What Is an Inventory Associate? (And How to Become One)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published November 21, 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 want to work in retail, pursuing an entry-level position, such as an inventory associate, may be a good option for you. Inventory associates count and record the number of products or supplies a company possesses. Learning more about this position can help you decide whether it's one you're interested in pursuing.
In this article, we answer the question "What is an inventory associate?", tell you how to become one, and give you the answers to frequently asked questions you may have about the position.
What is an inventory associate?
Learning the answer to the question "What is an inventory associate?" can help you decide whether this position aligns with your interests, needs, and skill set. Inventory associates, or inventory clerks, count and record inventory, such as the number of products, supplies, or materials a company has. This helps companies make precise orders and maintain a steady supply of goods. Inventory associates may also be responsible for processing shipments of goods to ensure products and supplies go to the correct area. Here are some of their main responsibilities:
counting merchandise, suppliers, materials, and equipment that companies have in stock
maintaining and updating detailed inventory records
reporting discrepancies between their counts and computer records
stocking and distributing incoming merchandise, supplies, and equipment
communicating with suppliers and vendors to determine the price and availability of goods
assisting customers with locating items in the store
assessing the quality of merchandise before putting it on store shelves
creating or maintaining a loss and theft protection system
collaborating with different departments to identify low stock or stock issues
How to become an inventory associate
If you want to become an inventory associate, here are the steps you can follow to do so:
1. Get a high school diploma or equivalent
The minimum requirement for becoming an inventory associate is typically a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. Some employers may even hire students who are currently pursuing their high school diploma. While you're in school, focus on getting good grades and completing relevant classes, such as math or business.
2. Consider additional training
While a bachelor's degree or college diploma isn't typically a requirement, having one can help set you apart from other inventory associate candidates. Consider programs like finance, analytics, or business administration. It typically takes four years to get a bachelor's degree and two to three years to get a college diploma. You can also consider more specialized training, such as taking an inventory management course online or in person, to help you learn more about the role and its responsibilities.
3. Develop the necessary skills
Before applying for an inventory associate position, it's important you have the necessary skills to complete your tasks efficiently. Here are some examples of skills and attributes a successful inventory associate may have:
Analytical skills: Inventory associates may analyze data, such as the inventory information within a company's system, and apply it to their work. This can help them find and resolve discrepancies or mistakes.
Attention to detail: Having good attention to detail helps inventory associates count and record their inventory counts efficiently and accurately. This attribute can also help them notice small defects with incoming merchandise, allowing them to return the order before selling it to customers.
Communication skills: Strong written communication skills help inventory associates create detailed records and reports of their findings so everyone is up-to-date with the company's current inventory. Having good verbal communication skills can also help inventory associates apply instructions, form professional relationships with colleagues, and help customers when necessary.
Physical stamina: As inventory associates spend a lot of time walking around, lifting boxes, and bending to pick up items, it's important that they remain physically fit. This helps them perform these tasks safely and efficiently.
Organizational skills: When placing merchandise in the store for customers, it's important that inventory associates do so in an organized manner. This makes it easy to access and looks more appealing, helping stores attract customers.
4. Update your resume
When you're ready, you can apply for inventory associate positions, but you need a strong resume to do so. Your resume highlights the skills, experience, and knowledge you have that make you a good fit for the inventory associate position. To start your resume, create a header with your name and contact details so employers can easily call or e-mail you to invite you for an interview if they're interested. Then, include your educational background, including the type of diploma or certification you have, the name of the school you attended, and the year you graduated.
Next, include your work experience. As an inventory associate is an entry-level position, you may not have work experience yet. Instead, you can include any relevant volunteer experience you have that helped you develop the necessary soft skills. Finally, end with a list of skills you have that the employer is looking for in a candidate. To determine which skills to include, assess the job posting or description for keywords the employer mentions, such as good attention to detail or experience using a specific type of inventory software.
5. Prepare for the interview
If your resume impresses employers, you may receive an invitation to interview for an inventory associate position. Preparing for your interview ahead of time can help improve your chances of receiving a job offer. One way to do this is to research questions the hiring manager may ask you so you can prepare your answers and feel more confident during the interview. Hiring managers typically ask a mix of general and role-specific questions to get to know you and assess your industry knowledge. Here are some examples of inventory associate interview questions:
What differentiates you from other candidates?
What skills and attributes do you think a successful inventory associate should have?
What technology do you have experience using?
If you noticed a colleague wasn't following safety procedures, what would you do?
How do you ensure your inventory counts are accurate?
What would you do if you counted a store's inventory and your results were different than the computer's records?
Do you have experience operating heavy machinery, such as a forklift?
If you discovered a new shipment of damaged merchandise, what would you do?
Why do you think proper inventory management is important?
Frequently asked questions about inventory associates
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions you may have about this position:
What is the work environment of an inventory associate like?
Inventory associates may work part-time or full-time according to their availability. They may not have fixed schedules, meaning they can work weekday mornings one week and then evenings and weekends the following week. Some inventory associates even work overnight to stock shelves when there aren't any customers in the store. Inventory associates spend a lot of time on their feet, walking around, lifting items, and bending to pick them up. They typically work with a team of other inventory associates.
What jobs can you pursue after being an inventory associate?
Once you have experience as an inventory associate, you may want to advance your career. Two careers to consider are an inventory specialist and an inventory manager. Inventory specialists have similar responsibilities as inventory associates, but they also maintain a company's storage space and determine the best places for new merchandise, supplies, materials, and equipment. Inventory managers oversee the inventory department and guide employees to ensure they achieve their professional goals.
What machinery do inventory associates work with?
The machinery inventory associates work with typically depends on where they work. For example, an inventory associate at a warehouse may operate forklifts and order pickers, while an inventory associate at a retail store may only use ladders and pallet jacks. Employers typically provide heavy machinery training to employees who require it to complete their tasks.
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