What Questions to Expect in a Board Interview

What Questions to Expect in a Board Interview

Getting that call or that email to say that you have been chosen for a board interview is possibly one of the most exciting and exhilarating things that can happen to any board candidate – other than actually being appointed to the board of course. However, the moment you put that phone down, the nerves usually start setting in. Thoughts about the actual interview start jumping to mind and between now and the time of the interview, you need to prepare yourself for every possible question that can be asked.

6 Types of Board Interview Questions

In my many years working in the board environment I have attended and held many interviews. In every board interview I see a trend of what questions are asked. These board interview questions can be divided into 6 types:

  1. General Opening Questions
  2. Governance Style
  3. Commercial/Business Acumen
  4. The Organisation
  5. Administrative
  6. Closing Questions

Let’s look at these questions a bit further.

1. General Opening Questions

In the first part of the interview the interviewer is interested in getting to know a bit more about you. The idea is not to hear about your upbringing, etc. They are interested in the synergies that exist between your background and experience and what is required by the board.

You will be asked why this specific board role appeals to you. This is an excellent opportunity to answer the question in such a way that it shows your true passion for the organisation.

2. Governance Style

Among these questions you will find some that will test your cultural fit to the board you are looking to join. Having a governance style that suit the culture of the company and especially the board, is imperative. You will be asked questions like ‘how hands-on are you as a non-executive director’ and ‘what, in your view, is the leadership role of a non-executive director?’ By asking you these questions the interviewer will be able to gauge whether your governance style will be an appropriate fit for the board.

3. Commercial/Business Acumen

Obviously you have to be well versed in the line of business the board operates in. There needs to be a reason why the board would be interested in appointing you over someone else who may have the same governance style. Experience in their field of business, previous relationships with key stakeholders and your insight into difficulties the company may face will all be investigated during this round of questioning. Research you did prior to sitting down with the interviewer will become very helpful during this part of your board interview. Also, any connections you can bring to the table that will be in the interest of the company will count in your favour and should be mentioned at this point in time.

4. The Organisation

During this part of the board interview you will be asked questions like ‘what do your perceive are our current strategic considerations’ and ‘what do you expect will be the key challenges facing our sector in the next 10-15 years?’ Preparing for these questions is crucial as it will show your honest interest in the organisation and its stakeholders as well as demonstrate the work you put into researching the organisation. By researching the organisation and putting some thought into coming up with solutions to some of the problems they may be experiencing will show that you are pro-active and willing to help further the goals of the organisation whose board you want to join.

5. Administrative

Remuneration (if any), your availability to join the board and any conflict of interests will be addressed during this part of the board interview. If you for instance live in another state but are looking to join a board and are willing to travel for meetings and other board commitments, this is the time to explain how living in another state won’t pose a problem to your work with the board. Any administrative questions that may arise will be addressed at this time.

6. Closing Questions

You will definitely be asked whether there is anything you wish to bring to the attention of the board they didn’t ask you about. Now is the time you need to think on your feet. Did you address the five key things a Chair is looking for during previous questions? Were you given the opportunity to highlight your skills, prior experience, personal connections, cultural fit and your passion for the board? If not, now is the time to make them aware of these points. These are the things Chairs are looking for in prospective board members so make sure that you show them you have what it takes to add value to their board.

Another question you will be asked, is whether you have any questions for the board. This is another opportunity to show them what a good fit you will be, without overdoing it. Come prepared with well thought out questions that show your true interest in the role.

Board Interview Preparation

The board interview is possibly the most daunting part of the whole process of being appointed to a board. This really is make or break for your appointment. Being properly prepared is important. But how do you know that you are really prepared for that all-important interview?

Let Board Direction help you. Not only do we have a comprehensive list of interview questions you are likely to be asked, you will also get some helpful tips on your body language, tone of voice and how to calm those nagging nerves before you step into the room.

When you sign up for our Board Interview Preparation, you get an hour long mock interview with me asking real board questions in a real interview environment followed by an hours’ honest feedback with additional hints and tips on how to answer difficult questions and how to position yourself for a successful outcome.

Being properly prepared for your board interview will help you dare them not to appoint you.

About the Author

David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world. He has been described as Australia’s leading board recruitment expert, is a published author, a regular speaker on the board appointment process and runs Board Search Masterclasses across Australia. He is one of Australia’s Top 10 LinkedIn users with over 20,000 connections. Email: [email protected]