When you are facing your first Non-Executive Director role, you are probably curious about the type of questions you will be asked. And rightly so.
It is important to note that interviews for Non-Executive Director positions are not the same as interviews you will have experienced when you applied for an executive position.
That’s not to say the traditional advice about interviews does not apply. You should still tailor your CV to the match the needs of the organisation, conduct thorough research about the company and make notes of what you perceive a board want from you.
You should make notes about what challenges the company is likely to be facing and what solutions you can offer them. This will help you to create in your mind, a better understanding of the non-executive role and prepare you for questions that are likely to be asked.
To get you started we have listed three common questions and provided explanations of what employers are looking for in your answers.
What do you know about the company?
Simon Laffin, Chairman of Flybe Group plc and Assura plc, says this is a “classic” question put to NEDs. The question is a test of your ability to research companies, whether you understand the sector and whether you demonstrate a good work ethic.
It is important that you show a good awareness of the company culture. Even if your values do not always align with the culture of the company, if this is your first opportunity to secure a position as a non-executive board member, you may have to set your personal feelings to one side and evidence that you can remain impartial.
Interviewers will also want to test your strategic and critical thinking. They will quiz you about where you see the company in five, 10 or 15 years, and what key challenges you expect the business to face in that time.
How you answer will reveal your approach to strategic considerations and whether you can provide solutions for potential flaws in the current business model. It is therefore crucial that you have a strong understanding of the business sector.
Have you influenced change or challenged executives in the past?
Karl George MBE, Managing Director at the Governance Forum, says that interview panels want to “hear examples of your leadership skills and your ability to hold executives to account.” It is important that you can be critical but also have the knowledge to provide strong arguments and suggest solutions.
Interview panels looking to hire Non-Executive Directors often start the interview with a personal question to get a better understanding of the candidate's ethics and personality.
An interview panel is not interested in your past roles. They want to know what kind of rapport you will have with other members of the board. One of the key roles of a Non-Executive Director is to challenge ideas and current models. If you are not a likeable character you are more likely to grate on other board members.
What qualities do you believe you can you bring to our board?
Before attending an interview for a Non-Executive Director opening, think about why you are being considered for the role. The recruitment panel will obviously be interested in your knowledge, skills and experience, but they want to bring people on board with a vision that offers value.
Non-Executive Directors do not engage in the day to day running of a company, so the board will test your work ethic and commitment. They may ask how hands on you will be and how much time you can dedicate to the project.
Do not be afraid to ask questions about the type of qualities they want to see in a Non-Executive Director. This is your opportunity to turn the tables. Ask them what challenges they face and what expertise they are specifically looking for. This will show that you are genuinely interested in the company and the role. It also gives you an insight as to whether you are an ideal candidate, after all, it is a two-way process.