A typical small or middle sized company will employ a single buyer, or a purchasing agent if you want. This employee will be responsible for the entire purchasing process, starting with research, and ending with ordering goods from various suppliers. However, things can get more complicated if an organization relies on supply chain management to sell their products with profit. In the world of razor-thin margins, it is important to constantly monitor and analyze the availability and prices of goods at various suppliers, and make sure that the organization always gets the best deal, or at least one that will allow it to eventually stay profitable. This is a goal of an employee called Procurement Analyst.
You will be responsible for continually researching potential suppliers, documenting the prices, availability, warranties and other important factors at each supplier, analyzing the data, and eventually coming up with suggestions for the managers, or at least with some reports that will help them make the best possible purchasing decisions in each given moment.
The exact scope of your duties may differ from one place to another (it may include the negotiation with the suppliers, for example), but the core of your work will be, just as the job title suggests, data analysis, especially when it comes to the procurement process. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face in your interview.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Often the first question, but not necessarily an icebreaker. You should focus on your strengths right from the start, strengths relevant to the job. Any former experience you have with data analysis or time rows analysis, with preparing reports and negotiating with anyone, is definitely a relevant strengths. So is your excellent attention to detail, responsibility, your amazing communication skills, and perhaps even your field of study, as long as it has anything to do with Math, Statistics, or Financial Analysis.
Of course, personal preferences play a role in every interview, and I suggest you to mention something from your personal life as well, such as hobby you have, or whether you have a family. Show the hiring managers that you have a life outside of work, and something which will help you balance the long hours spent in front of a computer screen (which will be your daily bread in this work).
Why do you want to work as a Procurement Analyst?
I suggest you to focus on a few crucial areas. First one, your skills and experience, and how they make from you a good fit for the position. You can mention analytical skills, Math skills, ability to see important numbers in-between the lines, and so on. What’s more, if you’ve done something in procurement or data analysis before, it is logical that you want to continue following the same career path.
Second thing is importance of the procurement process. You know how thin the profit margins are today, and what an impact a procurement department can have on the eventual profit of the business. You want to have an impact–a positive one of course, and have no doubt that your career in the field will allow you do have such an impact.
Last but not least, you can talk about your career goals. Perhaps you’d love to lead the entire procurement department one day. Before it happens, however, you have to gain experience and learn the ins and outs of the procurement process. Job of an analyst seems an ideal position to do so.
How do you imagine a typical day in work of a Procurement Analyst?
The most important thing is to show realistic expectation. And, realistically speaking, you will spend 90% of your time glued to your computer screen. You will collect data and analyze them, trying to generate meaningful outputs a manager can read easily, such as charts and time rows and similar. It may seem like a boring job for one and a fascinating proposition for other, but that’s what you will do most of the time, and you should say so in the interviews.
Of course, you’ll spend some time in the meetings with your colleagues from procurement, and you’ll have to answer emails and phone calls, just like any other corporate rat. Do not forget to read he job description carefully, to understand whether or not you’ll play some role in the negotiation with the vendors. If you will, mention it in your answer. And try to talk with some enthusiasm, or at least in a neutral way. They should not get an impression that you’re bored from the job before you’ve even started it…
* May also interest you: Purchasing agent interview questions.
What is your experience with cost-benefit analysis (any other analysis)?
Try to be precise in your answer, and mention names and numbers. They lend your words some credibility. For example, you can say what software you’ve worked with in your last job, while working on cost-benefit analysis. You can even mention the best analysis you’ve ever made, and how it helped your employer to save a significant amount of money. Quantify it afterwards.
Needless to say, if you lack experience with the particular type of analysis they inquire about, you should admit so. But you should always elaborate on it, ensuring the hiring managers that you’ve done other analyses, and have no doubt that after learning the ins and outs of the given type of analysis, you’ll be able to conduct it.
Tell us about a time when you struggled to communicate a technical message (for example some analysis) to one of your colleagues who lacked technical skills.
This does happen commonly, especially when people can not get over their egos, and adjust their communication to the skills and knowledge of their audience. Ensure the hiring managers it isn’t your case, with the help of a situation you narrate.
Sure enough, they did not understand you initially. But you did not give up. You tried your best to simplify things, and used demonstration and practical examples, and asked follow up questions, until you were 100% sure that the colleague got your point. That’s the attitude the hiring managers are looking for in a great job candidate.
Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.
Each and every analyst has to meet deadlines. Because it makes no sense to deliver an analysis of prices after the purchases have been made. Now, it doesn’t mean that you have to meet the deadline each and every time, with each assignment you get from your managers. You won’t always have things fully under your control, and it may happen that you just do not have enough data in the given moment to deliver an accurate analysis.
However, what matters for the hiring managers is your effort. Regardless of the situation you narrate, they should get an impression that you did what you could to meet the tight deadline. Maybe you stayed overtime, came on Saturday, worked from home for a couple of hours, or prioritized the task to all other and eliminated any external distractions. Simply you did what you could. It might not be enough, and you eventually missed the deadline, but that’s okay for the hiring managers. Because they care about your attitude to work, and not about the particular situation you narrate and the outcome of it.
Other questions you may face in your procurement analyst interview
- Describe a disagreement you had with one of your colleagues in your former job.
- Tell us about a time when you reached a goal, and explain how you achieved it.
- What software have you worked with so far when it comes to data analysis?
- Give an example of a time when you showed initiative at work.
- As you can imagine, we have many applicants for this Procurement Analyst position. What can you offer us that others cannot?
- Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone.
- When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
Conclusion, next steps
Job title of a procurement analyst is typically advertised by bigger corporations. Most of these corporations rely on scenario-based questions in their interviews, and that’s something you should prepare for in advance, at least if you want to stand out and beat the other candidates who compete with you for the vacancy.
Do not forget to learn as much as you can about the employer–their core products and/or services, the values they try to promote in the workplace, the organization of their procurement department, and the role an analyst has within it. The information will help you with your answers to some of their questions, and also to make a good connection with the hiring managers. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!
May also interest you:
- Salary negotiation tips – Get as much as you deserve when they start talking money–or even more.
- Pricing analyst interview questions.
- Buyer interview questions – Some of them may overlap with the questions for a procurement analyst, and you should definitely check them out.