How to prepare for the interview for your first ever board seat

10 Dec 2019

How to prepare for the interview for your first ever board seat

You’ve agreed the company is for you. You admire their culture. The position fits with your long-term plan. Now for the interview.

First off, do your research on the board you’ll be joining. Do it thoroughly. You should go into an interview knowing who you’re speaking to, what role they play in the boardroom, and what reputation they’ve accrued in that role.

You should do this for three reasons:

  1. It will help you decide whether this company is a good fit for you.
  2. Temperaments within boards often vary widely. By knowing the current makeup on the board, it will be easier for you to identify and demonstrate your niche.
  3. It will help even-up the power balance in the interview. You will go into that room as a known entity. Everyone in the room will have read your resume, watched your available conference lectures, read your thought pieces, and talked to your former co-workers. It’s a good idea for you to do the same.
Your “interview” needs to resemble a peer-to-peer conversation and, to accomplish that, you definitely need to know whom you’re talking to.

Be ready to talk peer-to-peer

A director interview both is, and is not a job interview. Yes, you’re being vetted for a position. But the people who are vetting you consist of your future peers and the executive team over which you will have oversight.

For this reason, it’s important that you don’t go into the interview with the same mindset that you previously brought to job interviews.

In the interview, it’s imperative that you act like an equal to the people in the room, not an applicant. You should be interviewing them as vigorously as they are interviewing you.

A successful interview for a director position resembles a professional peer dialogue.

Be ready to discuss board corporate director issues

Be prepared to be asked for your point of view about corporate director issues. You need to be fluent in answering questions like “What is your stance on regulation X currently being levelled at our industry?”

The more you can drive the conversation, the more qualified, and peer-like, your candidacy will seem.

Be ready to talk about your motivations

You are going to be asked why you want to serve on a board, and it’s important that you can provide a coherent set of reasons.

The typical job interview answers won’t suffice in a directorship interview. Be thoughtful, relevant and concise.

Experienced guidance to help you step up

Long before you get to the interview, the Odgers Berndtson executive search guide to your first board seat will get you up to speed on what makes a good director and how to best position yourself to step up successfully.

The guide draws on our experience of leading scores of successful executive searches (and conducting any number of interviews) for board members for some of the world’s best-known companies and brands.

We’ve also factored in our clients’ changing expectations and needs when appointing board members. And, to cap it all, we’ve reflected on the trends we’ve seen emerging across the global Odgers Berndtson executive search network.


Your first board position

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