Market Intelligence for Appoint Professionals
We recently interviewed five board recruiters: Jackson Stone, The Treasury, Board Dynamics, Hobson Leavy and the Institute of Directors. They search (ie headhunt) or advertise for board members across public companies, crown entities, CCOs, NGOs and private companies. Together they make over 200 board appointments each year.
Here are some of the key insights we gained (with Simon's comments in italics):
1. What do aspiring directors under estimate most when embarking on their governance career?
How competitive it is
How hard it is to differentiate themselves
The time commitment, responsibility and accountability
How their current experience matches their aspiration
The (relatively) low level of remuneration
2. The most sought after board skills are currently:
Financial - able to serve on an audit subcommittee
Technology and digital - especially experience of industry disruption
Other skills in demand include:
ST: Create your board persona around two or three deeply held functional skills and two or three industries/sectors you know intimately.
Commercialisation of IP
International growth & marketing
Prior governance experience
Commercial skills (especially for NGO roles)
Specific industry experience and networks
Health & safety
3. Less than a third of board roles are advertised or use an independent recruiter.
ST: Networking, raising your profile and introducing yourself directly to organisations remains paramount if you want to be proactive in building your board career.
4. Your personal network and connections have become increasingly important.
ST: Work hard at keeping your network current, maintaining industry insights and up to date competitor intelligence. Be in a position to provide introductions to organisations you are on the board of.
5. The focus of board diversity is moving from gender to ‘diversity of thought’.
ST: Interviewees noted that:
diversity was only a relevant factor after skills had been proven
ethnicity/background/geography shaped diverse thinking
public sector appointments were far ahead of the private sector in regard to bringing diversity to boards
6. There was unanimous support for the value of Not for Profit board experience, especially at the early stages of your governance career.
ST: But be careful that you don’t get pigeon holed as ‘only’ a NFP director (this can happen if you have more than 2 NFP roles without any commercial roles).
APPLYING FOR ROLES
7. Candidates are not always encouraged to introduce themselves to recruiters prior to applying for roles.
ST: Some recruiters were open to it, some were not! I suggest your first connection is via email, that you ask specific questions about the company or the role (and not “Can you tell me about the role?”) and then enquire if the recruiter is open to a call.
8. Strong CVs are succinct, outline governance and sector experience and have the priority information on the first page. The document should clearly articulate the value you add to a board and paint a picture of you as a whole person.
ST: Be sure your CV is written through a board and not an executive lens, using board language even when describing your executive experience.
9. The optimal CV is 3 pages long (or between 2 and 4).
10. On balance you shouldn’t include a photo on your CV.
ST: But, if you do, make sure it is small, recent and realistic otherwise it will count against you.
11. All recruiters will check you out on Linked In and many will also reference Facebook and Google.
12. Hard skills are far more important than soft skills on your CV - maybe a 2/3 to 1/3 split.
ST: Ensure your CV focuses on hard, quantifiable, tangible skills and experience (industry & sector experience, functional skills, key achievements) over softer, intangible skills (characteristics, traits, how you think and communicate). When it comes to an interview the inverse applies and it is much more about your approach, communication, the way you think etc.
13. A governance statement/personal profile can be helpful on a board CV as long as it is pithy and not full of buzzwords.
ST: The common consensus is that recruiters will read a governance statement only after they have read the rest of the CV and seen substance.
14. Listing names of referees on a CV does not, on balance, help you.
ST: I suggest only alerting your referees when you are close to being offered, not when you are merely applying for a role.
15. The five most common mistakes on board CVs:
Content not targeted; too verbose or waffle
No clear Unique Selling Point; doesn’t draw out the skills that you would bring to a board
Photo includes pets or grandchildren
It being simply a rehashed version of your executive CV
. Exceptional cover letters
Are succinct (one page max)
Are targeted to the specific role; not general in nature
Clearly outline how your skills and attributes match those on the position brief
Use evidence and concrete achievements
Paint a picture/join the dots for the reader
ST: It’s also an opportunity for your personality to shine through and to show some genuine energy for the role.
17. These included:
Be really clear about the value you bring to a board
Invest in training to address any gaps in your skillset
Choose your boards wisely – where will you learn and build your networks
Work hard on your network and connections
Take ‘unfortunately you were not selected’ feedback with grace
If you are looking for personalised advice around your board career or governance CV, please see our other professional services.
You may also be interested in previous market intelligence we garnered in February 2015.
(c) Appoint Better Boards. Please do not distribute the link or contents without running it past us first. Thank you.