What to Ask When Interviewing Candidates for Your Board of Directors

Every so often we feature blog posts from fellow peers in the nonprofit and church sectors. This article is by Jonathan Aspatore, ExecRank Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman. ExecRank helps Non-Profits connect with Advisors and Board Members to help with fundraising, strategy, local and national partnerships, key introductions and much more.

Conducting an initial interview for a new board member or advisor is the first substantial step in evaluating a candidate. At ExecRank, the leading platform helping companies find new board members, we recommend that you spend time developing questions that focus heavily on identifying how the individual can add immediate value to your company in the areas needed most.

You should be looking for something specific for the candidate to contribute that relates to your goals, with a deep source of knowledge on a pressing challenge or opportunity, connections into an industry you are looking to penetrate, experience dealing with topics and situations where your executive team or board has deficiencies, and any other specific qualities or experiences that will meet your requirements.

Just as important as the questions asked and answers provided is your noticing the “professional tone” of the potential advisor and whether your personalities and business personas align well.

Before the meeting, it’s important to forward to the candidate some links and general information about your company, as well as any specific pieces of information that you’d like to know from them that pertain to the main reasons you saw potential in them. However, there is no need to ask them to “review” or “prepare” for the call — as leaving an open forum better allows you to see the extent of their own initiative and effort they apply ahead of the call.

On your end, before the call, Google search the individual and see what information appears. Look on LinkedIn and see if you have any contacts or interests in common, and then prepare several questions that can help you understand the potential value that the candidate might bring.

Your questions will depend heavily on whether you have a specific function in mind for the candidate on your board. Here are a few of our favorite questions to ask Board of Director candidates:

  • Do you have any questions about our business?
    This is a great question to start with. It helps identify their interest, curiosity, and knowledge that they have with regard to your company. Your answers to the candidate’s questions will also make for a more productive interview.
  • How can you add immediate value to our company as a board member?
    Listen for specific examples that show a strong understanding of your market and business. References to similar experiences in their career that relate to your objectives are a good indicator.
  • Do you have the bandwidth to be an active and engaged board member?
    It’s important to understand what level of commitment the candidate is willing to make to your company or organization. Asking this question will help you weed out passive candidates.
  • We’re facing a challenge with (insert your business’ main challenge). What experience, ideas, connections, and resources do you have that would allow you to help us in this area?
    This is a great question to help you gauge how this candidate thinks about solving problems and how relevant they are to your particular challenges and business.
  • What is the one skill or strength you have that is unmatched by your colleagues and peers?
    This question allows you to understand what the candidate believes to be their largest competitive advantage. Depending on your goals, diverse answers from each member of your board to this question shows a well-balanced Board of Directors.

At ExecRank, we have used these questions for our own Board of Directors and we’ve recommended them to countless members with great results. You will be amazed at the ideas and feedback you can get from the interview process when you are asking the right questions.

Jonathan is the Chairman, CEO & Founder of ExecRank. For the last 17 years, Jonathan has been a pioneer in the executive leadership and development industries. Prior to launching ExecRank in 2012, he founded and ran two companies that were the first to introduce new business models in their industries: Aspatore Books (acquired by Thomson Reuters) and ExecSense (acquired by the Financial Times). Jonathan is also the Founder & CEO of Verb Ventures, his incubator that exclusively develops the Verb team’s new business ventures.

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