Today’s companies are focusing on growth while limiting risk in a fast-paced and ever-changing business world. With current senior executives taking on more responsibilities and employees retiring later, companies are increasingly looking to new candidate pools to fill non-executive director positions on their boards. Non-executive directors that add diversity and independence to an organization are particularly in demand. Professionals looking to secure a non-executive board position may be seeking a way to make further contribution to their existing organization, expand their breadth of knowledge and experience, or enhance their future career. Whether you are a retiring executive or are in the peak of your career, the key to enhancing an existing board with a non-executive director boils down to getting just the right fit for both parties. Below are a few suggestions on how to become a non-executive director.
A non-executive director (abbreviated to non-exec, NED or NXD) or external director is a member of the board of directors of a company or organization who does not form part of the executive management team of that organization.
Focus on Value vs. Credentials
Candidates seeking a non-executive director position have undoubtedly attained past jobs successfully. Seeking a position as a non-executive director is much the same process; however, organizations will likely be less interested in credentials than the value that a non-executive director brings to the organization. A non-executive director needs to have scope of the business and the world that it operates in, along with forward-thinking to move it to the next level. You’ll need to narrow down the possibilities, express interest, prepare a curriculum vitae, and interview for the position.
Executive Director to Non-Executive Director
If you are currently serving as an executive director and want to add non-executive director experience to your resume, consider how the move fits in with your overall career plans. Have a conversation with your current employer about your endeavors. Communicate to the CEO or chairman that your new position won’t interfere with your duties at your current position. Acquire their support by impressing upon them that bringing in outside information and expertise adds value to their organization.
Current executive directors that want to transition to non-executive directors as a segue to retirement should get full buy-in from their current company’s board and senior management.
Use business, personal, and social networks to get the word out virally. Post it on your LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Use the internet to find potential openings. Don’t discount the benefits of person-to-person networking. Spread the word among your business associates and affiliates. You never know who may know someone else who can make a viable connection for you.
Preparing Your Curriculum Vitae
Revise your curriculum vitae so that it reflects the position that you are seeking. This means getting up to speed with market trends, corporate governance, and the regulatory environment. Highlight relevant experience such as:
- Entering new markets
- Developing new markets
- Devising new marketing channels
- Devising new market strategies
- Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures
- Capital raising and refinancing
- Crisis management
- Talent management
List your accomplishments in reverse chronological order. Be specific and quantify them with numbers to demonstrate scale and context. While your goal is to impress the hiring team, stick to the facts and be careful not to exaggerate. Make your curriculum vitae comprehensive, but keep it to a two to three-page maximum. Enlist the help of a professional resume writer for a professional-looking curriculum vitae.
Preparing Your Cover Letter
Write your cover letter using plain language and a professional tone. Outline your accomplishments and relevant experience by giving credence to challenges as well as achievements. Add a few personal details about yourself, but keep them brief and reverent. The most important element of your cover letter is to differentiate yourself and make it memorable.
Executive Search Firms
There are several benefits to using an executive search firm. It sends a message to the interviewing company that the process is transparent, thorough, and impartial. In addition to recruitment, they may also offer assistance such as training in technology and performance to make your profile more attractive to potential employers. Executive search firms will also likely have existing relationships with boards in your area of expertise, giving you a leg up on your search.
Non-Executive Director Hiring Process
Hiring for a non-executive director position is more than a single event. It’s a process that takes time. There will most likely be several interviews. Set your aim high, but also be realistic and be prepared for rejection. Just as the organization moves slowly and carefully in moving forward, you should also. Consider offers carefully and don’t make a hasty decision.
When an offer looks like it’s coming your way, do your research on the company. Get to know their business from top to bottom, including their market and competitors. Read analyses and reports and ask for upcoming board dates. If possible, speak to everyone involved in the organization from the consumers to the top level executives. Learn about the company’s corporate culture to assess whether you anticipate any corporate cultural difference that you won’t be able to overcome.
Preparing for Interview
Prepare for your interview by reflecting on why you want the position and what you can add to their organization. Be prepared to discuss your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Don’t skirt around less successful things, rather make note of how you overcame them or what you learned through the process. Prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer so they know that you have given the potential relationship a lot of thought.
Although the process of obtaining a non-executive director position is slow and deliberate, getting the right fit for both parties manifests in an exciting and rewarding future for the new non-executive director and the organization.