Behavioural Interview Guide for Supply Chain & Logistics Sector

Behavioural-based interviewing, sometimes referred to as competency-based interviewing, works from the assumption that past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance.  To be effective, behavioural questions need to draw out concrete examples of skills and experiences that relate directly to the position.

Besides offering an accurate basis for matching candidates to the job, this approach has another advantage. Behavioural-based interviewing enables you to conduct the same interview with several candidates and compare their answers, removing biases from the interview process.

The first step in creating an effective behavioural interview guide is to identify which competencies will be needed for someone to be successful in the role.  At SCL Search, the competencies we look for in our talent pool include the ability to communicate effectively, ability to analyze data, ability to manage business relationships, ability to negotiate, and a sense of urgency.  There are other competencies we look for, depending on the role, but we have found that these are skills that nearly every successful person in the supply chain sector has developed.

So, what questions can you ask in an interview to identify these competencies?  Here are a few suggestions to get you started on the path to conducting a successful behavioural interview:

Communication

In the supply chain and logistics sector, the ability to communicate up and down at all levels of the organization is crucial.  Here are a few questions you can ask to identify someone’s ability to effectively communicate.

  • Describe a time when you were able to effectively communicate a difficult or unpleasant idea to a superior. What was the idea and what made it difficult? How did you communicate it to your superior, and what was the outcome?
  • How do you keep subordinates informed about information that affects their jobs? How do you keep your manager informed about what is being done in your work area? Can you give me a specific example?
  • Tell me about a time where you felt you did not communicate well. How did you correct the situation?

Data analytics

With tools like WMS, TMS and ERP systems, logistics is a highly data-driven world.  The ability to analyze data is a vital skill in nearly all areas of supply chain and logistics.  Inventory analysts, buyers and demand planners need to create and analyze complex spreadsheets to identify trends and ensure enough stock is on hand to satisfy customer demand.  Transportation managers use analytics to track the performance of their carriers using KPI scorecards, and planners will analyze delivery points to optimize the transportation network.  Managers and supervisors in warehousing and distribution will track and analyze various performance metrics for their staff, as well as level of customer service.  If your candidate is able to provide examples of when they applied their analytical skillset you will be able to better assess their suitability for the role.  But once they make it past the initial screening interviews it’s best to test their analytical skill with a case study.

  • Describe a recent project or situation which best demonstrates your analytical abilities.
  • What are some of the most advanced analytical tools (software) that you use in your role? How do you use those tools?  Can you give me a specific example?

Managing relationships

We need to build strong relationships with suppliers, customers and co-workers in supply chain and logistics.  Here are a few questions that can help in determining someone’s ability to build and sustain business relationships.  Think about what makes your company’s situation unique and ask questions crafted to your particular situation.

  • How do you typically deal with conflict? Can you give me an example of a time when you experienced conflict within a team?
  • Tell me about the most successful team you have ever been a part of. What do you think made it successful?
  • Tell me about a time when you relied on a contact in your network to help you with a work-related task or problem.
  • Have you had the opportunity to work with a virtual team? If so, what special team dynamics, activities, and actions did working virtually require? How did you create team cohesiveness in a virtual setting?

Negotiation

Whether dealing with transportation providers, third-party warehouse partners, unionized employees, co-workers, vendors, or customers, negotiation skills are a key skill for success in nearly all areas of supply chain and logistics.  The way people negotiate may vary greatly, but it’s the approach or philosophy they follow that will need to be in line with your company’s.

  • Describe a situation where you demonstrated negotiation skills. What was the negotiation about, who was involved, what was your approach, and what was the outcome?
  • What was the most stressful professional negotiation you have been involved in? How did you handle it?

Sense of urgency

In today’s supply chain and logistics environment, speed is of the utmost importance.  Customers have zero tolerance for waiting, and there are always competitors gaining on you.  Building a sense of urgency into your organization at all levels is crucial.  Use these questions to help identify candidates with a strong sense of urgency.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked under a tight deadline.
  • What does sense of urgency mean to you?
  • How do you prioritize projects and tasks when scheduling your time? Could you give me a specific example?

Additional Interview Tips

We find the best candidates don’t always give the best interviews.  Here are a few additional interview tips that may help you to draw out examples from candidates who may not shine initially, but could have the skills and experience you need.

  • You may need to probe with additional questions to form a complete picture of the situation and how they came up with a solution. Round out your initial question with add-on questions such as, “what was the problem you were facing, how did you come up with an appropriate solution, and what was the final outcome?”
  • Don’t accept a situational response to a behavioural question. Push for a specific example instead of how they would typically handle a similar situation. If the answer is too vague, simply say, “That’s great. Tell me about a specific time that you were in that situation.”  If they still can’t come up with a specific example, they either lack the experience you need, or their communication skills may not be at the level you require.
  • Encourage candidates to take their time. It’s next to impossible for a candidate to prepare for every behavioural question that could potentially be thrown their way, so if they can’t think of an example right away just let them take their time.
  • Customize your questions to your company or your situation. For instance, if you have someone on your team that is known for being stubborn and resistant to change, ask questions of your candidates about their experience in dealing with such an individual.
  • Probe for missing information. If you get the sense that the candidate is telling you a story that may not be true, ask them to clarify specific details.  If you start pulling on loose threads their story may fall apart.  Or, you may uncover exactly the candidate you need for your job opening.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive and customized interview guide, or if you need our help to source and hire the top talent in supply chain and logistics, please e-mail info@sclsearch.com and one of our recruitment consultants will be happy to book a discussion.

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