Boardroom Bound

Interviewing for a board seat: 3 key differences vs. CIO jobs

Cultural fit, collaborative spirit and commitment matter just as much to board directors as your tech expertise.

By the time the recruiter cold-called him in the spring of 2016, University of Pennsylvania CIO Tom Murphy had been interested in joining a public company board for a while. “But it’s very hard to crack that code,” he says.

When the recruiter explained the opportunity, Murphy was startled to learn the open board seat was at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh. “I told him I have zero financial sector experience,” the longtime CIO recalls. "I was an English major who was crappy at math!” 

But the FHLB board was seeking technology expertise, not additional financial depth. The bank’s charter also required the new board member to reside in the region encompassing West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Then there was Murphy’s reputation as a successful university CIO who worked particularly well in a collegial atmosphere.

Tom Murphy, VP IT and University CIO at the University of Pennsylvania, and independent director for Tom Murphy

“I checked a lot of their boxes,” says Murphy, who joined the bank's board in November 2016.

Once a C-level executive comes to the attention of a board search committee, the real contest begins. Interviewing for a board seat requires a different mindset and approach than interviewing to land an executive role, CIOs and corporate directors agree.

Here are three major differences that experienced board members say you should expect.

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