Should director candidates be evaluated for their “soft skills”?

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Here’s a note from Julie Garland McLellan:

What do you look for when you recruit a new director? What do you test? If a board member is a more important hire than a graduate trainee (and I believe that to be the case) then, ideally, you will carry out a more thorough process for recruiting directors than you do for graduates.

This morning I was intrigued by a newspaper report that one successful consulting firm observed graduates in social and semi social interactions to assess their ‘soft’ skills. Few boards do that with directors. Many boards then complain about a director’s lack of behavioural competence and conversational intelligence.

The article then mentioned that potential recruits were asked to do three case studies. These demonstrated understanding of the business environment, an ability to prioritise, and the ability to communicate clearly and succinctly. All are things that would be useful on a board and that could be tested at, or after, interview, and before appointment. Very few boards do anything like this, even when they are recruiting a director with little or no board experience.

Even if you do adopt these ideas, please do thorough reference checking. I see too many boards embarrassed by directors who don’t have the experience or qualifications that were claimed on the CV. Even at the ‘top end of town’.