Landing a BOD Position
How is a board resume different than a C – level resume?
Some things to think about when targeting Board positions are:
Do you have sound knowledge of governance issues facing the board? There is a degree of risk when one takes on a Board position, so understanding that risk is important.
Is the industry regulated? If so, who are the regulators and do you have any experience, knowledge or interaction with those regulators? How well do you understand the industry?
Understanding the industry doesn't become as important as understanding governance practices especially when the experience of directors of the board complement one another. Say for example, one board member was an industry expert and another understands the regulatory side from his/her own industry, etc.
Financial stewardship is important to a board role as well. The Board may delegate responsibilities to committees, but at the end of the day, the Board is ultimately responsible for the financial health of the organization.
Maintaining an objective distance from the management of the organization is also an important consideration because otherwise, it becomes a conflict.
Can you manage the risks of the organization and understand the role of the auditor?
Understanding and complying with by-laws is also important for you to consider.
If it is a for-profit Board, shareholder relations will be a very important consideration. Dun and Bradstreet is an excellent resource for privately held companies.
Sometimes you can apply for CEO positions and end up interviewing for Board positions.
Board pay varies widely. If your annual compensation is 7-figures you may be able to negotiate $250k a year – meeting for a couple days 4x per year and consulting via phone 1x per month.
Board appointments and the viability of, seem to depend on perceived value and reputation. So, excellent endorsements and good marketing collateral (linkedin/resume) are critical.
Where would you be able to add value to a specific type or size of company?
What are the challenges or governance topics that interest you or that you feel qualified to address?
What do you hope to get out of a board assignment, and what do you have to offer in return?
Qualifications and Selection
The most important question is: Do you have what it takes to be a board member?
There are several underlying factors that are common across individuals who are often asked to serve on several boards throughout their lifetime.
The ability to get along well with others
A qualified board member should not only be able to build a good relationship with the CEO, but also be able to maintain a working, amicable relationship with the other members of the board. You should be able to voice a knowledgeable opinion to the rest of the group in a diplomatic manner.
A good board member should have basic financial knowledge including how to read a balance sheet, a profit & loss statement, cash flow documents, and general audit documents. Before attending the board meeting, you should have reviewed all pertinent information, including financial statements.
Depending on the current state or need of a company, different traits would be desired of a board member. For example, if a company is about to go public, a director with past experience with an IPO would be able to offer valuable insight. If a company is in the state of distress, a director with a strong track record with turn-around companies may be an asset to the board.
Access to a variety of resources
This may include government connections, professional relationships, past or present colleagues, your attorney, accountant, consultant, etc. These individuals may all recommend you or act as personal references.
These are the typical prerequisites needed in order to be considered for a seat.
The Board Selection Process:
A board may start looking for a new member when a director leaves due to mandatory retirement, death, disability, or resignation. Also, the board may be in need of an individual with a specific background or expertise that meets the company’s needs. In some rare cases, the CEO may be drawn to an individual because of their unique background and/or qualifications. In these cases, a new board member may be invited to join despite the fact that there is no vacancy.
More often than not, the board selection process is performed using a more or less formal version of a grid, which expands upon the traits listed above.
Board of Director Resume and/or LinkedIn Profile Questions
- Why do you want to serve on a board?
- Do you have sound knowledge of governance issues facing boards?
- Is the industry regulated? If so, who are the regulators and do you have any experience, knowledge or interaction with those regulators? How well do you understand the industry?
- What expertise to you offer in terms of financial stewardship?
- Do you have expertise in managing overall risk? Do you have a good understanding of the role of the auditor?
- Do you have expertise in understanding and complying with by-laws?
- If it is a for-profit Board, shareholder relations will be a very important. Be able to explain your knowledge and experience with shareholder relations.
- Board appointments and the viability of, often tie into perceived value and reputation. So, excellent endorsements and good marketing collateral (linkedin/resume) are critical. You should be able to provide 2-4 senior level endorsements.
- In your opinion, where you would be able to add the most value and in what specific type or size of company would that be the most applicable?
- What are the challenges or governance topics that interest you or that you feel qualified to do?
- What do you hope to get out of a board assignment, and what do you have to offer in return?
- Do you chair and/or participate on any task forces, committees, Boards of Directors or any other leadership forum?
- What specific experience do you have with regulatory bodies?
- Have you had any experience managing crises in an organization? What was the outcome?
- Do you have public relations or media relations experience? In what capacity?
What unique strategic triumphs, market knowledge, operating experience, and leadership competencies do you have?
- What specific experience do you bring to the table that is typically lacking in other organizations in this digital age?
- Do you have experience addressing CEO succession?
- Do you have experience setting compensation for top management?
- Do you have experience with CEO performance management?
- Do you have experience validating strategy from the point of view of shareholder value, and ensuring corporate integrity and sound risk management?
- What has prepared you for these demanding roles? What qualities of temperament do you bring to them?
- What presentations have you delivered to the community (either core business or non-core business)? What are the titles? Audiences? Invited?
- What is your media exposure?
- What CEOs have you mentored?
- Visionary leadership and executive oversight experience
- Goal‐setting and strategic planning skills
- Proven value as a strategic advisor
- Proven ability to work collaboratively within a multidisciplinary group
- Strong communication skills and ability to build consensus
- Industry expertise
- Financial acumen
- Demonstrated problem‐solving abilities
- Financial acumen
- Fundraising abilities
- Public/community relations and experience as a spokesperson
- Other board interaction experience, internal governance experience, or committee work
How to Become a Corporate Board Member
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
In the past, joining a corporate board conjured visions of networking at posh resorts with politicians and celebrities. “People used to look at board membership as a cushy way of making a lot of money,” says Elaine Eisenman, Dean of Executive Education at Babson College and a founding member of Women Corporate Directors. Up until the millennium, she says, “what was important for very large, high visibility boards was having star names on them – celebrities, political people, anybody who would give a halo effect to say how important your company was.”
But those days are over. Post Sarbanes-Oxley, a 2002 law imposing stringent new corporate requirements, board membership has become a tightly regulated, formal affair. Searches are often handled by professional search firms and, says Eisenman, “the definition of qualified has significantly been altered. There are very clear regulations for independent directors in terms of the credentials necessary to be a financial expert or compensation expert. You need to demonstrate proof in past experiences, degrees, focus, and the skill sets board members bring.”
So if you’re not a former Fortune 500 CFO or CEO, how can you make yourself a credible candidate for a corporate board seat? First, develop and leverage the right professional skills. “The best background for any board at this time is probably having a financial background and being available to sit on the audit committee,” says Eisenman, who was recently lauded as a “Director to Watch” by Directors & Boards magazine. “Also, a hot area right now is that everybody wants a social media expert to help inform them.”
Now it’s time to seek out experience on actual boards. “Nonprofit boards serve as a great launching pad for corporate board service,” she says. Be sure to seek a seat on the Board of Trustees with fiduciary responsibility, rather than serving on an advisory board. Startup or private company boards may also be a good starting point. “It’s often easier to get on non-public company boards,” she says. “People view those as critical foundational experiences.”
The next step is ensuring that interested companies can find you. “People need to be more visible in raising their hand for board work,” says Eisenman. “They have to put themselves out there instead of waiting for the world to come to them.” She suggests that aspiring board members may want to attend events held by the National Association of Corporate Directors, which are frequently open to interested members of the public. (Eisenman is a faculty member for NACD’s Board Advisory Services.) Additionally, she says, “all of the big search firms that have board practices have websites that you can post your resume on…If you have a unique skill set or industry knowledge, it’s a great way of getting the door open.” Eisenman also suggests you should reach out to your colleagues who are already board members: “It’s fine to call people you know who sit on boards and say, ‘Here’s my skill set, I’ve got experience in this industry, I’m a financial expert, I’m a compensation expert…How do I find a board in this industry or with this kind of need?’”
A note from Ralph Ward — Board-seeker: Your Guidebook and Career Map into the Corporate Boardroom
Connect with BOARD chairs, audit committees, CEOs
“...who can and will attest to your savvy on these points? Quality is more important than quantity here, so focus on just a few target names. 'Have a personal conversation with the references to help understand what your goals are,' suggests Maureen Farmer, head of WordRight career coaches. Send your vitae to these contacts, highlighting the strong points you offer, and include mention of the time or projects when you worked together. 'If this is a mentor or former boss, they’re probably not going to remember the specifics,' notes Farmer."
"Send your vitae to these contacts, highlighting the strong points you offer, and include mention of the time or projects when you worked together. 'If this is a mentor or former boss, they’re probably not going to remember the specifics,' notes Farmer. Make these contacts as early as you can, and seek some written talking points from them. A written reference now helps focus these contacts, and they’ll give a better spoken version when someone calls from a board nominating committee (and frankly, it gives them a script). As this suggests, a quality board reference is not just a general acquaintance, but someone who’s just one step below a mentor."
"Coaching a CEO helps you coach yourself. Particularly if you serve on the board of a younger, venture or startup company, much of your governance value comes through serving as a mentor and sounding board to management."
"'By coaching CEOs along the way, you create real value,' notes Maureen Farmer, a top career marketing advisor based in Canada. Furthermore, she adds such coaching experience makes you more valuable 'to executive teams seeking talent.' Getting inside the head of a CEO, seeing how they think, how they work, what their fears are, and the skills and knowledge they require is invaluable 'job shadowing' for your own future.”