Top 10 Buyer Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Illustration of a woman taking inventory in a fashion store

Buyers are responsible for the quality of a company’s brand; their role involves vigorous market research, data analysis and negotiation, among other duties. Therefore, you not only have to show recruiters that you possess these skills but also that you have the drive and ambition that make you an ideal candidate for the gig.

If you’ve landed yourself an interview for a buyer position, there are a few important steps you should take to sufficiently prepare for it. To help, we’ve assembled a helpful list of the most common questions that you might encounter and some great tips on how to answer them.

Here are the top 10 buyer interview questions for your consideration.

1. ‘Why do you want to work as a buyer?’

The purpose of this question is to help recruiters assess your motivations and suitability for the role. Recruiters will be looking for candidates whose goals align with those of the company. Your answer, then, should reflect on your professional objectives and the company’s mission.

While you’re at it, make sure to touch on your professional skills as well. Showing that you have an aptitude for this role will solidify your motivation and help you stand out as a candidate. For example, you could mention your analytical skills, eye for detail and creativity, and how they help you perform as a buyer.

2. ‘How is retail buying different from internal procurement?’

Buyers’ duties can vary. For that reason, recruiters need to make sure that candidates possess the basic knowledge that will allow them to carry out their role effectively. This particular question is designed to find out if you know what’s involved in buying a product that your company will resell instead of a product they’ll use internally.

For example, you could say something like: ‘When you’re in procurement, you have to consider cost and functionality. You’re focused on getting a product that does the job from a reliable vendor and at the lowest price. With retail buying, you must consider not only the cost but also sales data, profit margin, what the competitors are doing, and a whole lot of other factors, depending on your particular business’.

3. ‘What do you consider more important: the price or quality of a product?’

There is no straightforward answer to this question, and your response should be modelled around the specific employer and industry. You’ll need to consider the quality of the products sold by the company and inform your answer with those facts.

While a buyer should strive for a good ratio between quality and price, the balance between the two will depend on the employer’s retail objectives. If, for example, the company sells expensive, luxury products, quality would outweigh a low price. On the other hand, if the company sells lower quality products in larger quantities, the price would be pivotal. It’s important to read up on your potential employer and familiarise yourself with their products before the interview.

4. ‘What would you do if the sales of a well-performing product suddenly plummeted?’

Recruiters need to know that you’re prepared to handle any situation that may arise, and this question is the perfect way for you to prove to them that you’ve got what it takes. Your problem-solving and analytical skills will be your biggest asset as a buyer, especially if there is a sudden drop in sales.

To tackle this question successfully, start by outlining the process that you would follow to get to the root of the problem. This would involve looking at sales and market data, checking for new competitive products and inspecting other elements like price changes and the vendor’s manufacturing process. Depending on your findings, you would make the necessary adjustments to revive your product.

Walking your interviewer through this process will not only show that you’re confident in your abilities but also that you’re the best fit for the role.

5. ‘What do you think are the most important skills for a buyer to have?’

Undoubtedly, your interviewer not only wants to assess your understanding and knowledge of the role but also to see which of these attributes you possess. If you have experience in the field, you should inform your answer with past experiences and give evidence of your skills as a buyer.

Talk about all the necessary skills like research, data analysis, building a consensus, decision-making and negotiating. This will demonstrate that you’re aware of what it takes to take on this role successfully, and it will make you a more suitable candidate.

6. ‘Can you tell us about a difficult negotiation you faced and its outcome?’

Almost any buying job in the private sector will include negotiating. It’s important, then, to show that you possess this necessary skill. The best way to do that is by offering a concrete case that exemplifies your negotiation skills.

Most employers will be looking for a win-win scenario, so it would be best to avoid bragging about how you beat a vendor down to the point where they didn’t even make a profit. Focus instead on a fair, ethical negotiation in which you eventually got the best possible deal for your employer and the vendor.

7. ‘What were your previous responsibilities as a buyer?’

A buyer position entails various tasks and duties, from data analysis to ordering products and drafting consumer reports.

This is an excellent opportunity for you to talk about your expertise in the industry and to highlight your professional skillset. Things like planning and using management software, establishing relationships with vendors, and dealing with business logistics could be pivotal skills that could help you stand out from other candidates.

On a side note, it’s important to elaborate on each of these responsibilities and offer a detailed account of your experience as a buyer.

8. ‘What was one of your most important achievements as a buyer?’

Your interviewers will want to know about your past performance in order to assess your strengths as a buyer. This is the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your skills and experience in the job, as well as your ambition.

While a candidate for a procurement position might talk about negotiating a lower price, a candidate for a retail buying position should talk about end results: increased sales, higher profits, better margins. Either way, your answer should demonstrate your ability to yield great results.

9. ‘Who do you think are our main competitors?’

This question is simple: your prospective employer just wants to know if you did your homework. You should be able to list the company’s key competitors at the drop of a hat and show that you’re well-informed on the industry and the latest updates.

For a retail buying job, prepare by researching the market – who the big players are, any recent news (like an acquisition or merger), whose market share is increasing, whose is decreasing, and so on.

It’s not only crucial that you know the competitor companies but also that you’re aware of important developments that could affect their standing in the industry. By informing your answer with current events, you’ll show your interviewers that you’re sufficiently prepared for the role.

10. ‘Can you name one of our products that you think is currently doing well?’

As a buyer, you need to have a good understanding of the products in the market you work in. Not only that, but you also need to be able to identify the key elements that lead to their success. When it comes to your potential employer, this question is a way for them to test your knowledge of the company and their leading products.

To answer this question sufficiently, you should not only name one of their most prominent products but also provide good reasoning behind your choice by mentioning market statistics, demographics and any other relevant data. Not only will this show that you’re well-informed, but it will also distinguish your business knowledge and awareness of the industry.

Interviews can be quite a stressful experience. However, a little preparation beforehand will help ease those pre-interview nerves and give you the confidence you need. Practise your answers and do your research on your potential employer; the more you know, the better you will tackle any question that comes your way and the more likely you are to ace your buyer interview!

Have you recently interviewed for a buyer position? What other questions did you have to answer? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published in November 2014.