Everything is easy to manage when a company cooperates with one or two vendors only. But when a business has dozens of suppliers, and need new ones regularly, things can easily get complicated, and one can easily lose a lot of money in the process. That’s the main reason why companies hire a Vendor Manager, a specialist responsible for maintaining both new and existing vendor relationships.
You will be responsible for identifying suitable vendors, negotiating the best possible prices, and ensure that all vendors fulfill their obligations to your employer. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face while interviewing for this interesting job, which often pays more than 50,000 US Dollars annually.
Why do you want to work as a vendor manager?
Put emphasis on your communication and organization skills. You’ve always excelled in negotiation, and you always managed to build good relationships–be it with teachers at school, colleagues in your former jobs (if you had any), or business partners your former employer cooperated with.
What’s more, you can do an effective market research, and know something about their field of business. After reading the job description, you believe that you will enjoy this type of work, and have all predispositions to do it well. That’s the reason why you decided to apply. And perhaps you even have some role on your mind, a job you’d like to have in five years time. And this one fits your career plan perfectly.
Of course, if you have a relevant working experience, you should mention it in your answer.
How do you imagine a typical day in work of a vendor manager in our company?
Read the job description carefully. Some vendor managers travel a lot, meeting vendors in person, or even inspecting the quality of goods. What’s more, it’s always easier to build a good relationship when you meet the decision makers in person.
But in some other roles you will simply spend your day on the phone, and at the desk, looking at your computer screen, sending emails, orders, etc. This really depends on the organization of the company, the colleagues you will share an office with, and other things.
If you aren’t sure, or the job description isn’t clear, you can simply say that you expect to spend a lot of time communicating with the existing vendors, or looking for new business partners. You aren’t sure about the most effective means of communication yet, but have no problem with traveling, or with spending a lot of time on the call. With such an answer you cover all possibilities.
In your opinion, what matters most when we try to develop good and long-standing relationships with the vendors?
I suggest you to emphasize individual approach to each vendor. This means meeting them in person, treating them according to the size of their business operations, expectations, and the type of cooperation you have together.
But it also means to take part in their fairs, or even team-building events, simply be present when things are happening. You should also suggest transparency and a clear system of policies and guarantees–for both contract parties, of course.
Ensure the hiring managers that you understand the power of personal and long-standing relationships with the vendors. Such relationships allow you to secure the best deals and to be sure about the quality of delivered goods. And that’s your goal after all.
Your task is to find a new supplier of forklifts for the company. Tell us how you will proceed.
The most important thing is to show that you have some system in your work. Before anything else, you will try to get the most in-detail specifications from either the logistics manager of the warehouse manager. What class of forklifts they want, the budget you have, how many of them do they want and will the demand repeat in the future, and so on, and so forth.
Once you have enough information, you will start your online research, identifying form five to ten potential suppliers. Since forklifts are expensive, after initial phone calls and emails you will shortlist three or four vendors, and visit each of them in person, to see the forklifts, to negotiate about the price, etc.
At the end you will choose the best one, but you won’t look only at the price. Guarantees, the promptness of service, the reputation of the company–all of these will play a role in your final decision. Once your decision is approved by your superior, you will proceed and coordinate the delivery of the goods…
Imagine that you meet a vendor of some basic goods, for example groceries, for the first time. What questions will you ask them during the interview?
This really depends on the type of vendor, but you won’t do wrong with the following questions, in dealing with any type of vendor:
- How long have you been in business?
- Who are your principal clients? Can I contact anyone for references?
- What commercial and industrial standards you adhere to in your production?
- Can you tell us more about your capacities, the volume you are able to deliver on a weekly or monthly basis?
- What payment model do you typically use with your customers?
- Do you offer any guarantees?
- What is your price for this or that item, this or that quantity?
Ensure the interviewers that you will inspect much more than just the price they offer. Asking about existing clients and references, quality standards, guarantees and payment models, you get a decent picture of each vendor and things you can expect from them.
You will work with many vendors in this job. How do you plan to stay on the top of things?
Say that reporting and monitoring plays an important role in your work style. You do not rely on memory, or on luck. On the contrary, you plan to have a database of all vendors, with all important information about each business partner.
With clearly defined milestones, deadlines, and schedule of receiving goods, you can always rely on your database. What’s more, you like to have a to-do list at work, and will prepare one for each day or week. Staying organized and following plans, you should not find it difficult to stay on the top of things, and keep track of your cooperation with various vendors.
A long time business partner contacts you saying that they have to increase their prices by 10%, due to increased production costs. How will you react?
Hiring managers are looking for someone who can look at such a situation from different angles. It’s your way of thinking that interests them the most. Say that you will consider a lot of variables before reacting:
- The alternatives you have–whether there are any other vendors that can provide you the same goods of the same quality.
- How long you’ve been cooperating with the supplier, and the quality of your relationship.
- Whether their claim is justified–whether the prices of raw materials or energies or anything else they use in their production really increased.
- If you can allow to pay more, what your profit margin is, and if you can allow increasing the price for the final customer.
Considering all these variables, you will gauge your negotiation power, and try to eventually secure a better deal–whether with this supplier, or with another one. In any case, you will always consider different options. And you will consult the situation with other managers in the company. At the end, you will try to do the best thing for your employer.
Other questions you may face in your vendor management job interview
- Tell us about a time when you used persuasion to convince someone.
- What do you want to accomplish as vendor manager? What goals will you set for yourself in this job?
- Tell us more about your negotiation strategies. How would you try to get the best possible deals with the vendors?
- In your opinion, what matters more in this field of business–price, or quality?
- Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.
- What do you know about our company? Who are our main competitors?
- What is your opinion about looking for suppliers in the foreign markets?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Tell us about a time when you showed initiative at work.
- When you had to work on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
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Conclusion, next steps
Vendor manager is not a fancy job title, and you do not have to worry about competing with dozens of other applicants for the position. This makes your situation easier.
On the other hand, it’s quite a specific job, and industry knowledge and previous experience in the field can play an important role in the hiring process.
Having said that, your answers to interview questions always play the most important role–whether you can convince them of right attitude to work, and to various situations you may experience while managing the vendors. My hints should help you to do that… I hope you will succeed, and wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- Salary negotiation tips – Maybe you know how to negotiate the best price with the vendors. But can you negotiate the best price for the time you spend in work?
- Logistics manager interview questions – Some of them may overlap with the questions you will face in your vendor manager interview. Get ready and avoid any negative surprises.
- How to dress for an interview – Not sure what to put on for the big day? We have all the answers.