Last updated: September 8

What NOT to do on your independent board director resume 

Don’t dilute your board value proposition by doing this

Why your board of director resume is not getting read, why you’re not getting interviews—and what you can do to fix it. In this short blog post we cover two issues relating to independent board roles (1) leveraging unpaid board roles and (2) the exclusion of certain language in your board resume.

Board of Directors

How to measure the effectiveness of your board of directors’ resume

The simplest success measure of an effective board of directors’ resume for an independent director is simple: are you getting calls from board recruiters? If you’re well qualified for the position and you’re not getting calls from recruiters or the board’s nominating committee, there may be a problem with your resume’s content, especially if:

  • You’re a sitting CxO (CEO, CFO, CTO)
  • You have experience serving a national non-profit board (see below for non-profit board issues)
  • You’ve raised considerable funds in the form of endowments
  • You have deep industry expertise that is unique in the marketplace
  • You have previous private company board experience
  • You are a major shareholder of a private or public company
  • You are a company founder of a profitable business
  • You have board advisory experience paired with deep industry experience
  • You have M&A deal experience
  • You have post M&A integration experience

Resumes alone will not deliver a board offer

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 your messaging.

Board recruiters and nominating committees are busy

Recruiters and nominating committee chairs review hundreds of resumes for each open independent board role, and the success of your board application will depend on your established and clearly stated value proposition. I’ve seen it myself; a CEO resume for an independent board opportunity with none of the CEO's experience listed on the first page of the resume. Instead, the board experience is banished to the very bottom of the last page of the CV—exactly where it won’t be read or at least, not taken seriously by the committee. For serious consideration, place your board experience at the very top of your board resume. Don’t use your CEO/operations resume for a board opportunity.

What NOT to do on your board resume

Remove any mention that your board work was volunteer or unpaid. Your ability to produce results in a volunteer role for an organization is obviously not tied to compensation, because it is de facto unpaid.

Additionally, many startup companies only pay equity upon exit. Although certainly, some companies offer cash compensation only, or a combination of cash and equity, your performance for the board is not tied specifically to your cash compensation. Your performance is tied to the value you will bring to the organization. It is nuanced but the nuance is extremely important for your board candidacy, especially if you’re unknown to the organization.

I’ve seen candidates move mountains for their volunteer organizations, including massive fundraising and organizational optimization, which are tremendous transferrable skills for an independent board opportunity. A volunteer role on a board can produce revenues, endowments, or investments in the millions of dollars (as one example). Whether you were paid or not is irrelevant.

Don’t dilute your value proposition by qualifying your work on the board as “unpaid” or “volunteer” on your board resume. 

Discussions of your specific board roles can be reviewed during the board interview. The purpose of the resume is to get you in the door, not to serve as a detailed audit of your previous board experience.

Independent board packaging and why it matters

The top one third of your resume is extremely valuable real estate. A resume with the relevant board of director language placed in the correct location on the resume will pique the interest of the recruiter and the Chair of the Nominating & Governance Committee. If the reader has to hunt for your board experience, they won’t bother unless, of course, you’ve been referred into the organization—even then, you’ll need to qualify yourself as a board candidate.

If you’re a cold applicant, you must ensure your packaging is impeccable.

Place your relevant board experience at the top of the resume’s first page. Make it crystal clear that you’ve worked on a board and have delivered the required experience. If you locate your board experience to the bottom, it implies it’s unimportant or less relevant. The most relevant content is located at the top of the resume, similar to the newspaper front page.

If you are a CEO or retired CEO, this information relating to your professional experience can be placed after your board experience.

Use these headings on your resume in the following order to demonstrate (1) you have board experience and (2) you have CEO experience. Be sure to include the industry you served in both your board and CEO roles (or other C-Level experience).

Sample for you to follow

HELEN MAUREEN FARMER, CPBS

New York City, NY | 10026 | maureen@westgatebranding.com  | 902-471-8415

Award-winning Certified Personal Branding Specialist and Board Advisor with governance experience in financial services, energy services, and legal services in the United States and Canada. Track record for positioning CEOs and CEO candidates for operating partner, CEO, and board of director opportunities in private equity portfolio companies. Demonstrated success supporting private equity funds as they transition CEOs for their portfolio companies. Industry experience in occupational safety, human resources, and employee relations. Demonstrated success mentoring and coaching CEOs across many industries. Market presence established in New York City, Toronto, and Halifax (CANADA).

BOARD OF DIRECTORS’ EXPERIENCE

CHAIR OF HUMAN RESOURCES COMMITTEE | ABC COMPANY, LLC | NEW YORK CITY, NY | 2012 – 2018

  • Achievement 1
  • Achievement 2
  • Achievement 3

CHAIR OF SAFETY COMMITTEE | XYZ COMPANY, LLC | NEW YORK CITY, NY | 2015 – 2017

  • Achievement 1
  • Achievement 2
  • Achievement 3

EXECUTIVE WORK EXPERIENCE

CEO | WESTGATE EXECUTIVE BRANDING, INC. | NEW YORK CITY, NY | 2011 – PRESENT

  • Achievement 1
  • Achievement 2
  • Achievement 3

OPERATING PARTNER | PRIVATE EQUITY COMPANY NAME INCORPORATED | NEW YORK CITY, NY | 2005 – 2011

  • Achievement 1
  • Achievement 2
  • Achievement 3

Understand your audience when writing your CV

You must understand the audience you’re writing for and speaking to in order to be effective. Your CV will be scrutinized among the board of directors, shareholders, and key investors. You must write to their concerns—what can you do to help the board lead its organization to success?

Express your passion and reason for your interest in their organization.

My own experience working with board and CEO candidates

My team and I work with CEOs and CEO candidates who are seeking board opportunities. I’ve written thousands of resumes and coached nearly as many clients on the topic of board packaging and board of director interviews. Initially frustrated because they are not getting any interviews, once they establish their positioning and messaging, they move to the next step in the board selection process.

It takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it.

How to work with Westgate

If you’re seeking an independent board role, exit strategy, or assistance preparing for an upcoming board or CEO interview, contact us to review your strategy.

If you’re a current CEO who is seeking a board role to raise your visibility in the market (perhaps your own board is encouraging you to seek outside board opportunities), we would be delighted to speak with you.

If you are an aspiring CEO seeking assistance to build your career plan, we can help with that, too!

We offer a complimentary and confidential discussion of your specific goals and would be pleased to sign an NDA in advance.

Westgate is a 100 percent independent boutique professional services firm with no direct affiliation with any recruitment, outplacement, public relations, or human resources organization. Your privacy is guaranteed.

Independent Director Role Preparation Checklist

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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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