34 Material Planner Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 15 December 2022

Published 18 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in a career in supply chain management, the role of a material planner may be an exciting direction to take. A material planner typically works with overseas manufacturers to purchase materials used in production. Knowing the common interview questions for this type of role and how to answer them can help you during the interview process. In this article, we discuss 34 material planner interview questions with examples of how to answer them.

Related: What Is Supply Management? (Importance and Process Steps)

What are material planner interview questions?

A material planner works within supply chain management and typically streamlines communication between the company and suppliers. This position may require strong communication skills during the negotiation and shipping process. It may also require you to remain organised, handle contract changes and exhibit management qualities.

During a material planning interview, the hiring manager may ask a series of questions about you, the company, the job responsibilities or the current industry. You may wish to prepare prior to the interview by researching the company and thinking of a few follow-up questions to ask. It may also be helpful to know what products the company produces and the origin of their materials.

Related: A Detailed Guide to a Career in Logistics: 7 Types to Explore

Types of interview questions

During the interview, hiring managers may ask a series of questions that can revolve around logistics, supply chain and planning. They may ask about your ability to handle different scenarios and communicate with suppliers. Additionally, they may ask about your long-term career goals and try to get a better idea of how you may fit in with the team. Here are the types of questions you may encounter:

General questions

General questions are about your background, skills and interests and may be less about the company. Hiring managers may ask these questions to assess your understanding of material planning and the functioning of the system. They may also want to know about your intentions and work expectations. Think about your professional goals and reflect on your skills. Here are 10 general questions you may encounter in an interview:

  1. What's your experience in working with a team?

  2. Tell me about your professional personality. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  3. Why do you want to work for this company?

  4. Why do you wish to leave your current employer?

  5. What qualifies you for this position?

  6. What's your strategy for working with tight deadlines?

  7. How would your previous team members describe you?

  8. What are your long and short-term career goals?

  9. What would you like to accomplish in this position?

  10. What are your career advancement plans in this company?

Related: Common Behavioural Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

In-depth questions

In-depth questions tend to focus on the material planning process. Hiring managers may ask these questions to assess your knowledge of the field. To plan responses to these questions, do research on material planning and look up the primary responsibilities. Here are 10 in-depth questions for a material planner role:

  1. What does it mean to over-order and how can you plan for the right amount of supplies?

  2. How can you determine the success of a product?

  3. What does it mean to log premium freight? What process can you use?

  4. What's the Delphi method?

  5. How do you reduce inventory costs by managing large orders and maintaining inventory?

  6. How do you formulate cost responsibility? What does it mean?

  7. If a delivery becomes impacted, how would you notify the customer?

  8. What system have you used in the past to process customer orders?

  9. How do you forecast inventory and what method would you like to use in our company?

  10. How can you successfully onboard new suppliers?

Read more: What Is Wholesale Trade? (Definition, Examples and Benefits)

Experience-related questions

The hiring manager may ask these types of questions to understand your past work with other companies, the systems you utilised and the extent of your knowledge. Here are 10 interview questions about your experience:

  1. What were your primary responsibilities in your last material planning position?

  2. Tell me about a challenging experience you had with a supplier. How did you overcome it?

  3. What's your biggest professional achievement to date?

  4. What material management systems and software have you used?

  5. What are some methods you use to maintain your skills in material planning?

  6. Tell me about a time you were able to maintain positive communication between your company and a supplier.

  7. Have you onboarded a supplier previously? Tell me about the experience.

  8. What's your relevant work experience?

  9. Tell me about an important task you had. How did you complete it successfully?

  10. What did you learn in your education that prepares you for this role?

Related: What Is a Supply Chain Manager?

4 interview questions with sample answers for a merchandiser

Here are four common questions with sample answers:

1. What's the best way to predict customer demands?

The hiring manager may ask this question to understand your knowledge about customer demands in the supply chain. It may be possible to predict future demands based on orders from previous years or buying trends. Effective material planning may mean anticipating these orders and having inventory readily available.

Example: 'To plan for future customer demands, I can review the system for orders from previous years and look for buying patterns. For example, if I see that a customer purchased the same product in similar quantities for three years in a row, I may plan that another order can come through for the present year. Additionally, I can contact a buyer from that company and discuss their order plans for that year. This is possible through developing a strong professional relationship and maintaining communication with top customers throughout the year.'

Related: What Is Demand Planning? (Definition, Skills and Methods)

2. How can a company benefit from internal inventory forecasting?

Many companies have different strategies for planning inventory. Some strategies may focus on their customer's buying patterns or through their own internal inventory. Having a plan for stocked inventory may mean simplified and quick order processing, higher sales and improved relations with customers. The hiring manager may ask this to get an understanding of how you may plan for a variety of inventory demands.

Example: 'Maintaining an internal inventory of the company's best-selling products may be essential for quick order transactions. Having inventory readily available gives sales representatives the freedom to place small or sporadic orders and increase the company's revenue. It may also improve customer relations as it creates a seamless purchasing process. To ensure this, I may obtain a report on the top-selling products and maintain a certain level of inventory at all times. I may check this report on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the sales volume.'

Related: 4 Steps to Effectively Forecast Demand for an Enterprise

3. How might you handle a supplier who is experiencing delays in shipments?

Delays can happen for a number of reasons with the supply chain and the material planner may find ways to resolve obstacles in inventory planning. In the case of a supplier shipping materials later than expected, maintaining a high level of communication with customers can help alleviate concerns. The hiring manager may ask this question to get a better understanding of your ability to solve problems.

Example: 'If one of the suppliers experiences delays, I would first contact any customers who that delay might affect. If the delay is for a short period of time, I may ask the buyer if they're comfortable waiting for the product. If the delay is substantial and may affect sales, I'd ask the buyer if they'd accept an alternative product available in stock. It may also be beneficial to contact another supplier and check if they can deliver the product immediately.'

Related: How to Write a Demand Planner Resume (With Tips and Example)

4. What qualities does a successful material planner possess?

It's necessary for material planners to have strong interpersonal skills to maintain positive communication between customers and suppliers. You may also have the ability to forecast, pull and analyse reports from the system and predict buying trends. The hiring manager may wish to know what your opinion of a successful material planner is and assess how you can demonstrate those abilities.

Example: 'Material planning requires a strong sense of forecasting and predicting customer needs. Having an adequate inventory available for last-minute purchases may also help maintain positive customer interaction and fulfil orders throughout the year. It's important for a material planner to have excellent communication skills to keep track of shipments and changes within the ordering process. This role might also require the planner to communicate updates with the buyers, so organisational skills are also essential.'

Related: Stepped Guide on How to Ace an Interview: Tips and Examples

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