Writing a Board Resume
Transcript of Board Resume webinar. The purpose of this video is to help those of you who are interested in finding a board or non-executive role and need some guidance in how to write a board resume as opposed to an executive resume.
This is one of a number of clips designed to aid you in the non-executive application process. It is brought you to you by Board Diversity (boarddirection.com.au). Board Diversity was created in the belief that diverse boards make better decisions and that, as an individual looking to build a portfolio career or an aspiring board director, finding a non-executive role should not be difficult.
To this end Board Diversity equips members you to develop a board career through practical services (like Board Access – a job board exclusively advertising hundreds of non-executive vacancies) and exclusive networking groups.
Many people believe that their executive resume or CV is appropriate to use when applying for non-executive roles. After almost 10 years recruiting non-executives internationally and in Australia I can honestly say that it isn’t.
There are some basic principles that all non-executive resumes should follow to be appropriate and I will take you through them today.
First things first. I cannot tell you how many times a resume or applications of potentially very strong candidates have been disregarded because of poor grammar, spelling or typos. So, obviously, having your resume proof read is essential.
Secondly, There is little point putting together a resume if it is not readable or not read. So, you need to consider not just the font size (I recommend no less that 11) but also the length of your resume. While I don’t subscribe to your resume having to be no more than 2 pages long I have yet to see a resume that needed to be longer than 3 pages. Any longer than this and you risk potential employers just skimming it and missing critical information.
Thirdly, cover letters. In the past these were seen as irrelevant or token. However, today they are essential and should accompany any application. You cannot guarantee that it will be read but because it is critical to your application I always advise that your cover letter is saved in the same document as your resume – this far improves its chance of being seen. Like your resume it needs to be proofed and must be readable so I recommend no more than one page and 5 paragraphs (if you are interested in this topic please see our other Board Diversity Cover Letter webinar).
Ok with that said let’s get into the detail of what an effective board resume looks like.
To start with an application for a non-executive position requires a full rewrite of you resume and should be done in conjunction with lots of research about the organisation and the role itself. Because, once you understand what the role is required to do and what the organisation’s challenges you will be able to write a resume that targets their requirements and therefore ‘dare’s them not to see you’
Let’s start at its structure. A good non-exec resume has 7 sections.
The first is
Name & Contact Details: If you have ‘Resume’ or Curriculum Vitae at the top remove it. Those who you send the document to will know it is a resume and leaving this heading on simply takes up valuable room. Instead, put your name, contact details (mobile number and email) address at the top. I recommend your postal address but this is not essential however, it does go some way to provide comfort to the reader that you are genuine. That said, if you are applying for a role that is perhaps a long way away from where meetings will be held i.e. in another state or country then you will need to address your ability to travel to the meetings in your cover letter. Do not include your date of birth.
The second is your profile. This is a one paragraph statement that summarises your achievements and experience to date. It essentially articulates an answer to ‘why should we appoint you to our board?’. I am going to come back to this section as it should be written last.
Non – Executive Experience
The third section is about your non-executive experience. For those of you lucky enough to have this experience filling out this section should be easy. Simply start with the dates you were/are on the board your title i.e. board member and the name of the company. If it is an unknown company then put a one sentence description about what it does.
Beneath each role list in bullet points what your role on the board entails/ed and whether you were on any subcommittees etc. However, this is only the first step and leaving it here will severely detract from any application. What you need to do next is list the success you personally had on the board – not just what you contributed eg financial knowledge or general governance but real and defensible statements about what occurred directly because ‘of your role on the board. I describe this as ‘evidence of success’ for example. Did you bring business to the organisation, did you help with a particular piece of policy or bring a particular issue to light that resulted in a business change etc. No more than 4 bullet points for each role please. Anymore and you risk the achievements to be lost in an unread resume.
This is arguably the most important part of any resume. In many cases this will take some thinking to get done properly because rarely do people write down their successes and so need to spend some time, ideally with a Resume writer, to tease our their successes.
Once done, you should repeat this for each non-executive role you have heard.
For those of you who do not have traditional non-executive experience you may have to think a little harder. It is likely that in the past you have had committee experience or have had to report to a board. This is the place to put it. Evidence of success is critical. What was the result of your interaction with the board or what happened as a result of the committee you were part of? Again, spending time with a resume writer – even if just initially – can really help bring this to the surface and will really strengthen your application.
For those of you who really cannot think of any board or committee experience fear not – we all have to start somewhere. In preparation for future applications you should definitely start thinking of places that you can get this experience but in the meantime start by asking yourself the question as to ‘why you want this role?’. The answer to that question will go into your cover letter.
Ok, next section. Executive Experience. While you are applying for a NED role your executive experience speaks of your underlying skill set and experience. It demonstrates seniority, networks and reliability so it is important to get right. If you are retired this section will cover your previous executive roles. As you are applying for a non – executive role a full rundown of all executive experience is not required. Instead, list your most current roles rather than your entire work history. Use the same structure as was used for your non-executive section – Date –Position – Company Title with a brief sentence below to describe what the company did and then again 4 bullet points outlining your achievements and evidence of success. Let me reiterate, you need to ‘dare the reader of the resume not to see you so only list things you can demonstrate you achieved – not just things you did.
Education & Training
Like in the Executive Experience section not everything is relevant so just include that which is relevant to your application. For those of you who have not done the Australian Institute of Company Directors ‘Company Director’s Course I highly recommend it. Use the same format as before: Date –Position – Course and work backwards from your most recent training.
Extra-Professional Activities & Personal Interests
This section essentially covers the activities that you have done but cannot be described as either training or executive or non-executive experience. The content of this section should really only be included if they support your application. Historically, people include: the languages they speak, particular membership organisations they are part of or informal networks. It is worth putting in a bullet point or two on your social activities as well as this can help ‘humanise’ your resume and build rapport with the reader.
The reference section is the last thing on your resume. I strongly encourage people to list their referees on their resume for a number of reasons. Firstly, it having referees named shows you have nothing to hide. Secondly, it can be a great way to build a link with an organisation through a common personal connection that you did not know about. Whilst, I strongly support having referees listed on your resume I strongly discourage anybody putting their contact details on their resume. The last thing you want to happen is for them to contact your resume without first contacting you (and you contacting your referees) first.
Ok, now back to the profile section
Profiles are incredibly valuable if written properly and a waste of valuable space if not. Your profile should answer the question as to why appoint you on the board. For this reason I recommend a very short and targeted profile which answers this question and ideally begins with…. I am an experience non-executive director with over XX years’ experience. This sort of approach immediately puts the reader at ease and sets them up to read the rest of your CV through the lens of you being qualified for the role. Following this simply list out your experience using as many specifics as you can and highlighting your most prized successes. Finally, list any relevant qualifications and networks you have that would be valuable to the board.
Before I finish I want to address the issue of whether to include your photo on your resume or not. You may have noticed that I didn’t include it and there are a number of very good reasons why not. Firstly, you can never guarantee what your picture will look like when printed on someone else’s computer or what it will look like on their monitor. Secondly, no matter how good you look others view you through their own life contexts and you never know who you remind them of and whether that would be a flattering reflection. People also often unfairly make judgements about your ability based on what you look like which is why statistically, more attractive people, get paid more and employed more. Finally, by putting your picture on your resume you can make it easy for people to discriminate against you because of your, gender, age, race … in my view. It is just not worth the risk.
Having a board resume is the most important, but arguably least important, part of any non-executive application process. In reality 70% of existing board members were appointed by people they know rather than an application process so what is most important is to develop personal connections that pay. In this light, Board Diversity has developed the Non-Executive and Chair Networks specifically designed for non-executives who see the value in these connections and are interested in taking a more proactive approach in developing them. Each ‘Network’, of 10-15 non-executives, meets monthly in an exclusive board environment in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and discusses ‘live’ board issues as well as naturally developing new and diverse personal connections. Visit boarddirection.com.au to find out more or to join Board Access which lists hundreds of Australian non-executive opportunities.
I hope you found this webinar useful. If you would like a hand writing your resume please do contact me. Finally, and as I mentioned earlier, this is one of a number of clips designed to aid you in the non-executive application process – others include
- How to research effectively
- How to write a non-executive cover letter
- How to develop personal connections
- How to work with non-executive recruiters
To see them please visit www.boarddirection.com.au and ‘open the door to the boardroom’.