The most desirable and lucrative board of director positions are relatively rare and highly competitive. If you are an executive board candidate hoping to land a board position, here are some tips to improve your competitive edge and position yourself to achieve your goals.
As an executive board candidate, you may be asked for an executive board resume or a board biography, or both. These are two separate documents and there are no clear “rules” on when you should use one or the other. A board resume is very similar in style to any other executive resume (there are a few differences). A board bio is a one-page document written in a narrative format. The details and branding of your bio should complement and echo the details and branding of your resume.
Your LinkedIn profile is also important and should also be written to echo and expand on the branding, details, and overall messaging of your resume. You will also likely find a need for cover letters that accompany the submission of your resume or bio. Each of these should be customized and tailored to the situation. The benefits of working with a professional resume writer on all these personal marketing pieces are well worth it.
Be ready and able to clearly articulate your elevator pitch as a board of directors candidate. That is, the differentiating ways that you will fill gaps and add value to the boardroom. This will require research to understand the needs, skill gaps, and challenges a board is facing. It will also require deep introspection regarding the executive core competencies, special expertise, and unique perspective that you offer. A professional resume writer will be able to help you shape your elevator pitch into a succinct and impactful message that will be echoed and amplified on your resume, bio, letters, and LinkedIn profile.
Every board has a unique culture. Even with your valuable experiences and credentials, in the end, the most important factor will be whether or not you are judged to be a good “fit” for the board and whether they “like” you and “trust” you. Strive to convey an image of likability and unimpeachable integrity; at the same time, be sure the board culture is a good and authentic fit for YOU.
Recognize that you are entering into a very competitive world. No matter how strong your qualifications are, and how powerful your board resume is, landing a board position is likely to take a great deal of time, effort, and patience. If you are new to serving on boards, you may be most successful focusing on small-cap and mid-cap public or private companies. And don’t forget startup boards or advisory boards. Subject matter expertise is often sought out for these types of boards.
Consider serving on nonprofit boards. While these may be unpaid positions, they will help you expand your network and provide you with valuable first-hand governance experience that will enhance your board resume. For the same reasons, if you have the opportunity, serve as an inside director on the board of your employer.
Almost all board positions are filled through personal relationships. Network systematically, strategically, and intentionally. You MUST build your professional network and this means getting out to conferences and industry events as well as being active on social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. This will take time and effort. There is no way around this fact.
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All contacts are valuable but we all have only 24 hours in a day. Prioritize your time to focus on networking with CEOs, other board members, and industry influencers. Professionals who have interaction with boards, such as lawyers, accountants, venture capital and private equity investors, and consultants are also high-priority contacts.
Seek out mentors and sponsors. Mentors will advise and counsel you. Sponsors will help promote and endorse you in professional circles. Freely share your desire and goals to become a board director with people in your network. Ask for referrals or introductions to people in their network.
You will be vetted thoroughly and due diligence will be deep. Consider disclosing any potential negatives in your background early in the process. They will almost surely find them anyhow and your disclosure shows you are forthcoming and helps you build trust. Carefully audit and clean up your social media presence. This WILL be reviewed when you are being considered as a board candidate. No matter how private you think your settings are, remove ALL unflattering photos and controversial posts.
Some executive recruiters work on filling board positions; especially board searches for mid-cap and larger for-profit companies. Learn who they are and introduce yourself with a well-written introductory letter and board resume. Follow these firms on LinkedIn and personally connect with individual recruiters when possible.
Research venture capital and private equity investors to make a list of those who invest in the industry or industries you are targeting. They are often a great source of information regarding board opportunities. Send each an introductory letter and your resume.
Build your personal brand and promote your board value proposition as an executive board candidate on social media. Post articles of relevance and interest, like and comment on relevant posts, and join/participate in groups focused on board of directors and topics of interest to them (there are a number of them on LinkedIn). Do things that illustrate your thought leadership and expertise, such as speaking at industry conferences and events and publishing articles, blogs, white papers, and books. source of information regarding board opportunities.
Consistency is the fruit of the tree of success. The more you do something effectively and with a goal in mind, the better you will get at it and the more you will feel fulfilled.