Whilst finding a non-executive director role is not a precise art, there are certain places you can look, people you can (and should) connect with and things you can do to increase your success rate.
As with most other job searches, your first task is to ensure that you have a document which outlines you executive career to this point (as well as any advisory roles you have undertaken). And although LinkedIn has become a vast chasm of noise, it is always worth updating your LinkedIn profile.
Because non-executive director (NED) roles place much emphasis on personality and ability, it is vital that both your CV and LinkedIn profile reflects a strong, independent voice in the boardroom. Do you feel comfortable challenging bad decisions? Well, it doesn’t hurt you to challenge opinions on social platforms to reflect your independence. Obviously there is a fine balance to be had, here.
Your CV and various social profiles should highlight your ability for independent thinking and also your ability to “get things done”.
How to find non-executive director roles
In modern times, the focus has shifted from traditional print media to online search. Having an online profile and the ability to “be found” is essential. Any non-executive or aspiring NED also has the benefit of an array of search firms to hand. But be warned, many search firms are looking for the easiest placement and aspiring non-executives get little or no success with such recruitment firms.
The major negative for any non-executive director using a search firm is cost; not cost to the individual but cost to the companies who use them. Search firms are used almost exclusively by large international firms who are willing to pay fees in excess of £50,000 and in some cases over £100,000 per placement.
There is little or no chance of SMEs engaging thee firms. To compound matters further, these firms hold the details of 10,000s executives meaning only is there a very low chance of a private company engaging them, there is even less of a chance of a first time non-executive being selected, with such a hefty price to pay to the search company.
The Press is still one avenue available to NEDs – publications like The Financial Times, The Times, The Irish Times and The Guardian are the ones to watch. Again, note that applying to roles is often a thankless task, given the rise of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) – What non-executives need to know about ATS.
Networking plays a vital role in career and personal development for NEDs. Typical offerings include seminars, mentoring fairs, open roundtable forums and lectures, featuring experts to field questions, leadership summits, and social mixer events.
Remember that exchanging business cards is only one aspect of networking; equally important activities at networking events for aspiring NEDs include introducing new acquaintances to business contacts and asking well-informed questions. Networking should not only be limited to formal events. Aspiring NEDs can develop their professional networks just as effectively through volunteer work and community service events.
Networking involves learned skills.
Early stage nervousness around networking often dissipates and noticeable improvement comes with time and experience. As you gain experience in professional networking situations, you will acquire a better sense of the do’s and don’ts of making mutually beneficial connections.
Quality Over Quantity: Focus on making fewer connections of a higher caliber rather than handing out a quota of business cards. Building relationships with a limited number of key professional contacts will pay off in better leads and future opportunities.
Listening Skills: Strengthening connections requires listening. Good networking means increasing the chances they remember you in a positive light.
Prepare Questions: When attending networking events (online or offline), research the speakers and attendees (if known) beforehand. Non-Executives and Board Advisors should know how to formulate targeted, well-researched questions in business and networking contexts.
How are non-executives hired?
How are non-executive directors hired?
There are several routes but most notably are:
- Personal connections
- Advertised job roles
- Recruiters and head-hunters
- Doing your own due diligence and making approaches to companies directly.
It should come as no surprise that somewhere in the region of 65% of non-executive directors are appointed to a board via a “personal connection”.
However, don’t be disheartened by that statistic because many of those “personal connections” are “arms length” or “weak” connections which means good and avid networkers are more likely than others to find non-executive director roles.