Last updated: November 4

Take a leadership position in your board search 

Driving peak performance for CEOs and their boards, Westgate Executive Branding Offers Premier Advisory Services & Personal Branding Consulting for High-Profile Leaders. About Maureen—CEO & Founder.

Capital allocation for your board of directors search

The term capital allocation is borrowed from the investment world and if you consider that your personal time is a form of capital, then allocate your time carefully as you launch your board search.

Based on more than 12 years of working with leaders across industries, we’ve identified the best ROTI (return on time invested) for a non-executive board search (independent director) for best results.

Invest 90% of your time leveraging your centers of influence, 5-7% working with specialized recruiters, and 1-3% of your time seeking posted opportunities.

  • Understand the function of aggregators (Indeed.com and others like it) is to provide corporations with a healthy funnel of candidates to fill their roles.
  • Understand the role of the recruiter is to recruit and select a human resource to fill the client’s mandate.
  • Understand that leveraging your centers of influence puts you in control of your search.

Before you begin your board search, make sure you’re qualified for the role and articulate your value proposition clearly in your board documents.

The independent board of director resume is a door opener, mostly. Once you’re granted the interview with the nominating committee, it is then up to you to demonstrate your value to the board. The resume has, then, mostly done its job. If you’re not closing board offers, there may be an issue with your positioning to the board, personal branding, or messaging.

Remember, your resume will be socialized among the senior leaders, board, and company investors, and this is another way to garner visibility in your targeted market.

Showcasing external economic and market conditions as well as operational accomplishments

Here are a handful of considerations for your board resume:

The board resume showcases external economic and market conditions as well as operational accomplishments. Here are a handful of considerations for your board resume:

How have you performed?

What challenges have you overcome?

Have you led mergers, acquisitions, and integrations?

What about large company turnarounds? Innovations?

What do board recruiters and board nominating committees consider in a candidate? Rather than discussing your OPEX and CAPEX results for the company in your resume, think about your impact in a larger capacity, including:

  • Big picture – how did you impact the market? How did you impact the GDP of your state, your province, or your country.
  • Significant P&L.
  • The ability to critically read and interpret the balance sheet.
  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Crises management – consider September 11, 2001 or March 2020.
  • Areas of expertise, especially emerging issues, including cybersecurity and digital exposure.
  • Scientific knowledge and its subsequent commercialization.
  • IPOs and your connection to capital markets.
  • Unique capital structures.
  • At this level, you will need to examine your industry and marketplace visibility. For instance, what conferences have you keynoted? What is your media exposure? Reaching beyond the operations of your organization to the broader business ecosystem will create a springboard to showcase your board-level achievements.

And the most-difficult-to-articulate quality of all: Your fit for the role. Your energy. Your tenacity. Your courage. What is the brand that has been consistently visible during your career? Is it your penchant for safety performance? Productivity performance? Quality? Product development? Industry leadership?

Whatever your passion is—let it shine through in your board CV. It needs to be more than a list of accomplishments. The board CV needs to connect your achievements to your appetite for influence and service to the board mandate.

Invest 90% of your time leveraging your centers of influence

Spending most of your time tapping into your network and expanding its reach will give you more control over this journey versus relying on recruiters or job postings.

The good news is that it isn’t too difficult. You already have what you need.

As a savvy business leader, you are now leveraging your skill at professional networking and problem solving and you are executing on your board search plan with precision. You are likely good at reaching out and engaging with people in your network. In theory you know that it’s important to engage your professional and personal networks, but in practice you may be hitting a brick wall.

In my work with hundreds of executives from around the world, most struggle with reaching out and following up because they don’t know what to say or how to say it.

Begin conversations with any and all peers, past colleagues, current colleagues, even friends and family. Imagine the power of a ripple effect because the simple truth is that you don’t know who they know, who they have been speaking with, or what opportunities have crossed their path.

Picture this: Provided there is no conflict of interest, you know someone who has a relationship with the CEO at ABC Media. You want to get a seat on the Disney board, who is their biggest customer. You reach out to your connection for support in setting up a conversation with the CEO of ABC Media. You know that the annual meeting is held in May of every year…it’s November. Bingo! You’re having dinner with the CEO before Thanksgiving, and you let them know that you are interested in serving on the board of Disney because you have a unique perspective on risk management and cyber security, and you think it will be an asset to the board.

According to Forbes, referrals are the leading source of superior candidates for 88% of employers. Additionally, referred candidates are a better culture fit than those hired through other sources (Forbes, 2019).

As you begin to tap into your centers of influence, consider using the following scripts.

Inviting a business leader to lunch

This can be a handwritten note, a letter or email. When individuals are invited for a meeting without knowing the full context for the meeting request, the invitation may be received with suspicion. Be direct and clear about what you are seeking to increase the chances of a positive response.

“Dear George,

I would like to invite you to lunch. I want to learn more about ransomware technology, and I know you have this expertise.

Would you be open for a lunch at your convenience so that I could ask you a few questions? There are no strings attached and I will not ask you for anything other than information about the industry. I am analyzing material from the Infosec Institute on advanced encryption, and I’d like to ask you a few questions relative to Apocalypse. If you are not able to, that’s fine too, and I completely respect that. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send dates, times, and restaurant options for you to choose from.”

Most of my clients in job search won’t initially invite an industry insider they have never met before for coffee, lunch or a phone call. They don’t want to impose on others and are not sure how to approach an invitation such as this without feeling needy. Use reciprocation to level the playing field with your industry insider. Offer to do something for your lunch guest, starting with paying for lunch. Always pay for lunch.

When you make an offer to your colleague in some way, you feel helpful and less of a burden. 

When you are meeting with an industry insider

“Mr. Kramer, you have been very generous joining me for lunch today. The conversation has been very helpful. Thank you. If there is ever anything I can do, please let me know. In fact, I have season’s seats for the symphony. If you like the symphony, why don’t I send a couple of tickets to your office?”

Connecting with an influencer

It is possible that you have a professional relationship with an influencer in your targeted industry or company. A powerful way to leverage this relationship is to ask your influencer to make a telephone call or write an email or letter on your behalf. The purpose is to ask your contact to speak on your behalf to the targeted organization by showcasing your expertise in an area that will benefit the targeted board.

You must have a sense of trust with your influencer before asking for such an important favor, although using reciprocation can help reduce the feeling of awkwardness. The stage needs to be set for this conversation and Raphael will know already that you are a candidate for Fortune 1000 ABC Board. Here’s how to say it (either over the telephone or in an email, although telephone is preferable):

“Dear Raphael,

When we worked on the Cupertino project together two years ago, I closed the $3.9 million dollar fuel deal with the supplier who threatened to pull out at the last minute. You and I worked diligently on that project and I am wondering if you would be willing to share this information with the chair of the board of Fortune 1000 ABC Company on my behalf. I know that it would certainly add credence to my candidacy and because you know him, it would be well received. This specific project describes my negotiation skills perfectly.

I realize this is a lot to ask, so if it is not something you are able to do, I completely understand. Please let me know.”

Work call

Reaching out to an industry leader on LinkedIn

“Dear Janice,

I read your article this week, The Impact of Human Factors in the Design of Mobile Devices in the Smart Meter Industry, in Global Information Week. I am a cybersecurity expert and keynote speaker and my career is entrenched in this field. I would be honored if you would connect. Sincerely, JP Morton”

Once Janice has accepted your invitation, close the loop by responding.

“Janice, thank you for accepting my invitation on LinkedIn. We may be of mutual assistance to each other. As you’ll note from my profile, I am in the field of cyber security. Please feel free to contact me at any time at JPMorton@gmail.com or 222.222.2222.”

Here are a handful of LinkedIn conversations starters you can customize:

“Janice, I read your blog regularly and like your perspective on the risks of smart meter cyberattacks.”

“Nat, you may recall that we met at the Cyber Security Conference in San Francisco last week...”

“Michael, I see you also worked at ABC Motor Company. I’d like to invite you to connect.”

“I’ve enjoyed reading your comments about open sourced networks in the Smart Grid LinkedIn group, and I think we share many of the same perspectives. I’d like to invite you to connect with my professional network on LinkedIn.”

Using LinkedIn to connect with the board nominating chairman or chairwoman can help clear a path to a potentially rewarding opportunity with a company that needs your expertise at the strategic board level, especially when you have international experience.

Telling your networks that you are available for opportunities

“My company has just merged with Fortune 1000 company, ABC, and I am fortunate to have this unique chance to explore new opportunities. I am potentially looking at the medical device industry. To that end I am putting together my resume and requesting quotes from colleagues who can attest to my skillsets. I’m hoping you might consider writing me a very short endorsement – just a sentence or two. Since you and I worked on the Cupertino Energy Project, I am hoping you might consider focusing on my skills in energy regulatory analysis.

A woman on a phone call sitting in her office

Requesting a referral from a person you know

This can be an email, handwritten note or a typed letter.

Dear Sabastian:

I have taken a sabbatical over the last 4 months to reconsider my career. I have identified cybersecurity as an industry that I am interested in and would be a good fit for my skills based on my background in CISO operations.

Do you know someone in that industry I could reach out to so that I could ask a few questions? Please be assured that I will not ask your colleague for a job—I am simply doing market research, and it would mean a great deal to me.

Of course, if you are unable to do so, I completely understand.

Requesting a meeting from someone you don’t know—a cold email

This is the type of email that most people dread sending. However, you can see that the writer has thoughtfully planned the email. He has done his research and is also clear about what he wants. Donald will not be left wondering who the writer is or what he is looking for.

Dear Donald:

I am the current CEO of ABC Biotechnology. We specialize in prosthetic limb technology.

I learned about you through your article The Future of Neural Computation and Learning in Artificial Systems in the New York Times published on November 2. This is an area I’ve been researching for the past 18 months.

I am confidentially researching this industry for a future industry transition. Because of your expertise and reputation in this field, I wonder if you might speak with me for 10 minutes by phone. I promise not to keep you longer than that.

If you are open to a brief call, I would be grateful and happy to reciprocate in any way I can.

Invest 5 – 7% of your time working with specialized recruiters

For executives considering their next career move, there is this constant, ever-popular, misleading, misapprehension that a recruitment firm is somehow going to target you in one of their crafty searches, airlift you from your current circumstance, and then safely parachute you into your next executive position.

For most of us, recruitment firms are not the way to make a smart, calculated, strategic career change. And those who run recruitment firms would agree – wholeheartedly. Sure, we can introduce ourselves and ensure the top recruiting firms know we’re in the market. That’s part of a strategy, especially if the recruiting firm specializes in your field—but make it 5-7% of your strategy.

Make no mistake, recruiters do not work for you, the job seeker. They work for the company or companies who pay them. And they pay handsomely. I can’t emphasize this enough.

Employers will invest up to 35% of the first year’s compensation of a new executive. This means that for an executive earning $500,000 per year, the recruiter earns $175,000. Keep this in mind when you find yourself solely relying on recruiters.

For the 5-7% of time that you are spending here, lean on the following scripts in your communication.

Meeting with a recruiter in an office space

Reaching out to a recruiter on LinkedIn

Dear Cindy:

Thank you for accepting my LinkedIn invitation. Confidentially, I am currently exploring new opportunities in the cybersecurity industry. If you would like more details on my accomplishments and background to see if I might be a fit for one of your client companies, please feel free to reach out to me.

Calling recruiters

“Hi Cindy. I am the CEO of a global $2 billion-dollar Fortune 1000 company. I am positioning myself for new career opportunities. I want to introduce myself to see if I might be a fit for one of your client companies.”

Spend 1 – 3% of your time seeking posted opportunities

With job postings, you are essentially asking to join a club where the membership application list is fast growing and only one person gets a seat. Furthermore, at the executive level, there are many opportunities for filling seats, but not a lot of easy access or linear pathways to them. Therefore, the percentage for spending your time in this lane is so small.

That said, job postings can be a useful window into other possible opportunities. It’s similar to a retail advertisement. The posting for a new television might catch your eye, but once you go to the store, take a deeper look around and speak with the staff, you will likely come across something even better.

The most important thing to remember with job postings: You are fully qualified for the role as it is stated in the description. Once you can confirm that you are, you need to make sure the recipient knows too. You do so by making sure you use key words that match the description.

Once you have determined the description of a job posting is suited for you, conduct due diligence. If there is any name attached to the posting, start there. Search them online, on LI, and try to connect any dots that seem discrete or non-existent in the posting. If there is no name attached to the posting, find the company online and do a thorough search on the team: hiring manager, talent acquisition, operating partner, etc. You will be surprised at what you can find out about an organization through this method. It will also help you in determining who to speak with ahead of any preliminary conversations.

I can promise you this: That club with a fast-growing membership application list and only one seat to fill—will not have a lot of prospects conducting this level of due diligence. Stand out amongst your competitors.

Download our Scripts for Your Board Search 

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Maureen Farmer, CEO/Founder, is a Certified Personal Branding Strategist. She helps CEOs build authority, trust and elevate their credibility with capital markets, shareholders, investors, employees, and clients.


About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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