Consistency is the key for an effective board, and that means getting succession planning right. You need to know you have the right directors ready to come in and hit the ground running when a previous board member steps down. Furthermore, when you look to expand your board, having a candidate who has the necessary skills and experience to drive your board forwards is essential.
The step of the recruitment process that truly helps you understand whether someone will be a good fit is interviews. And asking the right board member interview questions will allow you a clear understanding of which candidates have what it takes to complement your board in order to maintain and even improve its effectiveness.
This article provides a list of questions you can use during an interview for the board of directors to ensure that you find the right person for the job.
Understanding who you want to recruit
Whether you are replacing an outgoing director or recruiting for a new role, you should consider what you need the new board member to bring to the group. And that means analysing where the gaps are in terms of skills, expertise and experience.
BoardReady, a nonprofit that helps companies improve diversity on their boards, states that “No matter whether you're looking at racial diversity, gender diversity, or diversity in age, companies with a broader range of perspectives at the board table did better." Indeed, the group found that businesses that were classed as needing improvement in their diversity efforts lost 3.4 percentage points in terms of their year-on-year growth during 2020.
Diversity in board composition is not just about demographics, but also about the tools they bring to the table, as well as the attitude and style of each director.
This should all play into the thinking when considering which prospective board member you want to recruit. Which hard skills and soft skills does your board possess and which would improve its performance? In which areas do you lack expertise? It could be finance, cybersecurity, communications or any other aspect.
Knowing what you want from a director helps you guide the interview more successfully.
The complete list of board member interview questions
Use these questions in your board interviews to discover more about the suitability of board candidates.
- Why are you interested in serving on our board?
- What interests you most about our organisation’s mission?
- How would you align your personal values with the organisation’s core values?
- What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on our board?
- How do you view the role of a board member?
- Can you share some examples of your leadership experience?
- Have you served on a board before? If so, can you describe your experience and contributions?
- What skills, expertise, and perspective would you bring to our board?
Commitment and engagement
- What other commitments do you currently have?
- What is your availability for board meetings, committee work and other organisational events?
- Are you willing to participate in fundraising or other forms of resource development?
- Describe a time you went above and beyond your duties to help an organisation succeed.
Strategy and vision
- How would you evaluate the effectiveness of a board?
- In your opinion, what are the most important challenges and opportunities facing our organisation?
- What are your thoughts on long-term strategic planning?
- What is your vision for the future of this organisation?
- How can the board support the executive team effectively?
Governance, compliance, accountability and transparency
- Are you familiar with our organisation’s byelaws and governance policies?
- Do you understand and comply with our governing documents?
- How would you handle a situation where you believe a fellow board member is not acting in the best interest of the organisation?
- What are your views on board members' transparency and accountability?
- How should a board balance transparency with confidentiality?
- How would you assess the performance of the executive director or CEO?
- What are your views on the importance of board self-assessment?
- Are you comfortable reviewing and interpreting financial performance statements?
- How would you describe your communication style?
- Are you a team player?
- Describe your style when working in a team setting. Are you more of a leader, a mediator, a collaborator, or a listener?
- How do you handle stress or pressure?
- What motivates you?
- How do you approach problem-solving and decision-making?
- How would you go about building relationships with other board members and stakeholders?
Diversity and inclusion
- What is your perspective on the importance of diversity and inclusion on a board?
- Can you give an example of how you have promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion in your past roles?
- How do you approach risk assessment in decision-making?
- What do you believe are the most significant opportunities and threats facing our organisation?
- Can you give an example where you had to think outside of the box to solve a strategic challenge?
- How would you handle a situation where the board and executive leadership are in strong disagreement?
- Can you discuss a time you helped a board or organisation navigate through a challenging period?
- If a stakeholder presented a complaint, how would you handle it?
- Can you talk about a time when you had to make a difficult ethical decision? How did you handle it?
- What do you see as emerging trends in our industry/sector?
- How would you stay updated with changes and advancements relevant to our field?
- What are your expectations from this board and the organisation?
- Do you have any questions or concerns about serving on this board?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?
Tips for a successful board member interview
Here are some suggestions for running a successful interview with a prospective member of the board of directors.
|Develop a checklist
|Consider the gaps in your board composition and note the desired skills, attributes and experiences, tailoring your questions to touch on these topics.
|Do your homework
|Learn all you can about the candidate before the meeting. Read their CV, find references, look into their background and use their online profiles to find more on them and their character. It will help you direct your questions more appropriately.
|Ask other board members or management figures for their input on potential directors and pertinent questions that you might ask in an interview.
|Set the agenda
|Outline the topics that you want to cover and create a structure that you want the interview to follow. This ensures that you cover all of the relevant information you need to make a decision.
|Use open-ended questions
|Where possible, word your questions so that they give the interviewee the opportunity to provide detailed answers that reveal their character.
|Test soft skills
|When working with a board of directors, it is also important to possess soft skills like problem-solving and adaptability that aid in the creation of a positive environment. Ask questions that help you assess these attributes.
|Assess cultural fit
|The candidate may have all of the expertise you require, but if they do not resonate with the culture you want to foster, they are not the right fit. Assess their values and working style to see how they would settle into board life.
|You should be open about your expectations over time commitments, including the scheduling of board meetings and requirements to work on action items. In addition, talk about the time you expect them to spend with investors and at company events.
|Make sure you inform the candidate of your decision in good time. Be courteous and informative, even if they are not successful. Give them the reasons behind your decision and be open to questions. If they are successful, begin your orientation process promptly to help them get up to speed quickly.
How long should a board member interview be?
The length can vary depending on the complexity of the role and the number of questions. However, most board member interviews last between 45 minutes to one and a half hours.
Should the interview be conducted in person, or can it be virtual?
Either is acceptable, depending on logistics and current circumstances, such as where the potential board candidate lives, travel restrictions or health advisories. Virtual interviews can be effective but ensure that the technology is reliable to avoid disruptions.
What should you do if a candidate dodges a question?
If a candidate avoids answering a question, politely bring the conversation back to the topic at hand and ask for clarity. An unwillingness to answer could be a concern.
How many people should be involved in the interview process?
Ideally, two to four people, such as current board members or key stakeholders, should be involved in the interview to offer multiple perspectives.
What documentation should be prepared for the interview?
Prepare an interview guide that includes questions, the interview structure and your evaluation criteria. After the interview, keep records of evaluations and responses for future reference.
How do you check references effectively?
When checking references, ask about the candidate's leadership skills, commitment, contributions in previous roles and suitability for a board position.
These board member interview questions will help you fill the gaps on your board of directors to allow it to complete its work in an effective and efficient manner. Getting the right candidate is challenging, but by asking the right questions you can work out who will be the best fit for your organisation.
Help your new director settle into board life by using a board portal that allows them to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues even between meetings. Request a demo of iBabs today.