We exist to find brilliant leaders for socially focused organisations and we’re passionate about setting our candidates up for success.

The application and interview process to become a CEO is often far more intensive than other employment processes you may have been involved in. If you’re considering making the jump, there are some surefire ways to stand out.

What can you do today?

1. Have an online profile.

Make sure you’re easy to find. At the very least, you should have a LinkedIn profile. Invest time to develop your profile by sharing content and ideas, showing your values, and making connections. Building a personal brand can be an effective way to show your personality, passion and advocacy style.

2. Get to know your board.

The relationship you can foster with your board will be a big focus at the interview. If you can, try to get close to your current board.

Insight into how a board operates, how committees function and a good idea of how to work with a chair will be highly valuable, alongside demonstrating your understanding of how your organisation can benefit from a talented and engaged board.

Learn about corporate governance – look at where it has gone wrong for other organisations, particularly those operating in the same spaces.

Remember, governance isn’t just the job of the board – it’s your job too.

Before you apply

1. Get to know the organisation beyond its financial statements.

Make sure you understand their area of specialism, their communities, and their service users.

2. Speak to the chair and the outgoing chief executive.

This first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities of the organisation is incredibly rich.

3. Ask about their culture.

Consider who else you can connect with inside the organisation to gain a non-bias view and check websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to make sure that it feels like an organisation you can – and want – to lead. 

When you’re ready to apply

1. Make the recruiter or hiring manager work for their money!

Recruiters spend a long time getting to know the organisation and often the hiring panel. Both recruiters and hiring managers can provide specific insights into the role specification and how to best show how your skills and experience match.

Find out from the recruiter about what to expect at the interview stage, such as:

  • Assessment centres
  • Psychometric assessment
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • A presentation
  • Panel interview
  • Or a mixture of the above.

2. Make sure you become familiar with the dates of the process.

Consider:

  • When do you need to get the first draft of your application in?
  • When are the interviews scheduled?

3. Block out time in your calendar to work on your application.

Start early, draft, proofread, review and edit. By blocking out time, you are less likely to be distracted by other tasks that pop up in your day-to-day life.

4. Focus on motivation, impact, and evidence and apply these to the criteria outlined in the job description.

5. Personalise your application by addressing it to the chair of the board.

Interview

If you think you’ve done all the research already, I promise there’s always more to do!

1. Scour the internet for documents like government and annual reviews, financial positions, management accounts, staff or client surveys. If you can’t find these online, ask the recruiter or hiring manager.

2. Revisit the person spec and ask the recruiter what themes are likely to be covered. Go over the interview process again so you can be prepared for any psychometric testing or presentations that are expected.

3. Visit in advance, if you can. Get to know the spaces they operate in, whether that be offices or end-service delivery centres.

4. Use the STAR model to answer questions to keep your thinking clear and concise, while providing an example of evidence:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

5. Make sure you respond to everyone on the panel. Know your audience and try to enjoy getting to know them. Take your time and read the room. You can use this approach to find out what the panel agrees on and where their opinions may differ.

6. Lastly, be yourself. Be enthusiastic and bring energy. Don’t try to emulate a certain look towards being ‘corporate’ or to imitate a CEO that you’ve seen. Your passion for their mission and the sector in which they operate should shine through during the interview.

What if you’re not successful?

Don’t beat yourself up. Shake yourself off and move on.

Perhaps most importantly, learn from your experience and push for feedback. If a professional recruiter was involved in the process, make sure they take the time to go through the panel’s feedback with you.

From CEOs and vice-principals to governor and board recruitment, we recruit authentic, liberated leaders inspired by societal change. Find out more about Peridot’s executive recruitment for colleges, schools and universities and other third sector organisations.

Drew Richardson-Walsh is the Director of our Education Practice. With a wealth of expertise having previously worked in further and higher education leadership roles and first-hand experience of being a deputy chair of a thriving multi-academy trust, Drew passionately believes that access to high-quality education is the key to true social mobility, and he works tirelessly to support our clients to secure exceptional talent for their leadership teams, executive roles and non-executive board positions. You can connect with Drew on Linkedin, or send him an email.