We’re onto the third installment of our Logistics Interview Questions & Answers. This week I’ll be sharing top tips on answering the most common questions Logistics Operations Managers face.
Before I look at the likely questions Operations Managers face, I want to share a common problem I find as a logistics recruitment consultant. Too often, I have a great candidate but the feedback from employers is that their answers lack specifics. So try to give as much context as possible. The easiest way to do this is with the STAR framework:
- Situation: Set the scene and provide the necessary details.
- Task: Describe what your responsibility and goals were
- Action: Describe exactly what steps you took to reach the goals
- Result: What outcomes did you achieve?
I’ll give examples of how you would do this for the most common interview questions below.
Do you deal with an open or closed book?
This will obviously depend on the contracts you have worked with. There is no way of fudging the issue if you’ve only experienced one of them.
For both open and closed book experiences, you should provide an example of where you have worked to bring about the biggest cost efficiencies for your employer. How did you negotiate the initial agreement and how were you able to work within those terms to further drive cost efficiencies?
The full operational visibility that comes with open book contracts leads to a more partnership-focused approach. Be willing to provide an example of where you’ve improved a partnership, such as with contract renewals, increasing profitability, reducing cost from the operation, etc.
Do highlight any examples you may have where you have worked to bring about cost efficiencies for your employer where a by-product is win-win for the client e.g. warehouse redesign to improve efficiency and productivity, reducing headcount in the distribution centre or reducing fleet size.
How would you deal with a poor performer?
Many candidates simply talk through the process they would follow. However, provide an example using the STAR method to back this up, such as:
- Situation: At X, I had an operative who wasn’t meeting his pick-rate KPI…
- Task: I needed to improve his productivity by x% to meet his targets.
- Action: I analysed what was going wrong and identified two main causes: lack of engagement and clarity on how to use the systems and controls. I had a meeting to find out what was causing the demotivation and identified that he didn’t feel that he had any clear career path, so I set out clear promotion criteria for him. I also set up further training on areas of weakness.
- Result: After 3 months, the operative had improved his performance by X%.
What is the headcount of the site you currently manage?
Whilst this has probably been screened out at the CV stage, employers will still often ask this at interview to find out about ant to know the size and scale of your site. There is a big difference between a 500,000 square foot site and a 50,000 square foot site and they will want to make sure that your experience reflects their working environment and that you are used to working in similar-sized distribution centres.
Some candidates answer the question directly i.e. they focus on their current role. However, make sure that you talk about any past experience that is similar in size and scale to the company you are interviewing for.
Your answer should include:
- Square footage of the site
- Number of direct reports
- Structure of your team e.g. shift managers, associated supervisor and operatives/drivers.
What is your budgetary and P&L experience?
This is another question that is likely to have been screened prior to the interview but will still probably be asked. State the overall P&L amount (e.g. my P&L was £5 million) and what it was made up of e.g. labour, full site, etc. The employer will also want to know the level of accountability you had within the role e.g. Did you have full accountability or was it overseen by a finance business partner or Operations Director? How often did you report into them?
What is your commercial experience with customers?
If you’re interviewing for a 3PL, this is a very common question.
Your answer should cover how often you dealt with customers (i.e. how often you spoke with them or met), how many you were responsible for, what SLAs were in place and how you looked for ways to improve your SLAs (and therefore the relationship).
Remember to use an example using the STAR method, such as:
- Situation: I was responsible for X client across x number of sites.
- Task: I was responsible for delivering the following KPIs… One of the client’s main goals was to strip costs from the operation.
- Action: e.g. I improved the warehouse layout to make it more efficient, moving faster lines closer to the despatch area. / I researched WMS systems and decided that X was best because of _________. I implemented the system over X months, which involved… / I invested in automating the conveyor belt.
- Result: e.g. Productivity increased by x% / Headcount reduced by X%/ MPG efficiency improved by X / Fleet utilisation increased by X% / OTIF went from X to Y.
How would you deal with a tricky customer?
This can be a popular follow-up question to the last one and be sure to give an example of where you managed to improve a relationship. Again, use the STAR based framework to touch on the actions you took to do so e.g.
How did you communicate with them? Did you preempt any issues to keep them happy (and if so, how)? Did you spend more time on-site to improve the relationship and your understanding of their issues?
What was the ultimate outcome? Did SLAs improve? Did they renew the contract?
If you dedicate enough time to planning and focus on STAR case studies for these likely questions, the technical side of the interview should go a lot more smoothly. However, mastering competency questions is just one factor in landing your dream role. Most employers now prioritise candidates that are a cultural fit more than simply having the right skills.
We recently ran a webinar on Cultural Fit Hiring which you may find useful. Whilst it was aimed at employers, it provides candidates with a useful insight into what employers will be looking for when assessing cultural fit and the questions and methods they’ll use to assess this.