Acing the Interview

For experienced purchasing pros, just getting an interview with a hiring manager is a long road.  Typically the journey goes something like this:

  • First, you have to make sure your resume has the right stuff to get someone (who probably doesn’t know purchasing) to realize you have the skills and experience to do the job.
  • Next, you have to say the right things, delivered with a good balance of confidence and humility, to get invited for a screening interview.
  • Then, you have to pass the screening interview by demonstrating that your strengths and weaknesses are a fit for the position, and the company is a fit for what you are looking for.

But don’t be fooled – getting an interview with the hiring manager is not the finish line.  You still have to ace the interview to get to the finish line – a job offer.

Here are three mistakes we’ve seen qualified candidates make that cost them their dream job.

  1. Don’t just answer their questions about your job experience – tell them a story

We’ve had candidates who seemed like the perfect fit on paper, but didn’t get the job offer.  Why?  They offered no more detail than appeared on their resume when describing their relevant job experience.  To hiring managers, this sounds like a rehearsed response – they wonder if they job experience was really something you had, or if it’s something you were coached to say.

Take the time to walk them through your experience using the Situation-Action-Results method.   Describe a specific work Situation you found yourself in, giving enough detail for the hiring manager to understand the context.  Then, describe the Actions you took.  Again, give enough detail about what you did that it makes for an interesting story.  Finally, share what the Results were – what did you accomplish, what did you learn.

  1. Don’t mislead them about your accomplishments

It’s tempting to take more credit for an accomplishment than was truly earned.  But don’t fall into this trap – the local purchasing community is tightly networked, and the odds are high the hiring manager will vet your story by checking in with someone you worked with.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen qualified candidates interview well, but get dropped from consideration once the hiring manager does their due diligence and asks a few questions within their network.

If you achieved something as part of a team, present it as just that – a team effort.  If you took over an ongoing project, don’t describe it as a cradle-to-grave accomplishment.  And if your boss had to intervene to stop one of your assignments from going up in flames, you’re better off not mentioning it than presenting it as a big win.

  1. Don’t forget about soft skills – sometimes they are the most important

Too often, candidates are asked so much about their specific skills and experience that they think that’s all that matters.  But those are screening topics – its more often soft skills that matter most when a hiring manager is considering giving you a job offer.

Be prepared to tell some stories that highlight your attitude and habits that make you a purchasing super hero they want on their team.  Think about difficult situations you’ve had to handle – dealing with a troubled supplier, setting and implementing commodity strategies, having to be innovative with difficult-to-source components.  These are all great situations to highlight some of the soft skills that hiring managers are looking for, for example:

  • Self-starter
  • Team player
  • Persistent
  • Adaptable
  • Detail oriented
  • Problem solver
  • Fast learner
  • High integrity
  • Organized

Your interview with the hiring manager is a great opportunity to close the deal.  Take the time to prepare some impressive, but truthful, stories highlighting your job experience and soft skills, and that dream job can be yours.