Of all the advice I offer, how to de-risk your appointment is perhaps the most valuable thing I can show you. Because, when done properly, it is the thing that will most often separate you from your competitors. .
What sort of research?
Remember, gaining a board appointment is essentially about separating yourself from your competitors – of which there may be many. So, if you are only prepared to do the same level of research that your competitors are (or none at all), you will not be differentiating yourself from them. Equally, you will not be providing comfort to the Chair/decision-makers that you are a good fit.
Most will read this and think – ‘yes I get that, but my research is fine’. Indeed, it might be. However, 95% of the candidate applications I see (if not more) don’t do anywhere near the level of detail of research I recommend. Moreover, they are outshined by candidates that are willing to go to great effort to gather the information, contacts, knowledge and insights that others don’t have.
So, even if you think you are capable in this space, today’s article on conducting ‘online research’ and my next article on conducting ‘personal research’ are both critical reading. Both could make the difference between receiving a ‘Thank you for your application. We regret to inform you….’ response to your application OR an ‘It is with great pleasure that …’ response.
This level of research is by far the most important element of any application or job-hunting process. Though, conversely, it is probably the most under-utilised and the most difficult element to motivate yourself to undertake. However, doing so will assist you to put in a better and more informed application that will pay dividends and dramatically increase your chances of being appointed.
Indeed, I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that every stand-out application I have ever read, has its basis in deep research – of which online research is an important part.
Online research – an essential part of a board application
Online research involves much more than merely clicking through the organisation’s website. But I find that many don’t understand what else they can do to properly research the company and the specific role from behind a computer.
As a general rule, even the most basic online research for a role is rarely done more than once during an application process and even more rarely is it done well. In my estimation, less than 5% of candidates do the kind of research that will separate them from their competitors. Those who do, however, invariably found themselves in the final mix for a board appointment.
This is what proper online research looks like
- Researching the employer:
- Research the board:
- Research the role itself:
- Research the economy – macro and micro:
Much of this online research can be conducted by simply digesting the organisation’s website, annual reports, investor reports and competitor’s websites along with trade/industry resources (content from peak bodies?).
However, more should also be done. Don’t just focus on the information the organisation provides. Be proactive and use social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram) to see what they and others have been saying about the organisation, its products and services, etc. Google the organisation to find up to date (as well as long-forgotten) news, changes to the board and executive online. Do the same for their competitor organisations.
Deep online research is essential. However, the real value comes in taking that knowledge and asking the next question, “how can I help?” You need to demonstrate the synergies between what you have found and what you can do to help.
This is good news for you
Because so few really commit to the research process and Chairs/decision-makers really value the effort you put in, it means that taking my advice and working a little harder than your competitors are willing to do, will mean that you can quickly differentiate yourself from them and systematically position yourself for almost any appointment you choose to focus on.
But doing online research alone will likely put you in the middle of the pack of prospective board candidates. To change this, you will need to step it up considerably and do what I call personal research. This is where the real value comes in – and not necessarily where you think it will.
Learning how to complete thorough online research and apply the findings is just one of the training module included in our Executive Membership package. Members complete individual training modules when and where it suites them.
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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