So You Want a Seat on the Board? – Part 3
Now that you know how a board functions and what they’re looking for in a new member, it’s time to prepare for your interview.
In the final segment of this series we are going to discuss what is by far the most important part of preparing yourself for a position on a Board – preparing for your interview.
As you know, the competition for a seat on a Board of Directors is extremely competitive and candidates are held to very high standards. This is part of what makes it so difficult to land a seat. We’ve touched briefly on what you need to know to prepare for your interview, now it’s time to go in to more depth.
Along with your accomplishments and other “wow factors”, it is also important to signal to the Board where your potential lies. You may not have direct experience in particular areas; however, you may know enough that you could be of some use. These are known as transferrable skills. Don’t be afraid to ask (when appropriate) if your background in these particular areas is of any interest to the board and its vision for the company. Transferrable skills can be just as important as direct experience because it gives you room to grow and become the ideal board member.
First impressions can make or break you in the corporate world. If you arrive late, or even exactly on time for your interview, the committee may take off points. A wise teacher once said, “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re in trouble.” Showing up early not only makes you look good, it gives you time to relax, compose yourself, and do some last minute preparations like double checking your presentation, reviewing the questions you plan to ask, and even freshen up so you look your best.
Another very important part of making a good first impression is your appearance. Don’t wear your most expensive blue suit with bright yellow socks covered in blue polka dots, a matching silk tie, and tasseled shoes. On the other hand you don’t want to go in looking like you just came from a shift in the mailroom or had a long, hard weekend. Keep it semi-formal – a neutral business suit, either black or grey, with a plain blue shirt and a simple, but tasteful tie (no bowties!). For women, go with a formal business suit in the same neutral black or grey colors with stockings and matching shoes. Don’t go overboard with makeup – if you wear any at all – and wear your hair either up or tied back. In other words, look professional.
First impressions are also measured by how you carry yourself. Your attitude and confidence must shine through. Keep your head up, back straight, and take precise steps when you walk. Do not wait for them to greet you – approach them and introduce yourself, giving a firm handshake while you look the person in the eyes. Speak in a strong voice, but not loud or overpowering. Mind your manners and relax. Also, don’t be a showoff unless you’re asked to brag about your expertise.
Much like preparing for an exam in school, it’s to your advantage to gain insight about what the interview will be covering. This can include what areas the committee likes to focus on, what kind of documents you should bring, and who will be taking part in the interview. Doing this will not only give you an edge over your competition, it will make you look good and can open future doors by building rapport. If you don’t get the position on this board you’ve established a relationship and rapport with some of the committee members, so the next time they have a seat open, you have a much better chance of winning it!
If there’s one thing that will hurt your chances of a successful board interview it’s not being organized. Have all your materials in the order you expect you’ll need them during the interview. Your entire career may be scrutinized, especially if they feel there are black marks on your record. So not only do you need to organize your documents and questions, you also need to organize your responses to questions you expect may come up. For example, say you made a decision during your career that at the time seemed to be the right one but ended up causing problems. By having evidence-based examples of why you made the decision you did, your motivation and integrity will be intact.
It’s also standard practice to have three responses prepared for questions about your capabilities. Why three? Each person interviewing you will have different styles and attitudes, so you need to be able to adapt your response to what and how they ask. Something else you should be prepared for is open-ended questions. “Tell us about yourself,” is very popular. The best way to ensure you give a response they’re looking for is to follow it up with a question of your own, like “What would you like to know?”
The more organized you are, the better prepared you will be, which only improves your chance of success.
Remember, the purpose of the interview isn’t to see what value the board can offer you, but rather what value you can bring to the board. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be on a board, you need to show the committee that you aren’t afraid to take on the responsibility. Show them that you understand and are ready to face the challenges that lie in wait, and if possible, present evidence of how you are a dedicated, hardworking individual and how that dedication and hard work has manifested itself and paid off in the past.
One thing you don’t want to do is indicate to the committee that serving on a board is beneficial to you. They’re considering you because of what you can do to move the company forward. So when you’re asked, “Why do you want to serve on a board of directors?”, don’t talk about yourself or it will show them that you’re primarily interested in your career. Instead, give an answer such as, “I want to serve on this board because I feel my dedication and expertise can greatly benefit the company’s vision.” Then be prepared to demonstrate exactly how you can benefit the company.
It’s also a good idea to have a list of professional references with you to give the interview committee, a list of people who can speak of your accomplishments and voice positive opinions about your readiness to serve on a board.
Once the interview is over, keep in mind that a search to fill a board seat is a lengthy process. Don’t assume that just because you haven’t heard anything you’ve been rejected. Interview committees will contact each candidate. And yes, it’s okay to ask your CEO if you can be kept up to date with the proceedings.
Anybody who has a job knows the stress and anxiety interviewing can cause. When you go in prepared, you have the confidence you need to overcome that pressure. Hopefully these insights will help you be better prepared when it’s your turn to step in front of a nominating committee.
Author: 3D Tek Executive Team
Let 3D Tek be your guide. We specialize in Executive Search & Recruitment and IT Staffing services, working with companies nationwide to align them with only the best talent.
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