What Does a Successful Board Candidate Look Like?

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I needn’t tell you that there are as many types of boards as there are sectors and industries within. Therefore, the advice I am presenting you about being a successful board candidate, will need to be filtered into your own industry context, or the context of the industry that you want to serve in.

5 Core criteria for a board candidate

I believe that, regardless of the scope and scale of the organisation that you are considering, and having spoken to hundreds of current Chairs on this topic, there are 5 key core criteria that every Chairperson or Nominations Committee is looking for in a successful board candidate. I have written about these extensively before, so I will just name them here again:

  1. Past governance or board experience
  2. An executive skill set
  3. Relevant networks
  4. Demonstrable passion
  5. Cultural fit

You can follow the relevant links to brush up on each of these topics.

Having probably appointed or interviewed staff yourself, let’s put the five criteria that Chairs look for in potential board appointees into a more familiar context by considering them against what you might expect in an executive appointment. You probably want:

  1. Someone who has done the role before; all things being equal, you are more likely to lean towards hiring someone who has done the job before as opposed to someone who has not. At board level, you want to be the one who has done the ‘job’ before.
  2. Someone who the right skills to do the job. That is someone qualified and capable of doing the role that is asked of them.
  3. Someone who can do more than the role – who knows the sector and is connected well enough to bring additional value to the business.
  4. Someone passionate about the role – who really wants to see the business grow because they are passionate about what they do.
  5. Someone who will fit culturally with the team or organisation; someone you can trust.

I trust these five criteria ring true for you. I have road tested these elements in my board appointment master classes, in person with Chairs and have been blogging about this for years. The feedback has always been the same. Here is an example of one, to give you further confidence that these criteria are the ones that you must be fully across before you commence your board application journey.

“Good advice David. And I concur in that it is incredibly competitive now including NFP Boards. In recruiting to Board positions, I have to agree I am now more attracted by previous Board experience given the demands and challenges on NEDs. However, I am happy to have a mix and have recently recruited some senior executives without Board experience but who had absolutely the right skill set, and alignment to the values of the organisation. I spend quite some time getting to know prospective directors to really gain a sense of Board “fit”. Candidates should expect a fair few coffees and informal chat which is about getting to know the person too. A CEO should be able to claim Board experience where they are likely to have been reporting to a Board for years, overseeing Board reports, calendar, liaising with the Chair, and having a good understanding of a director’s mindset.”

Melanie Raymond: Chairman, Youth Projects, Chair, Inter-Government Working Gp, Director, Good Cycles, Chair, Company Directors NF

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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. He has been described as Australia’s leading board recruitment expert, is a published author, a regular speaker on the board appointment process and runs Board Search Masterclasses across Australia. He is one of Australia’s Top 10 LinkedIn users with over 27,000 connections. Email: ua.mo1716745950c.noi1716745950tceri1716745950ddrao1716745950b@tca1716745950tnoC1716745950