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The interviewing process for a board member varies depending on whether the job is for a nonprofit or a for-profit business, but many aspects are similar. Depending on how much hands-on management work a board member is expected to do, interviewers focus on a candidate’s specific experience in a functional area or the ability to help steer staff.
Because of the high-profile nature of board positions, the interview process usually starts with a vetting that includes pre-interview reference checks. A member of the nominating committee might do this, or the process might take place during the first interview with the full committee. You might receive an informal phone call to discuss your interest in the position, because many positions are filled through referrals or nominations by other board members, past presidents or important stakeholders. The interviewer will ask if you are familiar with the role you’ll serve and how much time you have to give the organization and query you about any pertinent experience you have. If the organization decides to continue with a formal interview, it might send you a packet with information regarding the position’s duties, a conflict of interest statement to review and information about the organization and its mission.
Board members who serve on nonprofits have widely varying roles depending on the size of the organization. At smaller organizations, you might be required to perform management work such as keeping the books as treasurer, selling sponsorships or organizing meetings. If you’re being recruited for a specific management role, you’ll be asked about your experience and contacts. At larger organizations, board members steer the nonprofit, providing strategic planning and overseeing management staff. Board candidates are asked about their management and leadership backgrounds. Nonprofit board members are often recruited because of their contacts and ability to raise funds and volunteers. Be prepared to discuss your knowledge of the organization and present ideas or suggestions you have for helping it.
Corporate boards steer companies, helping shape and approve long-term strategic plans rather than dealing with day-to-day management issues. For example, a for-profit board might discuss whether the company should pursue a diversification strategy, authorize a stock buyback or acquire another company. If you are interviewing for a corporate board seat, be prepared to answer questions about your industry experience, strategic management expertise and financial management background.
A board member might be vetted and interviewed by a nominating committee; finalists may then be interviewed by the full board. In some instances, boards vote based on the recommendation of the nominating committee. Candidates might be asked to have lunch or talk on the phone with a past president, specific committee member or the organization’s executive director. Both nonprofits and for-profits seek board members with high public standing and might perform a background check, ask you about any potential conflicts and discuss your professional profile, such as whether you belong to professional associations, write a magazine column or serve on other boards. You might be asked if you are comfortable with public speaking.
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