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Get on the board you want: How can you ace your board interview?

Get on the board you want: How can you ace your board interview?

Artwork by: Alexandra Shevchenko

  • What does a board of directors look for in a candidate?
  • Your preparation will define how you come across to the board
  • Research what being a board member entails
  • What is the history of the board, and who are they?
  • Create a list of questions to ask the board
  • Rehearse the interview
  • Key takeaways

Congratulations on getting that big interview for the board position! So, are you prepared? Know what it takes to impress the board? We’ll tell you what it takes and how to prepare for your board interview.

Interviewing for a board of directors position can be an intimidating process. It is different from any job interview that you have been on. So, how can you ace your board interview? 

If you’ve made it to the interview step, then they are already convinced that you are a good candidate. They already know your professional credentials and are not really interested in hearing about your working skills. 

Interviewing is not a skill that you are born with, and few people are good at it. Interviewing is not something that you often do, so it is difficult to build up the skill. Most of us hate to interview, and it is the most maligned part of getting a new position. However, it is also a critical part of the process.

The rest of this article will cover the key aspects of interviewing for a board position and how to best prepare yourself. 

  • What the board wants in a new board member

  • Preparation will make or break you

  • Research the role

  • Research the board

  • Questions to ask them during an interview

  • Practice makes perfect

What does a board of directors look for in a candidate?

Most boards of directors are not that interested in your technical skills or working experiences at a detailed level. They are looking at your cumulative career, body of work, and overall experience level. You can assess your chances of success by answering the following questions about some specific things that a board of directors looks for:

  • Are you currently or have you previously served on a board of directors? This is obviously a huge plus.

  • What is your background in executive leadership? Being on a board represents the pinnacle of leadership in a company, previous leadership roles will demonstrate your capabilities.

  • Do you have an extensive network of business and industry connections? The larger your network, the more credibility you have.

  • Have you shown your enthusiasm and passion for the company, industry, or business sector? If you have significant achievements and participation in the business, then this gives you value.

  • How well do you fit with their culture? If you share common connections, interests, geographic history, and job roles, then this makes you a better fit.

Some of these things will be evident in your resume or CV, but most are not. This is where your interview skills will be paramount. This will not be your usual interview, so you must be extremely articulate and have impeccable body language and confidence.

Your preparation will define how you come across to the board

You won’t be dealing with your normal hiring manager or HR recruiters. These people have been around, and they will know if you are winging it. If you are not well-prepared, then they will sense it and eat your lunch. Don’t be that person.

Preparing for a board interview is similar to getting ready for a job interview, but there are some key differences. You know your history and professional background, don’t waste your time thinking about that. Focus on learning about the board and the company.

Research what being a board member entails

You’re not going to figure out what being on the board is like by using Google searches and reading things on the internet. You need to speak with employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, clients, competitors, and anyone you can about the company. 

Go visit their offices and business locations. Get a feel for their business. Be a customer or client, if that is appropriate. Being able to speak firsthand about their operations and business functions will make you stand out from other candidates.

What is the history of the board, and who are they?

Research the board of directors. Get all the historical information you can about the board's beginnings, how they have evolved, and what role they have played in the organization’s strategic direction and decisions.

Get to know the board members. Not necessarily directly in person, but research each board member and study their professional and personal histories. Knowing each member of the board will help you to predict their questions, as well as give you insights to construct the best answers.

Studying the board members will also give you material to use to discuss common interests or bring up anecdotes that will resonate with them if the opportunity presents itself in the interview. You want to make the board members like you. However, always err on the side of caution and remain professional and polite, no matter what topic comes up.

Create a list of questions to ask the board

As you are conducting your research, build a list of questions to ask the board members during or at the end of the interview. Make sure your questions do not include anything that could easily be ascertained through simple internet searches.

Your questions will not only show the board that you have thoughtfully considered the position but will also give you valuable information and insight into your future role. This is your best opportunity to ask questions and get an understanding of how well you will fit into the organization.

Here are a few examples of questions to ask the board in an interview:

  • What do you believe the shareholders’ vision is for the corporation?

  • What challenges or obstacles does the company need to overcome?

  • How does this board go about making decisions?

  • What are the critical skills that you look for most in a future board member?

  • Has the culture of the board changed? If so, when and why?

Remember to take notes. This goes for the entire interview, but especially to record answers to your questions. This is not only for your information but for possible follow-up discussions with the board.

Rehearse the interview

The most important part of being prepared is to practice what you are going to say. Come up with example questions they might ask and figure out your answers. Write them down and practice them out loud.

Once you are completely confident with your delivery, then find a trusted business colleague or mentor to practice with. Let them throw out questions you are not prepared for. Have them grill you as much as possible. Get their constructive feedback and adjust your script accordingly.

The more time you spend preparing, the better!

Key takeaways

  1. Know your value and what you will bring to the board.

  2. Get ready. Study, study, and then study some more.

  3. Understand the company and the board.

  4. Make up questions and answers.

  5. Practice your interview. Make sure you have it 100% down.

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