First of all, I have some good news for you: You won’t compete with dozens of other people for this job. Purchasing agent is not a particularly popular job title, and you won’t typically compete with more than three or four other people for the job. It doesn’t mean that you will have an easy ride though, and sign a new job contract after answering few simple questions.

Typically the opposite is true. They will try to assess your motivation, goals, and way of thinking with a few personal questions, and your attitude to various situation that happen in a job with behavioral questions.Let’s have a look at them!


Why did you apply for this job?

Try to address two things in your answer: why you applied with them, and why you chose purchasing agent for your occupation. I suggest you to refer to your skills and abilities that matter for this position. To such abilities belong: attention to detail, strong computing skills, math skills, negotiating skills, strong communication skills, understanding of the market, responsibility, etc.

You can also say that you enjoy doing what purchasing agents typically do, comparing prices, negotiating with suppliers, sending orders, doing calculations, trying to optimize the costs/quality ratio. Try to speak with enthusiasm about all these things.

To the second part of a good answer: refer to something that resonates with you. It can be: the final products of the company, their corporate values and goals, the working environment, the location of the plant, etc.

Obviously, employers do not expect people to apply for a job only with them. They know that a typical job seekers submits ten or more applications, for different offers. But you should at least make them feel as if they were your first choice

Tell us something about your previous experience.

In my book, purchasing agent is an entry level job. No worries if you have no relevant experience. You can still talk about other jobs you had, or volunteering, or whatever. Try to refer to duties that are at least somehow related to your new occupation.

Any jobs that had something with talking on the phone, negotiating, market research, cost accounting, statistics, customer service, etc represent a good preparation for a position of a purchasing agent. And when you have no experience at all, you can still say that you are a quick learner, and believe to be ready to handle the job after initial training and few rusty days to start with…


How do you imagine your typical day in the office?

Now you have a few options. First one is listing the duties p. agents respond for (bear in mind that the duties may differ from one company to another). Purchasing agent typically does:

  • Prepares purchase orders by verifying specifications and price; obtaining recommendations from suppliers for substitute items; obtaining approval from requisitioning department.
  • Obtains purchased items by forwarding orders to suppliers; monitoring and expediting orders.
  • Verifies receipt of items by comparing items received to items ordered; resolves shipments in error with suppliers.
  • Authorizes payment for purchases by forwarding receiving documentation.
  • Provides purchasing planning and control information by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing data and trends.
  • Updates job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities.

Another option consists in saying the same thing in a simple way. You can say that you imagine taking care of all duties that have connection with purchasing items for the best possible price, while ensuring that the company gets the goods in time, and as ordered.


What do you consider the most challenging aspect of this job?

In my experience, maintaining just the right amount of inventory, while operating with limited cash flow, is the toughest aspect of this job. For some people, however, the toughest thing is negotiating with the suppliers, since they do not like to bargain, or do not excel in it.

Anything you choose for your answer, ensure the hiring managers that you will take care of it (though you consider it difficult), because you understand it is an integral part of your job, and you can not avoid doing it.


Describe a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.

Job of a purchasing agent has an impact on many other people in the company. Employees will wait for the goods, they will expect you to take care of the orders and delivery, and they may put you under pressure–with both their expectations on quality and product features, and tight deadlines.

If this is your first job application, talk about a deadline you had to meet at school. Tell them how you prioritized your work, asked someone to help you, or worked overtime and on weekends to get the job done in time.

Remember that your attitude matters the most for the hiring managers, not a particular situation you narrate in your answer. Show them that you can handle the pressure, and won’t panic in your new job.An illustration of a friendly atmosphere in a job interview. People are smiling, having a good time.


Describe a time when you had to deal with an angry client (supplier).

If you apply for your first job, the question may go like: What would you do if you talked to a supplier and they got angry with you, not agreeing with the terms?

First job or years of experience, the right attitude remains the same: Show the hiring managers that you will always defend the interests of your employer. That means getting the best quality for the best price. Or at least a good quality for a good price.

You can elaborate on your answer, saying that you understand the importance of good relationship with the suppliers, and will try to negotiate the terms in a polite way. They may get angry, but you won’t. Ever. At least you should claim this in your interview.


What are your strategies for discovering the best products?

Answer to this question differs from one industry to another. Nevertheless, quality market research, phone calls and visits to prospective suppliers, spying on your competition (trying to find their suppliers and prices they purchase for) will work in most cases.

You can also say that you will ask all shortlisted suppliers for references, and will call their buyers, trying to get feedback on the quality of the products.

Show the hiring managers that you do not take your job lightly, and won’t jump after first offer that appeals to you. Research, cost accounting, ordering samples, talking to other buyers, and negotiating with suppliers is a way to go in this business…


Other questions you may get in your purchasing agent interview

  • What motivates you the most in this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?
  • When is it better to sign a contract with a supplier instead of making individual purchases?
  • What’s the challenge in using just-in-time inventories? Do you prefer this way of purchasing?
  • Describe a time when you struggled to build a relationship with someone important (such as a supplier). How did you eventually overcome that?
  • Describe a situation when you did not agree with the opinion (or decision) of your superior or supervisor, and knew that they were wrong. How did you handle that?
  • Describe a conflict you had with your colleague (or a classmate, if you apply for your very first job).
  • Why should we hire you, and not one of the other job applicants?
  • ….


Conclusion, premium interview answers

You won’t compete with many job applicants in your interview, but you will typically deal with many questions. Try to show enthusiasm, motivation, willingness to work hard. Show them that you have the right attitude to work, to your colleagues, and to suppliers. Show them that you understand your job, and are ready and eager to start.

And if you struggle with answers to some of the questions in our list, have a look at the one of our eBooks, the Buyer Interview Guide. Multiple premium answers to all questions you may realistically face in your purchasing agent (buyer) job interview will help you streamline your interview preparation, outclass your competitors, and get this great job. Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck in your interview!


* You can also download the questions in a simple one-page long PDF, (print it), and practice your interview answers anytime later:

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Matthew Chulaw
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