How to Use Your Social Skills & Ambition to Find the Right Candidates for Your Board - Boardroom Insights & News

How to Use Your Social Skills & Ambition to Find the Right Candidates for Your Board

For some organizations, particularly public corporations and nonprofits, having a board of directors is necessary. However, although the law may dictate that you have a board, there are no rules governing how effective your board must be. Ensuring that a board of directors works well together and steers the company in the right direction is entirely up to those who are recruiting for those positions.

The board of directors is there to help — not hinder — the business. As a collective, it is supposed to set direction and determine strategy. Consequently, the candidates chosen to be a part of this critical group are vital to the long-term health of the business. Choosing wisely is crucial. Here are some vital steps to follow:

  1. Create a Job Description.
  2. Develop a Recruitment Plan.
  3. Establish a Positive Culture.
  4. Consider a D&O Insurance Policy.
  5. Reconsider Financial Commitments.
  6. Take Advantage of Your Resources.
  7. Be Ambitious About Your Choices.
  8. Focus on Who’s Right, Not Who’s “Right Now.”

Take a closer look at each step below to discover how it can facilitate, streamline, and improve the efficacy of your board candidate screening process.

1. Create a Job Description.

No good HR professional would recruit for any position without first creating a job description.

Since a board member is one of the most critical roles in the company, it’s a good idea for the board of directors to do the same. If you’re unsure of where to start, you can even ask your chief talent officer for help.

Creating a job description is important because it gives board members the opportunity to define the role and what it entails. When you embark on your search:

  • You’ll know exactly which qualities you want to see in a serious candidate.
  • Candidates can assess themselves and know whether they have what you’re looking for.

2. Develop a Recruitment Plan.

This is yet another crucial aspect of the search process that HR would never overlook. While it is possible for you to look for board members in the same places you would recruit any employee, you’ll also want to consider your options for sourcing passive candidates who may not currently be looking to jump into a board role. 

In addition to determining where you should look, you also want to have a firm grasp of what the screening process will look like. How many interviews will you conduct, and who will sit in on them? What questions will you ask? Do you plan to ask for references? All of this should be detailed in your strategy before you begin.

3. Establish a Positive Culture.

Your board should position itself to attract the very best candidates who can see themselves making a long-term home with your company.

A positive working environment goes a long way toward convincing the right candidate to accept the position. 

Draft and establish policies that promote:

  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Belonging
  • Accountability.

When this is the norm, you’ll have much less of an issue finding people who want to work there.

4. Consider a D&O Insurance Policy.

A D&O policy protects directors from the possibility of losing their personal assets in the event they are personally sued by investors, employees, or anyone else who claims their management decisions were wrong or harmful. 

In a time when shareholder activists can sue directors for every unfavorable move they make, having a directors and officers liability policy is important to attract and retain good board members. Candidates won’t have to put their personal property on the line, and you’ll be rewarded with a much smoother recruitment process.

5. Reconsider Financial Commitments.

Does your board require members to give a certain amount out of their own pockets every year? If the answer is yes, you may want to reconsider this policy if you’re currently having trouble recruiting board members. 

Potential candidates may be thrown off by the idea that they must restructure the giving or financial commitments they’ve already made elsewhere just to work with your board of directors. This becomes even more of an issue when a candidate is highly sought after, as those candidates can have their pick of roles and don’t have much incentive to consider positions that require too much of a personal contribution.

6. Take Advantage of Your Resources.

As you’re looking for great candidates, don’t forget to use the resources that are right in front of you.

To do that, it’s prudent and generally advantageous to:

  1. Scour the full breadth of your social networks. This includes friends, family, and business networks.
  2. Consider checking with companies in your supply chains to see if any of their executives would like to serve on your board. 
  3. Take advantage of high-level search firms if you have the ability to spend funds on them. These firms have their own extensive networks and know exactly where and how to search for the right candidates so you can cut your search time down significantly.

7. Be Ambitious About Your Choices.

Don’t be afraid to aim for the moon in your search for a new board member. Go back to the first step and make sure your job description reflects your ideal candidate. Don’t be afraid to try to get as close to that as possible. 

Even when you think a candidate is out of your reach, attempt to recruit them anyway. You never know who could be interested. If they say yes, your ambition will have been worth it.

8. Focus on Who’s Right, Not Who’s “Right Now.”

Putting in the work to find the right directors for your board will never be easy because so much is at stake. However, selecting candidates with both experience and cultural fit is vital, as it determines how effective the board will be at moving the business in the right direction and pushing it to the next level. 

To achieve these goals, it’s essential to have a good strategy. Though it may seem too simple, you should start your search with a job description. Then, take it one step further and create a recruitment plan. Make internal changes that will attract great candidates, and then start working your network and see what you come up with.

Undoubtedly, recruiting well will require access to as many resources as you can get and a sense of perseverance as you search for the right candidates. Still, your careful planning, ambitious goals, and time spent working your social circle will pay off when you’re rewarded with exactly what you’ve aimed for — a thriving, growing company governed by an effective board of directors.

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