Ian Cheshire, chief executive of B&Q-owner Kingfisher, is expected to be drafted into the Department of Work and Pensions as a lead non-executive director.
Talks are at an advanced stage but a final agreement is yet to be reached, Whitehall sources told the Sunday Times.
The appointment forms part of minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude’s attempt to pull in big names from the private sector to shake up government departments.
Last month Argos managing director Sara Weller joined the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The DWP oversees employment and benefits as well as child poverty, among other responsibilities.
The Cabinet Office said the non-executives will help steer departments’ “strategic and operational leadership. They will also provide advice and support to ministers and civil servants, challenge discussions ad discuss any performance issues with the prime minister”.