A corporate secretary provides vital duties and responsibilities for nonprofit boards. This is just one reason why best practices for nonprofit boards include succession planning. Succession planning gives board nominating committees adequate time to recruit qualified candidates, collect resumes and begin the process of getting acquainted with applicants.
Interviewing a prospect for corporate secretary for a nonprofit board is much like interviewing an applicant for any other job. Many of the questions are the same as you’d ask any job candidate. Other questions are geared specifically toward the duties and responsibilities of the job.
The corporate secretary manages many vital activities for the organization and interacts with many different individuals inside and outside the organization, so it’s important to appoint or hire a person who has the best all-around fit.
What to Expect From an Interview
One of the foremost considerations for boards is gauging the candidate’s knowledge of the position and interest in the organization’s mission. Candidates should come to their interview prepared to talk about what they know about the organization and what skills they have to offer that will benefit the organization. Prime candidates will express a genuine interest in making a contribution to the organization, rather than just looking to get a job.
Candidates will get your attention when they exhibit ambition and passion that shows through in their speech and body language. It’s good to remember that an interview is much like a conversation where communication goes back and forth. As the conversation continues, the interviewer should get a good sense of how well the candidate has prepared for the interview and what their confidence level is. Throughout the conversation, there should be a balance between offering information about their skills, experience, leadership ability, strengths, weaknesses, achievements and career goals and being an active listener.
Since corporate secretaries have much interaction with others, it’s important that they have good soft skills and that most people find them to be likeable.
Divide Interview Questions for Corporate Secretary Into Four Categories
Rather than asking candidates a lengthy list of questions, interviewers will get more from the interview by breaking questions down into four specific areas, which are:
- General skills, abilities and experience
- Specific qualifications and direct experience for the position
- Experience or skills in dealing with stakeholders, donors and the public
- General fit for the position and with others working in the organization
Specific Questions to Ask Candidates for Corporate Secretary of a Nonprofit Organization
Following is a list of questions for boards to ask candidates. Bear in mind that the candidate’s answers may prompt you to ask a subsequent question. It’s best to trust yourself and ask natural follow-up questions, rather than skipping along to the next question. The following questions are merely intended to be an outline.
General skills, abilities and experience:
- How good are your keyboarding, typing and computer skills?
- Do you have experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint programs?
- Do you have other computer skills, such as mass emailing, mail merging, writing newsletters or using electronic mailing lists?
- Fundraising is a primary activity of our organization. What is your experience with fundraising for other organizations?
- What do you foresee being your biggest challenge in this position?
- What does success look like for you?
- Are you willing to commit to continued board development and training?
- Do you consider yourself to be an organized person?
Specific qualifications and direct experience for the position:
- Do you have any experience taking board minutes? Writing them up?
- Can you describe the characteristics that make a good board member?
- Will your schedule allow you to commit to meetings between board meetings, donor meetings or evening events, as needed?
- How do you think you can best connect with current board members?
- What do you see as the components of a successful board meeting?
Experience or skills in dealing with stakeholders, donors and the public:
- Do you have any experience working at public events?
- What do you particularly enjoy about interacting with the public?
- What is your comfort level in interacting with individuals with high net worth, philanthropists or major organizations?
- If someone asked you to describe our organization, what would you tell them?
- If the same person or someone else complained about our organization, how would you handle it?
- In your opinion, what is the impact of philanthropy on our organization?
- We expect board members to bring their community knowledge, expertise and connections with them. Who do you know or regularly network with, and how can your network help our organization grow and prosper?
General fit for the position and with others working in the organization:
- What led you to become involved in this organization? What level of involvement do you have with our organization currently?
- What is your interest in joining our board?
- What is your interest in the job of Corporate Secretary?
- What are your ideas for where the board should set its priorities?
- How do you see the role of Corporate Secretary as it relates to employees and staff?
- Would you be willing to accompany another board member on a business lunch where the goal was to ask for a large donation?
Wrapping Up Questions for a Corporate Secretary Interview
Hopefully, this list of questions will lead to a brainstorming session that will spark even more questions. Boards and nominating committees can modify these questions so that they apply to any board officer or board member position. With every new interview, chances are that the nominating committee will learn more about what to ask and add questions to the list, adjusting them as they move forward.
Stand-out candidates are usually those who left some sort of a lasting impression. If there’s a particular candidate who intrigued you enough that you’re still thinking about them days later, that’s the type of candidate that’s worthy of a second interview.