How to write a Supporting Statement for a Board Application

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In my last article, I explain why you should complete a supporting statement to enhance your Board Application. This week I want to step you through the process of writing a supporting statement. It is critical to get them right – often more so than your NED CV. They are important because this is the document that you will be graded against and often it is this information that makes the difference between a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.

Not every recruiting organisation requires a supporting statement but for any advertised role that includes a list of ‘Essential Criteria,’ a supporting statement is required in one form or another. The process I will take you through today can be adapted to the particular requirements of the advertiser.

The process is formulaic

The process is pretty formulaic and for some, that will feel like you are unable to express yourself fully. You may want to provide more context or write a document in a style that better suits. Unfortunately, this is not the place to do this – that is what your cover letter is for (although that also has a set formula for success). Instead, here you must provide the information that the advertiser wants from you in the format that makes it both easy to read and therefore grade.

How to prepare 

Before you put pen to paper you should have in your mind between 3 and 6 examples that you can evidence to demonstrate successfully having achieved what it is that each criterion is asking for. Importantly, this is not the same as just having done it. 

To be clear, these examples should straddle the entire criteria listed and not just focus on a couple of them.

Copy and paste

A supporting statement is simply a document that addresses the Essential Criteria – all of them, but not the Desirable Criteria. So your first step is to copy and paste all the essential criteria provided in the advert or Job Specification into a Word document.

You will end up with a list of criteria often between 4-12 bullet points long. 

Don’t take shortcuts

Don’t be tempted to combine criteria that seem the same. Each criterion is different, regardless of what you might feel. If you can’t see the difference you should speak with the advertiser to understand what the nuances are. I can guarantee that there is one and you will be judged against it if you don’t address it. 

A three-step process – T. E. E

Too often supporting statements spend too much time articulating the context of your experience. Equally, too much emphasis is often placed on the mechanisms of the work that you did – rather than how successful the work was. It is the latter that will separate you from your competitors.

In essence, then, your response to each of the criteria should have three elements to it:

  1. Technical:  Clearly state that you meet the criteria. Reframe the criteria from a question to a statement. If the question is about governance state clearly that you have X years of governance experience. Make the statement powerfully and unambiguously then;
  2. Example:  Provide examples of the roles you have held that support the previous statement. Something like ‘Perhaps the best example I can provide demonstrating my governance expertise was as a Non-Executive Director of X, Y and Z’ then finally;
  3. Evidence: Provide examples of success in these roles. Perhaps say something like: ‘As a NED of Company X, I improved the governance by…’ (include your success and outcomes).

Include your success at board level?

How on earth do you demonstrate your individual success as a NED when, by definition, you are part of a group decision-making process? It is a fair question. 

By way of guidance think about successes in 3 ways.

  1. What was the reason you were appointed to that board/role in the first place and have you fulfilled the reason for that appointment.
  2. What reasons would you give the Chair for you getting a pay rise.
  3. Link your success to the success of the organisation whilst you were a NED.

You will get a return on investment

Few enjoy the process of writing a supporting statement – they can be time consuming and dull. Which is why it is so important that you write one that is so compelling that you get appointed so that you don’t have to write another one again. Any future supporting statements you will need to write will likely have similar content. So spending time initially to write a genuinely compelling document will make subsequent applications a lot easier and quicker. 

Don’t have the time? We can help with our unlimited application review service included in our Executive Membership.

About the Author

David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world

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