Despite advances in technology and the fast pace of the business world, the corporate secretary is still the glue that holds the board and the rest of the organization together. The corporate secretary still needs to have the knowledge and experience that’s required of corporate secretaries. Generally, they deal with statutory and compliance issues, meeting planning, record-keeping and carrying out board decisions, resolutions and changes. However, many changes have occurred in the business world that bring new expectations to the position and should prompt you to consider what powerful questions to ask during an interview.
Major changes in the economy and in the marketplace have prompted the need for corporate secretaries to have updated skills and abilities. Today’s corporate secretaries need to be knowledgeable about technological advances that help to create efficiency and cost-savings for the board. They need to know and understand all the new laws regarding data breaches and confidentiality.
The vast number of changes has led to an era of modern governance. The most highly qualified candidates for corporate secretary will understand that modern governance is defined as the practice of empowering leaders with the technology, insights and processes that are required to fuel good governance.
Understanding the Modern Role of the Corporate Secretary
It’s a given that corporate secretaries are an officer of the board and as such they must be present at all board meetings. The bylaws provide an exact outline of their duties and responsibilities.
One of the main duties of the corporate secretary is planning and executing board meetings. Something that has changed within the role is that most companies are now using digital tools for meeting planning. The modern corporate secretary should be familiar with board portal systems, secure electronic file-sharing, electronic agenda planning, and video and audio equipment. They need to know how to set user permissions for all board portal users, and they often participate in training new board directors on the use of board portals and secure communication programs.
Compliance and record-keeping are also staples of the corporate secretary’s job. One of the important answers that interviewers need is whether they have familiarity and experience with digital software programs and processes for handling these duties. Secretaries are responsible for the content of meeting minutes and for approving and disseminating meeting minutes, which today, can all be done more efficiently by electronic means. The secretary is the primary person who’s responsible for retaining and organizing all copies of board documents and records. Modern corporate secretaries should be familiar with security as it relates to cloud storage and backups to ensure that all important documents are accessible as needed.
Corporate secretaries also have duties in training, orienting and onboarding new board directors, as well as offering or arranging board development training. They should be able to answer all questions about how to use the board portal and when they might need to call customer service for further assistance.
Questions to Ask When Interviewing for the Position of Corporate Secretary
As you proceed with corporate secretary candidate interviews, consider grouping questions together to ensure that you’re covering all the important aspects of the job.
Secretarial Skills and Abilities
- What is your knowledge and experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint?
- Do you have experience with mass emailing, mail merging or electronic mailing lists?
- Describe your personal process for setting up board meetings.
- Describe a time in your career when it was important for you to be organized.
- Explain your approach to orienting and onboarding new board directors.
- What are the most important components for a successful board meeting?
Corporate Secretary Experience
- What is your knowledge of compliance and statutes in our industry?
- Can you explain GDPR?
- What is your experience with electronic record-keeping?
- How do you ensure that a company has appropriate backups for record-keeping?
- What is your approach to dealing with bureaucratic red tape?
- What is your experience with electronic board agendas and meeting minutes?
- Which characteristics do you think are most important for board directors?
- What qualities make you a good oral communicator?
- How do you practice confidentiality? What does it mean to you?
- Describe a situation where you had to communicate effectively while you were under extreme pressure.
- How do you think that you can best connect with current board members?
- Do you have a network of business contacts that might be valuable to the company?
- How would you describe the culture of our organization based on what you know now?
- What innovations could you bring to the position?
- What innovations do you believe may be on the horizon?
- What are your ideas for where the board should set its priorities?
- How do you see the role of the corporate secretary evolving over the next decade?
- Describe a situation where you were forced to problem-solve on the spot. Was your approach successful? If not, what did you learn from it?
- What does the term “modern governance” mean to you?
- Can you explain the terms “governance deficits” or “governance gaps”?
- How can getting information in real time help board directors?
- What can you tell me about the problems of cybersecurity and data breaches?
- What part of the duties and responsibilities for the corporate secretary position appeal to you the most?
- What do you think your biggest challenge will be in this position?
- What does success in this position look like for you?
This is just the start of a list of powerful questions to ask in an interview. Avoid firing off one question after another to the interviewee. The first question may prompt you to ask a subsequent question that isn’t on your list. The interview process should feel like a normal conversation where there is much back-and-forth communication. Be sure to pay attention to soft skills and body language.
Keep in mind that the person filling this job will likely hold it for at least three to five years. Gear your interview questions not only toward the skills and abilities that fit the position now, but also those that will be important for the near future. A few candidates will likely still be on your mind when interviews are over. Those are the ones to call back in for a second interview.