17 Import Specialist Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from an import specialist, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

An import specialist is responsible for the coordination and execution of all import activities for a company. This includes working with customs, freight forwarders, and other government agencies to ensure that shipments are processed smoothly and in compliance with all regulations.

If you’re looking for an import specialist position, you will need to demonstrate your knowledge and experience in import/export procedures and regulations, as well as your ability to work independently and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. The following import specialist interview questions and answers will help you prepare for your next job interview and give you the confidence you need to land the job.

Common Import Specialist Interview Questions

Are you familiar with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule?

The interviewer may ask you this question to assess your knowledge of the classification system used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. This is a common question for import specialists because it helps employers determine whether you have the necessary skills to complete your job duties. In your answer, try to explain what the Harmonized Tariff Schedule is and how you use it in your daily work.

Example: “Yes, I am familiar with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. At my previous company, we used the schedule to classify our imports according to their country of origin and other factors. For example, if an item was made in China but contained materials from Japan, we would need to know which code to use when entering that information into our database.”

What are the different types of import licenses and which ones are required for your typical work?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your knowledge of import licenses and how they apply to the work you do. Use your answer to highlight your understanding of what each license is for, when it’s needed and which types you’ve worked with in the past.

Example: “There are three main types of import licenses that I’m familiar with. The first is a BIS license, or Bureau of Industry and Security license, which allows businesses to export goods outside of the U.S. The second type is an ITAR license, or International Traffic in Arms Regulations license, which allows companies to export defense-related products. Finally, there’s the EAR license, or Export Administration Regulations license, which allows companies to export non-defense related products.”

How would you describe the relationship between import specialists and customs brokers?

This question can help interviewers understand your knowledge of the customs industry and how you interact with other professionals. Use your answer to highlight your understanding of the role of a broker and how it relates to your own job as an import specialist.

Example: “Import specialists are responsible for identifying goods that need to be cleared by customs, while brokers handle all of the paperwork related to this process. I have worked with several brokers in my career, and I find that we work well together because we each have our own responsibilities. Import specialists focus on finding shipments that require clearance, while brokers take care of the rest.”

What is your process for determining whether a product requires an import license?

The interviewer may ask you this question to assess your knowledge of the regulations that apply to importing goods into a country. Your answer should include an example of how you would complete this task and highlight your attention to detail, organizational skills and ability to work independently.

Example: “I first look at the Harmonized Tariff System code for each product I’m shipping. This code tells me what type of good it is and whether or not it requires an import license. If there’s no HTS code, then it’s usually a consumer good and doesn’t require a license. However, if it does have a code, then I’ll check the Commerce Control List to see if it falls under any restricted items. If it does, then I’ll need to get an import license.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to negotiate with a supplier to get a better price on a product.

This question can help the interviewer understand how you might handle a similar situation in your new role. Use examples from your previous experience to highlight your negotiation skills and ability to get results.

Example: “In my last position, I was responsible for negotiating with suppliers to find better prices on products we needed. One time, I had to negotiate with a supplier who wanted us to pay more than what we were willing to spend. After talking with them about our budget, they agreed to lower their price by 10%. This saved our company money while still providing quality products.”

If you had to choose one type of import to specialize in, what would it be and why?

This question is a great way to see if the company you’re interviewing with has specific import needs. It’s also an opportunity for you to show your knowledge of the industry and how it works. When answering this question, try to pick something that aligns with what the company does.

Example: “I would specialize in importing raw materials from foreign countries because I find it fascinating to learn about new cultures and their resources. I’ve always been interested in learning more about other places and people, so I think this specialization would be a good fit for me.”

What would you do if you were working with a supplier in China and there was a delay in the shipping of the product?

Employers ask this question to see how you would handle a challenging situation. They want to know that you can work with others and resolve problems effectively. In your answer, explain what steps you would take to solve the problem and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Example: “If there was a delay in shipping, I would first contact my client to let them know about the issue. Then, I would call the supplier to find out why the shipment is delayed. If they don’t have an explanation, I would look into other factors that could be causing the delay. Once I found the cause of the delay, I would make sure it didn’t happen again.”

How well do you understand the shipping process and the different types of shipping methods available?

The interviewer may ask you this question to assess your knowledge of the shipping process and how well you can apply it in a real-world setting. Use examples from past experiences where you applied your understanding of shipping methods to help your employer make informed decisions about which shipping method would be best for their business.

Example: “I have extensive experience with all types of shipping, including air freight, ocean freight, trucking and courier services. In my last role as an import specialist, I helped my company decide on the most cost-effective shipping method based on our budget and delivery time requirements. We decided that ocean freight was the best option because it offered us the lowest rates and allowed us to deliver goods to our customers within the required timeframe.”

Do you have experience using the Automated Manifest System?

The Automated Manifest System is a database that stores information about shipments, including the type of goods being shipped and their destination. Employers ask this question to see if you have experience using AMS because it’s an important part of the import specialist job. If you don’t have direct experience with AMS, consider describing your general knowledge of how it works.

Example: “I’ve used AMS in my previous role as an import specialist. I’m familiar with its basic functions, such as entering shipment data into the system and checking for errors. However, I also know that there are more advanced features that I need to learn when I start working here.”

When importing goods from overseas, what is the minimum amount of goods a client must purchase?

This question is a test of your knowledge about the import process. It also tests how you apply that knowledge to help clients make decisions. In your answer, explain what factors influence this decision and how you help clients navigate them.

Example: “The minimum amount of goods a client must purchase depends on several factors, including the type of goods they’re importing, their country of origin and whether or not they have an FOB contract. For example, if a client imports goods from China without an FOB contract, they need to buy at least 1,000 units. If they do have an FOB contract, however, they only need to buy 100 units.”

We want to expand our import business to target international customers. What would you do to market our company to international customers?

This question is an opportunity to show your creativity and problem-solving skills. You can use examples from previous experiences that showcase your ability to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions.

Example: “I would start by researching which countries have similar cultures to our company’s target audience. I would then create a marketing campaign that uses social media, email marketing and other digital platforms to reach these international customers. For example, if I were working for a clothing retailer, I would focus on reaching customers in Europe who are interested in American fashion brands.”

Describe your experience with international tax laws.

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your knowledge of international tax laws and how you apply them in your role. Use examples from past experience to show the interviewer that you can follow complex regulations and ensure compliance with local, state and federal tax laws.

Example: “In my last position as an import specialist, I helped clients understand their responsibilities for paying taxes on imported goods. In my training, I learned about the different types of taxes companies must pay when importing goods into the U.S., including customs duties, value-added taxes and sales taxes. I also learned about exemptions and exceptions to these rules. For example, if a company imports goods from a foreign country where it has operations, it may be exempt from paying some or all of its import duties.”

What makes you the best candidate for this import specialist position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their company. Before your interview, make a list of all the skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for this role. Focus on highlighting your most relevant experience and soft skills.

Example: “I am passionate about helping businesses succeed by finding them new customers through importing goods from other countries. I have extensive knowledge of international trade laws and regulations, which makes me well-equipped to help companies navigate these rules. My communication skills are also beneficial in this role because I can clearly explain complex processes to clients.”

Which computer programs do you use most frequently in your job and why?

This question can help the interviewer get a better idea of your computer skills and how you use them in your job. You can answer this question by naming the programs you use most often and describing what you do with each one.

Example: “I use Excel, Access and SharePoint the most frequently because I need to access data from all three systems for my daily tasks. For example, when I’m working on an order, I’ll pull up information about the client’s account so that I can see their previous orders. Then, I’ll look at the inventory levels to make sure we have enough stock to fulfill the order. Finally, I’ll check the sales history to ensure that the customer is within their payment terms.”

What do you think is the most important part of an import specialist’s job?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you understand what’s expected of this role. Your answer should include a few different responsibilities and how they relate to the job as a whole.

Example: “I think the most important part of being an import specialist is understanding all of the regulations for importing goods into the country. I have worked with many clients who are new to importing, so it’s my responsibility to make sure they know exactly what they need to do in order to comply with these regulations. This includes making sure they have the right licenses and paperwork, and that their products meet certain safety standards.”

How often do you import goods for clients?

This question can help interviewers understand how often you use your import specialist skills. They may also want to know if you have experience with different types of goods and the processes involved in importing them. Use examples from your previous job or discuss what you would do if you had no prior experience.

Example: “In my last position, I imported goods for clients about once a month. The type of goods we handled included clothing, electronics and food products. For each shipment, I needed to determine which shipping company was best for the client’s needs. Then, I prepared all necessary documents and communicated with customs officials when necessary.”

There is a mistake in the inventory you received from your supplier. What is your process for handling this?

This question can help the interviewer understand how you handle mistakes and errors in your work. Use examples from previous experience to show that you are able to identify, correct and learn from mistakes.

Example: “In my last role as an import specialist, I received a shipment of inventory with incorrect labels on some items. When I opened the boxes, I noticed that one box was missing entirely. I immediately contacted my supplier to let them know about the mistake. They sent me another box of inventory within two days. I sorted through all of the inventory and found the missing item. I then placed it back into inventory so that we could sell it at our store.”


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