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Preparing for Your Initial Supply Chain Interview

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Interviewing is often considered one of the most dreaded tasks when thinking about the process of applying to jobs. Understandably, the interviewing experience can feel intimidating, awkward, and sometimes downright daunting.

We have been on both sides of the table, from our fair share of interviews as the interviewer and the interviewee perspective. As the “middle man” who connects talented supply chain candidates with top-notch companies, we have a few tips to share to help you prepare for each stage of the interviewing process.

In this article, we will share our behind-the-scenes, in-the-trenches insights on the interviewing process. You will receive step by step advice on how to conquer the preparation, execution, and closing components of interviews in the Supply Chain and Operations Management Industry. Our ultimate ambition is to provide you the tools you need to increase your odds of securing the position you want.

The Initial Interview: The Screening Interview

More often than not, a company will have someone conduct an initial interview with you to screen your level of fit for the position. Sometimes this is an in-person interview, but more frequently it is scheduled via telephone or video chat.

It is important to understand how vital this interview truly is. The interviewer may be a recruiter (internal or hired externally by the company), an HR staff member, the actual hiring manager, or someone else within the supply chain department. Regardless, the job title of the interviewer does not truly matter; the screening interviewer is the determining factor of whether your name will be passed on to the decision makers.

Preparing for this interview is critical. Your preparation should be centered around determining and understanding why you are a great fit for the position and how you are going to convince the interviewer to agree.

Time to Prep

  • Schedule your interview in advance. If you receive a surprise phone call and are asked to participate in a phone-interview that moment, politely ask to schedule a different time. You need time to mentally prepare. Ideally, you should try to schedule within a few business days of the interviewer’s initial request.
  • Know the job’s key objectives or deliverables. Understanding this critical information gives you an idea of what the company is looking for in a candidate. It is always a great idea during the initial interview to ask what makes objectives someone in the position should achieve to be successful in the role.
  • Brainstorm your accomplishments and align them with the job’s key objectives. During some time during the interview process, you will likely be asked to discuss examples or accomplishments as they relate to the job you are applying to. By aligning or matching up your previous experience with the job’s needed deliverables, you are demonstrating you have the aptitude to not only perform the job description but to excel at the company.
  • Do your research on the company.  After you are offered an interview, be sure to gain a basic understanding of the company’s mission, values, products and/or services, history, and recent news. Knowing this general information will make you appear engaged, enthusiastic, and educated.
  • Know the answers to the basics. Be prepared to answer the cliché, basic interview questions asked at almost every screening interview. We recommend brainstorming your response to each of the following questions:
    • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
    • Why are you applying for this company and for this position?
    • Why do you want to work for us?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses? (We recommend brainstorming three each)
    • Why should we hire you?
  • Prepare professionally for the interview. If you are calling or video-chatting for the interview, find an environment that does not have noisy interruptions. Bring any materials with you, including your resume, the job description, any prepared questions, paper, and a pen, and water. Dress in professional attire, even if you think you will be over-dressed. Practice your response to the basic interview questions a few times in front of a mirror.
  • Prepare your questions. Typically towards the end of an interview, you will be given the opportunity to ask any questions. We recommend always asking at least two questions, as it makes you appear more interested in the position. Prepare your questions for the interviewer ahead of time, which should be job or company-related. A few examples that will be sure to give you valuable insight on the company include:
    • “What have been some of the biggest challenges for people in this position?”
    • “Why is this position open?”
    • “What are the common characteristics for the top performers in this role?”
    • “What have you enjoyed most about this company?”
    • “Are there opportunities for advancement in this company?”


Time to Execute

  • First things are first. The first impression really matters. Try to establish a connection early on with your interviewer. Thank them for their time right away and be enthusiastic. If you are on the phone, try to increase your normal energy level a bit. Your verbal communication should be accentuated if the interviewer is only hearing your voice.
  • Watch your speech and demeanor. Try to speak both clearly and loudly, while enunciating your words. Avoid filler words and be concise. Provide the interviewer with the main details and information. If you feel like you were too vague, you can always ask if you answered their question completely.
  • Be engaged and ask meaningful questions. Remember that list of questions you prepared? Ask them. If something comes up during the interview that sparks your interest, ask about it. Most companies can find someone that is fully qualified for the job, but what they really want is someone who wants the job. Avoid questions that imply that you are just looking out for yourself. End your round of questions to the interviewer with “What are the next steps of this process?” This should help you understand when you should expect to hear from someone next.
  • Reflect on the experience. Right after you complete the interview, be sure to take some notes. We recommend writing down any unique information you learned about the company’s operations, management, or supply chain logistics, as well as reflecting on your own interviewing performance. This will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future and help remind you what you learned during the interview, especially if you are interviewing at a handful of companies.


Time to Follow-Up

  • Remember to be patient. We understand that waiting can be hard. Good things come to those who wait.
  • Know when you should follow up. You should follow-up, but the question is “When?” We recommend sending a thank-you note or email within 24 hours of the interview. We also recommend following up after at least one business after a missed deadline in which they guaranteed to follow-up with you. Your follow-up should be polite and understanding. We recommend simply asking if they need any other information or clarifications from you, as well as thanking the interviewer for their time once more. Make it simple and sweet, as this will keep you on their radar.


6 Major Interview Do-Not's

1.    Do not assume you will be selected for the job.  Even if you have a networking advantage or hunch, do not make remarks that imply you will be automatically chosen for the job.

2.    Don’t get caught up when the interviewer takes notes. Experienced interviewers are trained to write notes during the interviews. They often times need to generate a written response or report based on their experiences with you. Therefore, the more the interviewer writes down, the more they will remember about you.

3.    Do not reveal personal concerns, situations, or issues. You may think this should be known without being said, but you would be surprised how often this happens. Information about personal stories or challenges, unless related to a previous job, is not appropriate to discuss at an interview.

4.    Disregard your cell phone during an interview. Your cell phone and email notifications should be turned off before meeting with an interviewer. Receiving pings and dings on your phone does not make you look professional.

5.    Do not bring up vacation or salary during the first interview, unless they do.  If the interviewer does bring up salary requirements, try your best to avoid your desires. Explain that you need to gather more information on the scope of the position and will have that conversation when the employer is ready to make an offer. You can also state that you are sure that you and interviewer will come up with a fair number when an offer is on the table.

6.    Do not stop searching for jobs. Even if you feel like you rocked your interview, do not hold out for the job. There are many times when positions are canceled, filled internally, or put on hold. Keep applying until you start your first day on the job.


Let’s Wrap Up

There is no science behind interviewing and there truly are no wrong answers; it is the matter of whether or not you are fit for the position.

Interviewing for a job is an art. Interviewing is the art of presenting yourself as the solution to a problem that a company has. You are selling your diverse experience, your ever-evolving aptitude for learning, and your eager drive. If you can master the art of selling yourself, then you can conquer your next interview.

Be sure to listen to the company to understand what they need out of the person filling the role, be a story-teller as you explain your real-life experience and background, and follow-up in appreciation after the interview.

The key is to prepare and practice. You’ve got this.

Are you ready to interview your next position? We’ve got connections with some of the best supply chain, manufacturing, and logistics companies in today’s job market. We would love to connect you!

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