Top 10 tips for hosting governor and trustee interview panels

Conducting voluntary interviews, whether for a college, school, multi-academy trust, or any other voluntary initiative, requires a thoughtful approach to selecting individuals who are passionate and dedicated to the cause.

Before you even start your recruitment process, you must have a clear person specification for each role you are recruiting for. Ask your governance professional for an updated skills matrix and an understanding of any gaps in the current mix of the board. This will help you identify the qualities and skills you’re looking for in potential new volunteers.

When interviewing volunteers, passion for the cause and a genuine commitment to the organisation’s mission is often more critical than specific skills or experience.

1. Ensure there is diverse representation.

Aim to create a diverse interview panel that reflects the students and local communities you serve. Diversity can bring different perspectives and ideas to the selection process — and ultimately, bringing together different backgrounds and perspectives creates diversity of thought.

Having a diverse panel also shows the candidate that you are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

2. Provide training for interviewers.

Provide training and guidance to your interview panel members on the interview process, evaluation criteria, and relevant policies. This ensures consistency and fairness in the selection process.

3. Develop interview questions.

Prepare a set of well-thought-out questions that assess both the candidate’s background and their alignment with the organisation’s mission and values.

Always remember that the people you are meeting are prepared to give up their time and share their expertise as a volunteer – this is not an ‘interview’ for a paid career opportunity, which would be a whole different set of questions.

Consider sharing the questions with the panel ahead of time to ensure you have an inclusive hiring practice.

4. Prioritise passion and commitment.

When interviewing volunteers, passion for the cause and a genuine commitment to the organisation’s mission is often more critical than specific skills or experience. Look for candidates who demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication – those who have had their own journey through education and recognise the importance of accessible and inclusive educational opportunities will provide a great perspective and opinion around the table.

5. Review the applications and standardise the evaluation process.

Thoroughly review candidates’ applications before the interview. This will help you tailor your questions to their experiences and qualifications.

It may also be worth noting down a few areas of commonality that you could mention during the interview to show the candidate you have fully engaged with their application — this will also break the ice to put the candidate at ease.

Develop a standardised evaluation process that panel members can use to rate candidates consistently — this process can include scoring rubrics or evaluation forms.

You might find some of this evaluation may well come down to ‘fit’ – will they complement the other members of the board? enhance the diversity of thought around the table? and provide constructive and valuable feedback to the executive team? These are all questions that you might want to consider as part of the deliberation process.

6. Engage candidates in the mission.

During the interview, engage candidates in discussions about your organisation’s mission and the impact of their potential volunteer role, whilst assessing their enthusiasm for and alignment with your mission.

Be honest and open with candidates about the current and future challenges that the board is discussing – people are investing their time and expertise into the future of your organisation and there should be no surprises.

7. Be flexible and open.

Be open to candidates who may not have a perfect match of skills but possess a strong willingness to learn and contribute. Volunteering can be a growth opportunity for individuals.

8. Maintain effective communication throughout the process.

Ensure clear and timely communication with candidates throughout the recruitment process. Make them aware of expectations, timelines, and the interview format.

9. Decision-making should be timely.

Aim to make decisions promptly and communicate outcomes to candidates promptly — respect their time and effort in applying and interviewing.

10. Collect feedback and use it for improvement and refinement.

Collect feedback from panel members after each meeting to continually improve your selection process, and use this feedback to refine your questions and evaluation criteria.

Be sure to provide constructive feedback to the candidate following the interview, whether they have been successful or not.


And lastly, be sure to say a big thank you!

Regardless of the outcome, express gratitude to all candidates for their interest in volunteering and for taking the time to interview with your organisation.

Remember that governors and trustees play a vital role in many organisations and communities, and creating a positive and respectful interview experience will contribute to the success of your governor appointments and continued success in the sector.


Sarah Atkins-Boal is our Principal Consultant specialising in further education and governance. With a wealth of experience in the further education sector and, as an education governor herself, she is passionate about finding the leaders and governors who can make a true impact in the education sector. Connect with Sarah on Linkedin or send her an email.