Last updated: July 30

The 29 board of director questions—a must-read for CEOs targeting board seats (includes a checklist) 

According to the World Economic Forum’s The Global Risks Report 2021, “The immediate human and economic costs of COVID-19 are severe. They threaten to scale back years of progress on reducing global poverty and inequality and further damage social cohesion and global cooperation, which were already weakening before the virus struck.”

Yet the COVID-19 global pandemic is one of the few dozen risks identified in a survey published by the World Economic Forum in January of 2021. Do you have experience managing any of these crises?

Board of Directors Questions

As the CEO, your current board might now be thinking you need to be on a board of another corporation for many reasons, including brand building, raising the corporation’s visibility in a specific industry, to spearhead a key initiative or response to a crisis (such as COVID-19, for example), to help the corporation make key investment decisions, and many other reasons.

It will be important for you to ensure your goals and motivations align with the goals and motivations of the targeted board.

The same World Economic Forum report claims “The global economy has now sunk to its deepest crisis in peacetime. World output is expected to have shrunk by 4.4% in 2020. In comparison, the 2008—2009 Financial Crisis caused the world to contract by 0.1%.” Boards will require expertise that didn’t traditionally exist.

With the growing number and types of crises that are plaguing organizations, boards need expertise to help mitigate new risks (see fig. 1). You may have that expertise to help a board either as a fiduciary board member or as a board advisor. In this way, it will be important to clearly articulate your value proposition to the organization.

Your value proposition as a board member needs to answer the question: “What will you do as a board member to help us manage risk?” The answer must address the motivations of the board.

Board of Directors

Instead of thinking about why YOU want to serve on a board consider why THEY would want you

At Westgate we speak with many CEO board applicants who often state they want to join a board because they want to learn new skills, meet new people, and raise their visibility. We believe at Westgate that these are outcome goals and not the reasons boards will hire CEOs for advisory roles or fiduciary seats.

Here is an example of this perspective. Perhaps you’re the CEO of Zoom and now you have a plethora of experience in scaling a business due to Covid-19. This is VERY attractive to companies. You have experience in managing a major crisis (a global pandemic or ransomware attack as examples).

Your value proposition is the ability to scale technology businesses quickly. The CEO has created a solution for a relevant need in the marketplace (scaling quickly).

The value proposition is what we often identify as the missing component of the CEOs messaging when they begin to work with Westgate. Because boards tend to select members based on specific skill sets, it’s critically important that you are able to address their “what’s-in-it-for-us” question. A few examples may include cyber security expertise, industry thought leadership, specific expertise in certain areas such as M&As, tax structure, franchises, transformations, or turnarounds.

Also attractive to boards are regulatory compliance expertise and financial acumen. A board resume focuses more on these specifics vs. your specific metrics for a company.

Preparing for the board of director interview is exciting. The prestige of serving on an S&P or Fortune 500 board is often one of the most attractive perceived benefits. Recruiters and boards of directors understand that onboarding a new board member can be risky. While the CEO board candidate may be thrilled at the opportunity to serve the board, the decision-makers have a very different perspective on the appointment.

As a CEO board candidate, understanding the board’s perspective can be helpful as you prepare for your conversations.

Questions to consider as the CEO targeting a board of director opportunity

For example, do you have experience in private equity, fund management, business turnarounds, transformational leadership, driving corporate change, building value, as an operating partner, Interim CEO?

The chair of the board will be concerned about your competencies and your reputation as he or she evaluates your candidacy for the role.

Here are a handful:

If you want a full checklist of questions, download BOD checklist here.

At Westgate Executive Branding, quality is one of our core values. Our clients are high achievers and high-profile organizational leaders who expect nothing less than the premier-level services we offer. We are proud to help executive leaders who want to make a change, sense change is coming, or have realized change is long overdue.

We'd love to have you explore our comprehensive programs further.

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About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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