News and Views
July 8, 2020
Posted in: WATSON Views
When it comes to getting on a board, the resume that got you your job may not make it past the first round of screening. Boards are taking a more sophisticated approach to director recruitment, putting renewal on their forward calendars well in advance of anticipated director turnover and bringing tested executive recruitment practices to the boardroom. More boards are also working with specialized governance and talent firms, such as WATSON, to either guide them through the selection of directors, or to conduct the entire director search process.
As recruitment processes gain rigour, without a board-ready resume chances are your good name and experience may end up at the bottom of the pile. With an increasing number of highly experienced professionals seeking board positions, how do you stand out from the crowd?
First, Do Your Homework
Before even beginning to edit your resume, get to know the board. Understand the industry and the issues facing your target organization. Try to understand what’s most important to the Nominating Committee. Research the organization and examine the current talent around the board table. Think about:
- What skills, expertise, and experience do you have that will complement the current board?
- Do you bring specific talents that the board currently lacks?
- What attributes will be of value to the long-term achievement of the organization’s strategy?
- Why do they need you at the table?
Next, Shift Your Approach
Your experience and skills as an executive are valuable, but boards are not looking for operators with brilliant execution. Don’t get us wrong, what made you successful as an executive is incredibly important, but board work requires a shift in perspective. Your current resume is likely structured around corporate accomplishments with a detailed summary of your achievements. Boards are looking for directors who can assess and steer strategy, and oversee risk, financial reporting, management performance, and governance. Take a step back and view your experience through a big-picture lens. Ask yourself:
- How have you addressed organizational issues that are significant to stakeholders?
- What experience do you have guiding decision making and working collaboratively with others?
- How would you describe your strategic agility?
Then, Tailor Your Resume
Your resume should be customized to your target board. Remember, in governance, one size does not fit all, and each board will put different weight on specific skills and experience. However, there are some competencies that appeal to many boards, including:
- Visionary leadership
- Strategic perspective
- Collaborating on high impact decisions with a multi-disciplinary team
- Strong communication skills
- Demonstrated problem-solving abilities
In addition, given the ever-increasing scrutiny on boards over the past few years, most boards place considerable value on financial acumen, risk management, and ethics oversight. In addition, growth in the tech industry, the blurring of borders through ecommerce, and the immediacy and impact of social media on company brand and performance signals a strong push by many boards to add technical acumen in the boardroom, regardless of industry. (Side bar – the desire for stronger IT expertise and tech industry experience is shaking up board composition and lowering the average boardroom age by as much as a decade, as many of the most sought-after tech executives have careers rich in expertise, but short in tenure, making this a perfect time for younger executives to seek board positions.)
A good exercise to spark your thinking is to highlight transferable skills and board-relevant experience in your career resume and then further expand on them. Consider what talent and skills are going to be the most important to the specific board that you’re interested in, and then structure your resume to showcase ‘why you?’
Board-Ready Resume Must Haves
The top half of your resume is the most important and unfortunately, is often the only section that gets read in the first round of resume reviews. Board-ready resumes visually and concisely draw the Nominating Committee’s attention to the details that make you really stand out above the competition.
Expertise Headliner Highlight your top three to five areas of expertise
Expert in: Mergers & Acquisitions – International Expansion – Private Companies – Asian Pacific Markets
Board Profile Capture the breadth and depth of your experience and the value you will add to the board in three to five sentences. Spotlight governance, education, and corporate experience while illuminating the competencies and attributes the target board will consider in their interviewing process and final selection.
Board Experience Provide an overview of your board experience (including committees). If you haven’t gained any formal board experience, think about any internal governance experience you may have such as participating on a special task force or committee, serving as a company representative on an industry committee, involvement in negotiating a joint venture or merger, or advising or reporting to a board.
Career Achievements Summarize and quantify your career achievements over the past 10 years and include a brief overview of each organization and the scope of your role in terms of functional leadership, size of team, and financial/budget responsibilities. If you worked for a lesser-known brand, include a short description of the company and industry. When summarizing your accomplishments, present them in categories that reflect the talent and skills that would interest a board, such as:
- Product Innovation
- International Expansion
- Business Strategy and Revenue Growth
- Change Management
Education, Professional Designations, Memberships, and Awards Keep them concise and ensure they add to your value proposition. Too often we get too attached to particular accomplishments and fail to view our achievements through the board’s lens. Be selective.
Lastly, Polish Your Resume
Keep your resume to two pages. Re-read it, eliminate duplication, delete buzzwords and jargon, and re-read it again for spelling and grammar. Tap into your network and ask a director to read your resume based on your target board. Does your resume paint the picture of a director who will add the most value to this board?
Next step – get ready for the interview.