How to Land a Non-Executive Director Role - Boardroom News & Insights

How to Land a Non-Executive Director Role

People seek out non-executive director (NED) roles for various reasons. Some wish to fast-track their post-executive career once they enter the retirement stage, or they want to round out their portfolio career. Others are looking for new and challenging experiences, want to broaden their network, or are hoping to elevate their status.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to land an NED role, one thing is certain: it won’t be easy. NED roles are scarce. As a result, it’s a highly competitive market — it takes much time and effort to find a job. 

Fortunately, educating yourself about how to land the role and taking the necessary steps to prepare yourself for the interview and selection process can go a long way in helping you get to your goal.

What Should a Non-Executive Director Bring to the Table?

While NEDs run the gamut when it comes to differences in personalities, preferences, and styles, there are a few things that many in the corporate governance space can agree are must-have traits:

  • You must have the courage and fortitude to challenge direction and performance, especially when issues arise in your area of expertise.
  • You should always strive to bring a fresh perspective from someone outside of the day-to-day operations of the business — this allows you to look at things more objectively than active executives.
  • You need to have in-depth knowledge about the industry you’re working in, even if you don’t have much experience there; it can be difficult to have intelligent conversations about sectors you know nothing about.
  • You should bring a few specialized skills that make you stand out and strengthen the board’s ability to govern, such as technical finance or compliance skills.
  • You must have integrity, the ability to negotiate with shareholders and the rest of the board, and the desire to collaborate with a common goal in mind.

This list represents a mix of hard and soft skills that are essential for boards to be able to govern well and successfully carry out their duties.

6 Steps to Help You Land an NED Role

While you are likely aware that landing your dream role as an NED won’t be easy, it’s vital to understand that you can positively impact your chances of getting one. You need to prepare to present yourself as an ideal candidate, and that means doing a lot of self-reflection as well as getting some feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. 

Here are six things you should do to increase your likelihood of becoming an NED.

1. Evaluate Your Past

As you reflect on your professional past, write down a list of your:

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Awards
  • Achievements

This is the first step to helping you gain a crystal-clear understanding of what you bring to the table as a candidate.

2. Evaluate Your Present

This is where introspection will truly help you. Conduct a SWOT analysis — examine your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities, and the threats that could keep you from achieving your goal. Have a trusted and qualified colleague help you complete this exercise. 

3. Think About Your Future

As you consider your future and where you see yourself in the short- and longer terms:

  1. Write down what your career objectives are.
  2. Come up with a list of the concrete skills you need to acquire them.
  3. Create a plan to develop those skills.

4. Assess Your Credibility

From your self-assessment, what are a few sectors that you can have credibility in?

Don’t just go for the industries where there are the most jobs. Truly think about what you have to offer and where your skillset will be an asset to the board.

5. Learn More About the Industry

Take some time to research and understand:

  • Industry trends
  • Regulations
  • Consumer behavior
  • Influencers
  • Major players.

The more you know about the industry, the higher your governance capacity will be.

6. Understand Your Unique Selling Point

From your assessment and industry research, figure out your unique selling point. When all of your qualities are taken together, what sets you apart from other candidates?

It’s important to be able to articulate this clearly, as this helps the company see why you are the perfect fit for the job.

How to Find an NED Role That Suits You

While you may feel that you have what it takes to land that NED role, you may not know where to go looking for one. Many potential candidates are finding their NED roles through executive search or matchmaking services. 

Some of these services help candidates work their way into an apprenticeship or shadow role in which a current NED mentor shows them the ropes, helps them gain valuable experience, and coaches them as they navigate building relationships. 

Other ways candidates locate roles include: 

  • Social professional networks
  • Job boards
  • Referrals

Even if you choose not to work with an executive search firm, it’s still a good idea to gain some outside perspective on rewriting your resume and LinkedIn profile, curating your social media presence so it presents your USP, including keywords in all of your content, and networking with others so you can get into the right circles.

Landing the NED Role You Want Requires a Proactive Approach

Whether you’re looking for a career boost or the chance to take on a new challenge, NED roles can be a great way to contribute your skills as a leader in your industry or area of expertise. However, there’s no doubt that they’re difficult to come by. 

Even when you have the right skills and traits (like courage, likability, and integrity), it is still vital that you prepare for the role you want.

This preparation involves so much more than just networking, revamping your resume, or scouring LinkedIn to apply for jobs. You must also turn inward to evaluate yourself and your own skills, figure out how to fill the skills gaps, ask for opinions from qualified outsiders, research industry trends and players, and zero in on your unique selling point.

Once you know what makes you stand out, you’ll be in a much better position to sell a board of directors on what you can offer them. While this approach doesn’t guarantee you a role, it does get you closer to achieving your boardroom dreams.

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