One of the most powerful keys to the long-term effectiveness of any board is smart recruitment. But it’s also one of the toughest challenges any board faces.

Your first instinct might be recruiting from within. But typically, few in the organization are eager to volunteer. And the ones who are may not have the experience or traits you need to add value to the current leadership.

Being a board director is a job – often one with no pay. Yet like every job, it requires an interview process. We’ve often seen an opening announced at a board meeting and a quiet visitor promptly tapped to fill the vacancy. Although somewhat taken aback, the nominee usually says yes and the problem is “solved.” Unfortunately, this approach is not only unfair to the candidate; it’s a risky move that can have long-term negative repercussions for the board.

Rather than putting a hapless “instant candidate” on the spot mid-meeting, every board should respect the process enough to form a selection committee of two or three members and one staff person to conduct a private interview with each prospective candidate.

Some key points for an effective interview:

  • Make sure the prospect has the time to attend meetings and events
  • Clarify that they may incur unremunerated expenses
  • Ask about their experience on other boards. If none, are they willing to be trained?
  • Ask how they hope to contribute to the organization
  • Review written director duties
  • Give them time to research past and current association activities and bylaws

It’s better to leave a board seat open than to fill it quickly with an unprepared or ill-fitting person. Making the wrong choice will eventually hamper the board’s ability to reach your association’s service goals. Your members deserve qualified and engaged leadership. Crafting your board with care is a key way to ensure it.

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