Corporate boards and nonprofit boards are different in many ways. Knowing how to get an “in” to the board of your choice might be easier than you think. In either case, learn as much as you can about the existing board, including what talent or expertise they are missing.
Make some connections and do your best to arrange for an interview. If you make it that far, your work is just beginning. You’ll want to ace your interview and make a good first impression your first day on the board. Read further to learn more about board member recruitment.
Board Recruitment in a Corporate or Nonprofit Capacity
Whether you are seeking a position as a paid corporate board member or vying for a volunteer seat on a nonprofit board of directors, board recruitment is a two-way street. Companies and nonprofit organizations are looking for you as diligently as you are looking for them. Preparation and networking are two important keys to finding an open seat on your dream board of directors. Here are some tips to help you prepare for how to become a board member.
How to Join a Board of Directors in the Corporate World: Finding the Right Fit
The Korn Ferry Institute, a corporate talent agency, coaches would-be corporate board members on how to become a board member by focusing on three main areas:
- The composition of the board
- Shared focus
- Team dynamics
In light of these three issues, evaluate the existing board and your qualifications to see if they are a match. Ask yourself if the current board of directors has the right mix of talent. If your area of expertise is finance and the board currently has two other board members with the same talent base, it may be best to start looking elsewhere.
Do you believe that the existing board members have a shared vision of the organization’s strategy and capabilities? Does your vision for the organization dovetail with theirs? If those things don’t gel, it might not be a good fit.
From the perspective of collaboration, do the current board members welcome the opportunity for new board members to ask questions? Do they welcome and respect varying opinions? Consider whether your style of communication and your past business relationships would be an asset or detriment if you brought your expertise to the team.
Presenting Your Best Skills and Abilities for Board Recruitment
Board recruiters look for staples of the industry when identifying potential board members. Often, much of the competition for a board seat represents referrals from existing board members. It pays to do your homework and to highlight what you can bring to the boardroom.
As boards of directors take on more responsibilities and add term limits, they are looking at younger talent to develop a diversified set of perspectives. Younger executives with technological skills are in exceptionally high demand. Despite the openness to nominating younger board members, most boards will expect that you have at least some senior management experience.
Once you land the corporate board interview that you have sought, take some time to prepare for one or more interviews. This is the time to pull out all the stops and let your best self shine, so market yourself like you are the best brand out there. You are!
Interviewers or interview committees will be looking at your resume for the skills and abilities that they need. Be sure to highlight your knowledge of the industry and any other specialized skills, such as IT, regulation, policy or financial expertise, which you possess.
Don’t forget to spruce up your social media accounts to make sure they show you in your best light. Pay particular attention to your LinkedIn profile, which might net you a board interview or two. It’s also a good idea to do an Internet search on your name so that you know what an interviewer will be seeing when they evaluate your talent portfolio.
Make a list of all of the leadership positions that you’ve held and the duties that you performed, either in a company or as a volunteer. You’re likely to get some questions about decision-making, collaboration, problem-solving, and your communication style. Be prepared for some challenging questions, such as whether you are likely to feel alienated from the other board members if you ask hard questions during board meetings.
Many of the questions in an interview will focus on your character. Be prepared for the interviewer to give you scenarios where they expect you to reveal your sense of trust, honesty and integrity.
As with any interview, be yourself and put your best foot forward. If you are not selected, use it as a learning experience and try again to look for another board..
How to Join a Board for a Nonprofit Organization
It’s far easier to join a nonprofit board than it is to land a seat on a corporate board. It may make sense to try that first and use it to get some board experience before you shoot for a corporate board seat.
Those who are interested in joining a nonprofit board because they have a passion for the organization’s vision and mission should also be able to find a board to join fairly easily.
The process of assessing your fit for a nonprofit board is similar to assessing your fit for a corporate board. Evaluate the composition of the board and determine whether your talents and abilities will fill any current gaps in the board’s knowledge or expertise. Make sure their vision for the organization’s goals and strategies matches your own. Assess the team dynamics and the current leadership and make a decision about whether you see yourself as a dynamic part of the group.
The board will certainly value your personal network and the connections that you bring to the organization, so be ready to bring your A-game.
Even though a board position for a nonprofit organization is not a paid position, you still need to make a commitment to service when the board votes you onto the board. Think through your schedule carefully so that you can make sure that you have the time and energy to fulfill your responsibilities. A good way to test the waters is to become a member of the organization and do some volunteering before accepting a position on the board.
Final Thoughts on How to Join a Board of Directors
Corporate talent agencies are good places to help you find the perfect fit for a board position. Expanding your network within the industry can also open up doors for you. Seeking a chair on a board of directors works much like applying for a job; it’s helpful to use a multifaceted approach. When you’re diligent and tenacious in your pursuit, you’re more likely to succeed in attaining the position you’re after.