in logistics or supply chain management before, try to explain how your day in the job looked like, what you did and managed. In an ideal case, some duties you had there will overlap with the duties you’ll have in your new job. You should also prepare an explanation why you left your last job, or why you plan to leave it.

 

How do you determine the material needs for each shift?

Communication is the answer. Talking with guys from sales, with the logistics manager, and someone responsible for the stock in the warehouse, you should be able to calculate quite precisely the quantity of different materials needed for different shifts.

It may also happen that everyone enters the data to an information system, and you won’t talk to people–you will just check the things in the interface. But referring to communication never hurts, especially because things change quickly in many industries. Some material needs may change at a last minute notice, and it’s important to have good communication channels in the production plant in place, so the information gets to you quickly, and you can respond appropriately.

How do you want to maintain the best possible relationships with the suppliers?

Placing your orders in time, and clearly, is the best way to make the suppliers happy. You can also put emphasis on personal connections. Visiting the suppliers in person, seeing their factories, shaking hands together, and basically making connection is much better than just sending emails, or filling order forms.

Of course you will try to get the best possible purchasing price–it’s business after all. But knowing the suppliers in person, and understanding something about their business, you should be able to negotiate and accept a fair price for everyone involved in the business transaction.

 

There’s a last minute order from one of the customers, but there’s no material in production, or in the warehouse. What will you do?

You can start by saying that this is unlikely to happen under your management, because you will always try to have some quantity of materials stocked in the warehouse–counting with unexpected orders and changes–so they won’t catch you unprepared.

If it happens however, you will try to get the materials as soon as possible. Because that’s your role as a material manager–someone else can try to delay the deadline with the customer, or buy you some time in another way.

Say that you will personally contact the supplier, explain the situation, and ask for the shortest possible expedition time. If they have no free trucks, you will send the truck from the company to pick the material.

And if there’s no truck driver available, you will jump in a car and bring the material yourself. Most hiring managers will be impressed with this proactive approach and willingness to go above and beyond for your employer, while trying to take care of your duties.

 

In your opinion, what role does reporting and monitoring play in a job of materials manager?

You should say it is very important. Monitoring stock and material needs for different shifts and situations will help you make right decisions in uncertain situations, when you will have to rely on historical data, and make orders accordingly, without having all information from the production.

The questions is also your opportunity to talk about information systems you have experience with (such as SAP MM), and ensure the interviewers that you can work with the technology, and use it to simplify the reporting and monitoring in your job. Try to make the best out of it.

 

Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline in work.

Deadline is a deadline, and your attitude matters more than the particular situation you narrate. As long as they see that you do not mind working overtime sometimes–when a tight deadline approaches, and that you have system in your work and can prioritize the most important tasks, they will be satisfied with your answer. Let me show you a nice sample answer to this question:

I had to meet such deadlines on a daily basis in my last job. Working as a purchasing agent, I was responsible for ordering the right quantity of materials and products from our suppliers, always before 4pm. The problem was that in order to get the right quantities, I had to get the orders from our customers, for the next day. Two of the buyers were really laid back with their plans, and typically delivered them just before 4pm. But I didn’t just let it go. I firstly talked to the buyers, explaining them the situation, and when they still failed to deliver their orders before 3pm, I actually decided to reach out to their managers. This helped, and ever since they always sent their orders in time…

* You can also check 7 sample answers to question about meeting tight deadlines.

 

How does the job of a materials manager match with your career plan?

You have two good options at this point. One is saying that you’d love to specialize in logistics and supply chain management. You do not have enough experience at the moment, however, and see a job of materials manager as an ideal choice at this stage of your professional career.

Another option is saying that you do not have a fixed career plan yet. You prefer to live in the present moment, especially now, when there is so much uncertainty in the world. Materials managers are responsible for a variety of duties, and you are sure you will learn a lot on this position.

But whether you will be still working in manufacturing or logistics in five years time, or will travel around the world, or fight in war, is really hard to say today…

 

Other questions you may face in your interview for a materials manager job

  • What goals will you set for yourself as our new materials manager?
  • Tell us about the most difficult negotiation you led with someone.
  • Describe a difficult problem you managed to solve in your last job.
  • What do you expect from people in the warehouse and production, from your new colleagues?
  • Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.
  • What are your salary expectations?

 

Conclusion, next steps

Interview for materials manager job belongs to interviews with average difficulty. They typically won’t ask you any particularly difficult technical questions, but you will have to deal with some behavioral questions, and demonstrate your experience in the field, and understanding for your new role in the company.

Try to learn as much as you can about the prospective employer. What materials they work with in the production process, who their principal suppliers and customers are. It will help you to connect with the hiring managers, and also to answer some questions that relate to the processes they have in place.

I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!

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Matthew Chulaw
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