Startup CEOs: 5 Questions to Ask a Candidate for Your Board

(photo c/o kaboompics)

When you’re interviewing a candidate for your startup board, it’s important to ask the right questions. After all, your board members are the people who will decide where the company will go next — whether you should sell, acquire, which direction to take. With that in mind, we’ve put together five important questions to ask a candidate for your board to ensure you find an independent director who is not only a good fit — but also able to help shape the future of your company.

1. Where will our industry go next?

This is definitely one of the first questions you should ask to any potential board member. You want your board to be filled with people who already have a good understanding of your industry and who are capable of predicting new trends. Of course you shouldn’t expect every candidate to be an expert in your particular niche category, but anyone that you’re seriously considering for the position should be observant, able to spot change in consumers’ behavior and apt to take conclusions from relevant information within your space.

2. What super power will you bring to my startup board?

You may be interviewing someone with an incredible resumé, but that by itself doesn’t make them a perfect fit for your current board. You should make a skill audit of your board and look for a person who has the skills and resources your board lacks. Do you need a conciliatory member or a risk-taker? Someone who is very experienced or new blood? Are there any important customer demographics that are unrepresented on your board? You can tell a lot from someone’s resume, but it’s also important to ask clear, direct questions of your candidates about what super powers they’re bringing to your board room.

3. What goals are you trying to achieve by joining my startup board?

The motivations for joining a given board can be varied — one might identify with the mission or purpose of the company, whereas others might be just seeking experience and networking. Whichever the case, it’s best to know what the candidate is expecting to gain upfront. This, like many other potential interview questions, can take a bit of digging to get at, but sometimes just pointedly asking can get you a good answer.

4. How much time can you commit to our board on a monthly basis?

It won’t help you or your company if you find the perfect independent board member — but they’re too busy to fully commit. That’s why, in addition to skill and cultural fit questions, it’s also important to think about more practical matters during the interview process. This is especially important when considering a CEO or founder candidate who is already running their own company.

In addition to asking the candidate how much time they would be able to give to the company every month, you should also set expectations about what sorts of time commitments you’re anticipating. Does your board like to meet for dinner before quarterly board meetings? Do you expect them to attend an annual board offsite? Being a committed board member requires a lot of time and candidates need to be made aware of this during the interview process.

5. What question do you wish I’d asked you?

Could also be asked as “What is your favorite interview question to ask when you are interviewing someone?” While either of these may be perceived as a trick question — the answer can be quite illuminating. Depending on the candidate’s question, you can tell if they work by the book or if they’re a risk-taker or even get a glimpse into how much they had prepared for the interview in advance. Since they’ll be the ones asking questions when the time comes to interview a new board member or other executive positions, you can learn what they value and how they think.

Interviewing a potential candidate for your startup board is a task that comes with a lot of responsibility, which is why you need to be prepared with the right questions. Happy interviewing!

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