Seven Key Board Interview Tips

Nicole Donegan, Chief Operating Officer, Women on Boards

While a great CV will get your foot in the interview door, the clincher to your success will be your ability to interview well for the position. A bit of preparation before the interview will go a long way.

Here’s seven tips:

1. Know what the ad says

As you may have seen from the Board positions advertised with WOB, most include a description of the organisation, information about the role and the key skills being sought, such as finance, strategy, risk management, change management etc. In most cases the organisation won’t expect you to have all of the skills listed, however you should have at least a couple.Make sure you remember what they are asking for in the ad and have YOUR relevant skills emblazoned on your brain. It’s important to show that you are clear on what you are being interviewed for. For example, if asked to talk about your relevant skills / experience, it doesn’t auger well to say “I can’t recall the skill set you are seeking, I don’t have a copy of the ad.

2. Practice your pitch

Being able to confidently pitch your experience and what you bring to the board is crucial. Write it down and practice! Even record yourself on your PC to see how you come across - noting that many interviws these days are done via Zoom.  If you're not confident, get some coaching or ask a colleague or friend for feedback.  Remember practice practice practice.

3. Make sure you can provide relevant examples

When talking about your experience make sure you can demonstrate what you have done in the relevant skills areas. This is important to show that you are prepared and that you are a logical fit.

4. Don’t get operational

When demonstrating your relevant skills and experience, be sure to remain high level.Remember you are being interviewed for a board position, not a job.There’s a clear distinction.Providing examples that are too low level suggests you are not ready for a board position and that you don’t understand the role and function of a board.

5. Do your research about the organisation

It’s up to you to do some digging about the organisation before the interview. Organisations don’t often let you know the questions in advance, but you can expect that they will be strategic. Look on their website, try and find their strategic plan, know who is on the current board, know the company structure. If you can’t find this information in the public domain, be proactive and contact the organisation to request a copy. This not only shows that you are on the front foot, but will enable you to review their strategy to demonstrate how you can add value to relevant areas.

6. Relate answers back to the organisation, not yourself

When asked a question don’t talk about how you will personally benefit from the appointment. For example, if asked why you want to be on the board, use it as an opportunity to showcase how you can add value, such as “given my skills in [relevant area] I believe that I can add value to [organisation] and provide xxxx”. Don’t say something like “it’s the next stage in my career “; “it would be good for my development”; or “I want to be on a board”. These may be your personal reasons, but the interview panel is interested in how you will add value to the board and organisation, not your personal goals.

7. Send a follow up

If you can, send a follow up thank you to the panel. Not many people do this, so it can leave a lasting impression and make you stand out. Use the opportunity to address anything that you felt warrants expansion or clarification from your interview.

Good luck. Most of all remember it’s a board interview, not a job interview and that you need to do your homework and be prepared.