Top 20 Buyer Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Got an interview to become a buyer? Here are the most common questions you could get asked!

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Woman wondering how to answer buyer interview questions for a new role

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 makes 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 20 buyer interview questions for your consideration.

General questions

Here are a few general questions you could be asked in a buyer interview, including why you want to work there and what your previous responsibilities were.

“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 strong analytical skillseye for detail and creativity, and how they help you perform as a buyer.

“How long have you been working as a buyer?”

Perhaps another way of phrasing this question would be, “Do you really know what you’re doing?

If this question comes up, make sure you outline your work experience and abilities briefly yet effectively. Summing up your work history in a way that relates to the position you’re applying for will show the interviewer that you’ve carefully read and understood their requirements.

If you haven’t got much experience working in a similar role, try to include relevant tasks and responsibilities you’ve previously been in charge of. Some examples could be sales, customer service, invoice verification, or inventory tracking.

“How has your education prepared you for this type of work?”

If this is your first buyer job, your employer might attempt to gauge your suitability for the role by asking about your studies. If you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, or supply management, you need to think back to the knowledge and skills your major helped you develop.

Demonstrating a solid understanding of subjects like consumer behavior or buying strategies is one way to show you can bridge the gap between theory and practice. So, before you attend your junior buyer job interview, make sure you refresh your memory on your university subjects and training.

“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.

“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.

“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 modeled 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 familiarize yourself with their products before the interview.

“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.

“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.

Behavioral questions

These questions are designed to see how you would act/react in certain situations and will give the interviewer a stronger understanding of if you’ll be suitable for the job.

“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.

“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.

“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 and save money.

“What would you do if a product you wanted was over the allocated budget?”

The ability to adhere to budgets is crucial for anyone looking to become a successful buyer. Before you say anything else, make sure you highlight that in your answer.

Having acknowledged that, now is a good chance to demonstrate the faith you have in your negotiation skills. Your hiring manager is looking to onboard someone with confidence in their ability to be assertive when necessary, while preserving important relationships with vendors.

Remember that negotiating with vendors can also become more successful if it includes offering value in return. This could be a long-term contract or free advertisement on the company’s social channels.

“What’s your process for finding the best products?”

Your strategy for finding the best products is the ace up your sleeve that can set you apart from other candidates. So, when this question pops up, make sure you take the time to respond carefully!

When your hiring manager asks you this question, express your dedication to finding products or services that satisfy customers’ needs and boost sales. Then expand on your process, detailing how you approach analyzing consumer demand, conducting market research, and studying customer reviews.

Finally, let your prospective employer know that you only begin contract negotiations once you establish that a product is the perfect fit.

“Describe a time when you had to go beyond your usual duties at work.”

No one likes to think about stressful times they’ve encountered in their profession. However, if this question gets thrown at you, take it as an opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, dependability, and willingness to go that extra mile.

What was a tough situation you faced at work that really stands out in your memory? How did you pull through despite the pressure? What did you do that saved the day?

Showing your prospective employer your ability to think on your feet and take initiative, especially in ways you aren’t typically expected to, can persuade them to invest in you.

“How do you build relationships with vendors?”

This is your cue to flex your people skills a little. As you’ve probably witnessed throughout your career (and life in general!), good relationships rely first and foremost on good communication.

In this case, that means responding to emails in a timely manner and communicating with your vendors consistently, not only when things go wrong. It also means treating them as you would any business partner and sharing company updates with them. Lastly, being a good buyer means being a good customer: quick payments, feedback, and commitment will play a big role in nurturing your buyer-supplier relationships.

“What areas do you feel you could improve on in your career?”

The key to answering this self-assessment question successfully is to show honesty and an open mind. Begin by mentioning a weakness (try not to phrase it in a way that can harm your chances!) and then follow it up with the steps you’re taking to improve.

People going after buyer jobs need great negotiation and communication skills, sharp attention to detail, IT aptitude, and an analytical mind. This isn’t the time to let your hiring manager know you actually hate phone calls. Instead, pick a quality that isn’t as relevant to the job, like self-criticism, and mention the steps you’re taking to improve.

Technical questions

These questions cover the more technical side of the job. By answering these questions, you’ll show the hiring manager that you know what you’re talking about.

“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: “Both processes are vital parts in a company’s supply chain management. However, 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”.

“What’s your experience with ERP systems?”

If you’ve been in this profession for a while, it’s likely that you’ve used enterprise resource planning systems before. Make sure you fill in your prospective employer with the details, listing the different software you’re familiar with and mentioning how long you’ve used them.

If you’ve ever been hired to implement a company’s very first ERP system or train other employees on implementing a new system, now is a great time to bring it up! This will showcase the full span of your knowledge and expertise.

“RFI, RFP, and RFQ: which of these processes comes first and why?”

Though requests for information, proposal, and quotation serve different purposes, people still sometimes confuse them. The mix-up most commonly happens where requests for proposal and quotation are concerned.

When you’re first entering a marketplace, it only makes sense that you would start by requesting information from vendors. Once that is done, requests for proposal come next, outlining the needs and goals of a business for the vendors to suggest solutions. Getting a quotation is typically the final step in the sequence.

“What methods do you use to reduce costs?”

As a buyer, cutting unnecessary expenses is something your employer will expect of you. And, a lot of the time, it will take a combination of tactics to achieve this.

Leveraging existing relationships with your vendors is often the best place to start. If you maintain healthy relationships with them, requesting discounts and renegotiating the terms of your contract should come a little more easily.

Carefully examining and reevaluating your company’s needs and existing inventory can also curb spending. The same goes for making use of overstocked inventory that’s been left untouched.

Final thoughts

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!

Need some more interview advice? Check out this video: 

Have you recently interviewed for a buyer position? What other interview questions and answers can you share with us? Let us know in the comments section below!

Originally published November 2014. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.