Preparing For Your Non-Executive Director Interview
Congratulations! You have secured an interview for a role as a non-executive director. Now, what do you need to know to maximise your chances of being appointed to the board?
General interview advice
All the traditional advice about attending an interview, of which you will be well aware, remains valid. When you applied you should have tailored your CV to demonstrate how your skills and experience match up to the needs of the organisation, but when you hear that you have got an interview it is a good time to check through it again in case there are any gaps you will want to explain in your interview or details you want to bring out and expand upon.
You will have researched the organisation and its needs but check for any recent developments and prepare a list of the questions you are likely to be asked. Rehearse your answers thoroughly and practice a succinct verbal summary of any case studies and examples of challenges you have overcome that will be helpful in demonstrating why you are a perfect fit for this role.
Respect the time of the interview panel and only prepare what you have been asked to deliver. Few interviews will have time for you to present with visual aids.
On the day, don’t forget the basics in terms of making sure you have left enough travelling time to get to the interview venue and that you take with you any board information you have been sent.
What is the board looking for when it interviews you?
Your research will have helped you to understand if the board is recruiting to fill a specific gap in the skills, knowledge and experience of its non-executive directors. Make sure you have looked at the organisation’s website, recent press releases and media coverage and researched current members of the board using sites such as LinkedIn to understand what they are looking for. Perhaps they need to bring in someone with experience in a certain sector or from a particular professional background?
Is the organisation facing a new challenge, or a change in direction, which signals a need to strengthen its expertise in certain areas? Is there a diversity imbalance in the gender or ethnic composition of the board’s membership?
The recruiting panel will be looking to appoint someone who can bring the relevant knowledge, experience and skills, but it will also want to appoint someone who will share the vision and values of the organisation.
It is important to ensure that you can demonstrate that you understand the culture of the organisation and its board. Some boards have a charitable focus while others may be more commercially-focused.
How do you match up to what the board wants and needs?
Once you thoroughly understand what the organisation wants and needs, you should prepare to demonstrate what you can bring to the table that complements and enhances the existing board make-up.
Review again the advertisement for the non-executive role to ensure that you can show that you bring the skills that they want.
It is crucial to identify and prepare examples and case studies of what you would bring to the board. How have you made a difference in the past through roles you have held in the corporate world or in voluntary service?
The panel interviewing you will need to be convinced that you understand the strategy of the organisation and that your views, visions and values are in alignment with theirs. They will want to hear examples of your leadership skills and your ability to hold executives to account. Describe how your unique experiences and skills fill any gaps the board has identified in its composition. Be prepared to discuss the vision, values and culture of the organisation to demonstrate how your appointment to the board would add value. Show that you have researched and understood the board’s strategic objectives, and the risks that they face, and that you can make a valuable contribution to the future direction of the organisation.
Non-executive directors need to be confident and articulate and demonstrate that they will be able to contribute in the boardroom. A key factor that will convince the interview panel that you have these qualities will be the way you answer their questions, so keep this in the front of your mind on interview day.
You have done your research to show that you understand the organisation, its aspirations and its challenges. Show the panel that you have the requisite skills and experience to fill the role on offer. Demonstrate that you can bring something to the table and you will be a valuable member of the team. You won’t be the same as every other board member but you will fit into the culture.
Examples of questions you may be asked
Here are a few of the most commonly-asked questions at interviews for non-executive director roles.
Make sure you prepare answers that line up with the organisation’s needs, future challenges and culture.
- Why do you want this role?
- What challenges have you faced in organisations in the past and how did you deal with them?
- How have you influenced change or challenged the executive in the past?
- What mistakes have you made and what did you learn from them?
- What do you know about us?
So let’s recap on the three key points that will help you secure the role you want, backed by the views of people who sit on appointing panels.
- You have the strong track record this role needs, so highlight your experience in the best possible way. Carmen Watson, Chair of the Pertemps Group, says: “A strong and successful track record in the sector is good, but you need to demonstrate diversity of different sectors.”
- You need great people skills, so demonstrate this in the interview. John Edwards, Chair of Midlands Heart Limited, says he is always looking for people with: “great people skills, who can deal with challenging people.”
- Show them that you would fit into the board, culture and values. Bridget Blow, former Bank of England Director, says the key to success was being a good fit: “If you fit what they are looking for, that’s the way to get the job.”
Until next time…