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Are you ready for the boardroom? A woman discusses with a man and woman in a boardroom

Board interviews are very different from executive interviews. If you’re an aspiring non-executive looking to be appointed to a board role, you’ll need to plan for the interview carefully.

In this article, Executive Interview Coaching founder Richard Elstone explains some common questions you may face in a board interview setting and how to outperform your competition.

1. Why would you like to join the board of this company?

A chairperson will likely want to know why you’d like to join the board and why the company interests you.

“A well-thought-out, solid response to that question needs to be prepared,” says Richard.

“Typically when you’re hired as a non-executive director, you’re hired for your expertise. Most of it is executive expertise, but it could be industry expertise or expertise around areas that might directly apply to the corporate strategy such as mergers and acquisitions, developing business in the Asia Pacific, technology transformation, customer advocacy or regulations. As part of your preparation, it’s important to figure out why a board might be interested in you.”

2. Can you provide examples of your governance skills?

You’ll need to demonstrate strong corporate governance skills to excel during a board interview. The chairperson may be looking to address gaps in the skills or competencies in the current director appointments.

Governance could include various areas, including financial governance, ethical decision-making, crisis management or governance around dealing with regulators or other risks.

Prepare examples around the governance expertise you’re bringing to the table.

What hard and soft skills do you possess that will help you to succeed in the boardroom?

In previous roles, how have you acted in accordance with the principles of good governance and shown transparency, accountability and integrity?

3. What is your risk profile?

During a board interview, you may be asked about your risk appetite to see whether it aligns with the company’s level of organisational risk – the amount of risk an organisation is willing to accept to pursue its strategic objectives.

Are you willing to take risks, or are you more conservative as a leader?

Does this match the company’s objectives and strategies?

4. Do you have any conflicts of interest?

Typically, a chairperson will ask whether you have any conflicts of interest that could impact your role as a non-executive director and how you’d deal with a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest could influence or be seen to impact your decisions or actions as a non-executive board member.

Here are some examples:

· You hold shares in a company that is in some form of competition with the company you’re interviewing for

· You have a close relationship with someone at the company

· You have industry connections linked to a tender process

· You have a role on another board which presents a conflict of interest.

“It’s really important for a potential board member to work out whether there’s potentially a conflict of interest before going into a board interview,” says Richard.

If you have a conflict of interest, you need to declare it so the board can manage it moving forward. This may include placing restrictions around your involvement in certain decision-making processes.

5. Do you have experience in dealing with cybersecurity breaches?

In the past, cyber security fell under the risk portfolio of a board. However, given the frequency of attacks nowadays and the scale of cyber security breaches such as those at Optus and Medibank, boards are increasingly considering whether cyber security deserves its own committee status outside of risk.

In a non-executive interview, you may be asked questions about cyber security.

What cyber strategies did you have input into in a current or previous role to prevent and prepare for cyber security attacks?

If your company did experience breaches, what involvement did you have as a board member, what lessons did you learn, and what was the outcome?

6. How have you contributed to the strategy of an organisation?

Boards, by their very nature, own the organisation’s strategy.

A chairperson will likely want to understand how you’ve contributed to the strategic direction of an organisation in your current or previous roles.

What expertise did you bring and what could you bring to this role?

7. What’s your capacity?

A chairperson would also be keen to determine your capacity as an active board member.

Are you on multiple boards, and if so, are you only available for board meetings or board papers, or do you have the capacity to engage with staff or lend your expertise to executives outside the board room?

The answer to this question will ultimately impact whether the chairperson feels you are the right fit for the role, so consider this in advance.

8. What issues and risks do you anticipate the company might face?

Your role as a non-executive board member is to ultimately represent the interests of the shareholders and ensure the executive is doing the right thing by them.

A chairperson might want to explore your views on the outlook for the company over the coming years and some of the challenges the company might face. How could you use your expertise to tackle them?

These are all pertinent questions to prepare and plan for in the board interview.

9. What questions do you have for us?

Many people forget to prepare questions for the interviewer. Big mistake.

As a non-executive director, the ability to ask questions correctly is vital.

“Let’s not forget, it’s your ability to influence and ask questions, rather than telling the executives what to do, that you’re being hired for as a non-executive,” says Richard.

You should avoid asking leading questions or questions that reveal your opinion as part of the question. Questions should have no judgement attached.

For more information, read our previous blog about the types of questions you should ask in an interview.

Like expert advice?

If you’re serious about getting a non-executive board appointment, it’s important to ensure you are fully prepared for the interview process.

Executive Interview Coaching can help. We offer a range of services to help both executives and non-executives take their careers to the next level.


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