Procurement Tip: Top 6 Interview Questions to Identify an Expert

Procurement Tip: Top 6 Interview Questions to Identify an Expert

Today’s procurement tip is on the Top 6 Interview Questions to Identify an Expert.

The interview plays a key role in identifying an expert supplier. The questions you ask are important but the process and approach you have when interviewing will determine its success. In this article we will first identify the principle of expertise when conducting interviews and then give the top six questions a buyer should always ask any vendor or supplier before hiring them, with some example responses.

The Principle of Expertise

If you are a buyer, you are looking for an expert regardless of your project type. As a general rule, you never want to assume that you are the expert or assume their responsibilities. Your goal is to identify an expert that will do the work without any micromanagement. The more expert responsibilities you assume, the more you will devalue the vendor’s role and responsibility to be the expert. So, whether you’re interviewing experts or rating proposals, you want the vendors to treat you as a non-expert. An expert vendor should have the capability to:

  1. Tell the difference [between clients, vendors, projects, and people]. Experts can explain what makes a project unique, what differentiates their project lead from their peers, and what makes their proposal competitive in context of their competition.
  2. See into the future [see the project beginning to end]. The expert should be able to layout their plan, major risks, expectations from other stakeholders, and assumptions made. If they are an expert, they shouldn’t need a lot of information to do this, nor should they need much time.
  3. Make it simple [which allows nonexperts to understand like an expert]. All information offered by the expert should be non-technical. This is one of the biggest markers of a true expert. If you do not understand what the expert is saying, there is a good chance they are not an expert. An expert will always use nontechnical metrics instead of promises or “marketing talk”, to prove their level of expertise and capability.

The Top Six Interview Questions

The best interview questions are aimed at identifying the vendor’s expertise:

  1. Why were you selected to lead this project?
  2. What is the difference between this required scope of work and your previous similar projects?
  3. What will you do differently on this project than on previous projects?
  4. What are the risks that you do not control, and how are you going to mitigate the risks?
  5. How will you track your performance?
  6. What are the important milestones to realize the scope?

The interview is not the ideal time to examine the technical details of the scope, rather it is best suited as a time to identify if the vendor is an expert or not. Before the interviews, the vendor should have already submitted their proposal inclusive of major areas such as scope, risk, value added items and their price. For more tips on how to develop an RFP, rate vendor submittals, and finalize a contract see previous procurement tips:

  1. How Buyers Can Outsource and Procure Something They Know Nothing About
  2. How Clients Can Rate Million-Dollar Vendor Proposals in Less Than 30 Minutes
  3. The Secret to a Fool-Proof Contract

A Process Built to Identify Expertise

The Best Value Approach (BVA) is a proven procurement and project management process which identifies and utilizes experts. The BVA uses a structured method which quickly and efficiently identifies and utilizes experts without having to prequalify. The BVA RFP takes less than a week to complete, with vendor submittals being no more than six pages and taking less than 30 minutes to rate. The BVA has been proven on over 2,000 projects in multiple industries [both large and small] valuing at $6.6B over 30 years with 94% of project finishing on time and on budget. To learn more about the Best Value Approach to procurement and project management here are some additional resources:

  1. Free membership for latest tips and news:
  2. For latest books, events, and licensed partners:
  3. Latest BVA journal publications:
  4. Annual Best Value Conference in January:
  5. Latest presentations and videos:

Example Responses

Q1: Why were you selected to lead this project? (Office Building Construction Project)

Example: I am the #1 project manager out of the 50 that are in my company. I have performed 100 of these projects, 10 per year, over the last 10 years. Every project I performed completes on-time and on-budget, no change orders. My average customer satisfaction score is a 9.8 out of 10. I received a 10 out of 10 in customer satisfaction on my last 10 projects. All of my projects have been in this area, 75% have been office buildings (8 of my last 10 projects have been office buildings of similar size). One thing that sets me apart from other PMs is my relationship with the local construction permitting office; I usually get a permit on average within 20 days, while it will take other PMs on average 90 days to get the required building permits.

Q2: Please explain the difference between this required scope of work and your previous similar projects? (Software Implementation)

This required scope has the following requirements and expectations compared to my previous projects:

Q3: What will you do differently on this project than on previous projects? (Connected to Q2)

Due to the differences between this project and previous projects, we will do the following differently:


  1. Due to the implementation time being shorter, we will have 2 programming teams working on this scope instead of 1 programming team. On 2 of our previous projects that had 50-day implementation times, we did this and were able to deliver on-time, on budget, and deliver with 10% greater efficiency.
  2. In this scope, more will be requested from your stakeholders during the time frame. We will setup a coordination website that keeps all stakeholders up to date on the current progress and ensures all stakeholders know what is being expected of them with due dates. This is different than on previous implementations.
  3. Since there are more client users that will need to be trained, we will not only offer in person trainings on the software, but will also create an online training program that users can access at any time. This is different than previous implementations.


Q4: What are the risks that you do not control, and how are you going to mitigate the risks? (Recycling Services)


There are a couple of major risks that we do not control in this service. However, on our last 3 contracts, we have been able to mitigate each of them, and our customer satisfaction on them is 10/10:


  1. Risk: Client stakeholders not putting recyclables in the recycling bins. This usually will cause the client to lose 20% of their recycling revenue.


Mitigation Plan and Performance:


  1. Perform a study on your waste, identify recyclables that are consistently being put in the trash and which users and building are doing this.
  2. Major provider of recyclables in the client’s organization is not sorting their recyclable material. A change in their procedure will increase recyclable revenue by 30% in their office.
  3. We will create a recycling improvement plan for your organization that involves setting up signs around your offices, putting more recycling bins in your offices, and having a trash monitor to ensure the plan is working.


When we have done this, we have minimized the loss in client recycling revenue by 10%.


Q5: How will you track your performance? (Janitorial Services)


For this project, the major performance metrics that will be tracked are as follows: customer satisfaction, time to respond to customer question/complaint, # of customer complaints, % compliance with requirements. In our Scope/Level of Expertise, we showed our documented performance in these performance metrics over the last 20 projects.


This will be tracked through the Weekly Risk Report as follows:


  1. Customer satisfaction will be collected through a survey that will be sent out to building residents annually, client FMs quarterly, and collected from customer requests daily. This information will be compiled and will be updated on the WRR weekly.
  2. Customer complaints will be tracked per incident and building. The WRR will contain the overall metrics for the entire contract (# of complaints, response time, resolution time, etc.) and also divided per building. All information on each complaint will be accessible in the WRR.