Everything is interrelated in global economy. Materials and products flow from one one manufacturer to another, to eventually end up in the house of the final consumer. Everything is planned to utmost detail, and mistakes are not tolerated. Because every minute matters, and the profit margins are often incredibly tight.

Working as a material planner, you will ensure that material resources are consistent with production schedules. That the show can go on, and at the same time the warehouse isn’t packed with stuff that the company doesn’t need–because just like every minute matters, every square matter in the warehouse counts…

Let’s have a look at the questions you will face while interviewing for this interesting job, that pays in average more than $50,000 annually. Try to think about each hint for a while, and write down your own answer afterwards.

 

Can you please walk us through your resume?

Everything is interrelated, and your goal is to find the connection, and show it to the hiring managers. The connection between your past experience and the job of a material planner. Maybe you studied logistics, or material management. Or you had a similar job in the past, and took care of the same duties you’d take care of in the new job.

Even if you had just some basic entry level job before, you can still find the connection. As long as you negotiated with people (suppliers, customers), and did some math in MS Excel, or in a more sophisticated software, you are good to go.

They won’t throw you into the water as their new material planner. Someone will guide you at the beginning, or at least offer advice and counseling. As long as you have at least some experience, and courage of course, and willingness to learn, you are good to go. So find the connection, show it to the interviewers, and ensure them that you are confident that you’ll handle the job.

 

How do you imagine a typical day in work of a material planner?

One word to remember here: system. Show them that you love to have system in your work. That means a master sheet in MS Excel, for example, with an exact list of materials different divisions and teams need in their production of various goods. Of course the list will be updated regularly, when anything changes in the production, or when a team starts working on a new product.

You will also have your list of suppliers, and will talk to production and logistics managers daily, as well as with guys from sales and warehouse, to try to plan the optimal quantity of materials for the next day, or next shift.

You should show realistic expectations, and your day will consists mostly of these duties. Talking to people within and outside the company, and making your calculations in MS Excel (or other software), you will eventually come with a material plan for the next day, and send orders to suppliers accordingly.

Do not forget to speak with enthusiasm when you describe a typical day in this job. They should get an impression that you will enjoy your daily routine.

Every minute matters in this business. How do you ensure to make your plans, and finally your orders, in time?

System is the answer once again, and relationships. Say that you will try to build good relationships with the suppliers, and understand their production cycle, to know exactly the deadline for the daily orders.

What’s more, you will work with the managers from your company, to ensure they meet the deadlines with their planning, and basically that you have all information when you need it. This rarely works in reality, and sometimes you won’t be able to finalize your material plans in time. Because you will wait for a crucial piece of information from someone within the company. And they may again wait for someone, and so on…

When you interview for a job, however, you should at least try to convince them that you will manage to finalize your plans and orders in time.

 

Imagine that one of the suppliers informs you that they experience a shortage of materials and cannot deliver. What will you do?

You will call the alternative supplier. Because you are responsible, and won’t rely on a single source for any materials. And if there’s not an alternative, you will get at least the quantity they are able to deliver, and will immediately discuss the issue with the logistics manager, so they can move the production capacities to other products and projects.

What’s more, you want to have a good understanding of the market and the situation with various suppliers. If you know that one of the companies may face a shortage of materials from time to time, you will always try to have some stock from them in your warehouse, to make for a temporary shortage on their side.

 

One of the managers from the company fails repeatedly to send you their production plan for the next day, which means that you repeatedly fail to make your material plans for timely orders. What will you do?

Ensure the hiring managers that you will address the issue immediately. You will talk to the production manager, trying to understand why they do not send their plans in time. Then you will try to solve the issue with them.

Everything is about an effective communication, and you won’t wait for a miracle, just because they may have a higher authority in the company, or you do not have the best relationship with then. Emotions have no place in an effective management. You will try to discuss the issue with them, and find a solution. If it doesn’t work, you’ll escalate the problem to the plant manager.

 

What is your experience with material management systems and software?

To be honest, you can do this job effectively with MS Excel–if you know what you are doing. But most manufacturers have a more robust material management system in place.

If you worked with such systems before, for example in school or in your last job, you can mention the names of the modules you worked with, and also what you did with the software, how it helped you in your work or school projects.

If you have no experience, you can at least show confidence in your computer skills. Tell them that you have never struggled with any computer software. You can always find your way around the interface, and you are ready to put in the extra hours (even outside of your regular working hours), to learn to work with the material management system they have in place. That’s the attitude they seek in a great job candidate.

 

Other questions you may face in your material planner job interview

 

Conclusion, next steps

Material planner is not a fancy job title, and you typically won’t compete with ten other people for the job. It makes your situation easier. What’s more, you will typically get an excellent training once they hire you, or at least you will have a counselor and coach during the first few weeks in job.

Hence they do not expect you to know everything before starting, and you typically won’t face any technical questions in this interview–or at least not difficult technical questions.

On the other hand, they will examine your motivation, and your attitude to various situations that can happen in your new job (struggling to meet the deadline, communication issues with one of the suppliers, over-ordering, etc). You should convince them that you have the right attitude to these situations, following my hints for each question.

Last but not least, you should do some research about their manufacturing plant. Who are their key suppliers and customers? What do they produce? How big is the warehouse? How many employees work in the production process?

The information will help you to connect with the hiring managers, and also to find good answers to some questions that relate to their production process.

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

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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