Do This Before You Apply for a Board Opportunity

The board recruitment process can be somewhat of a black hole.

People seem to appear on boards out of ‘nowhere’; usually via the network effect – who you know, more so than what you know (both are important, one more than the other sometimes…).

Occasionally, boards will put out an advertisement in newspapers, on LinkedIn, through their social media channels, and may also engage recruitment firms to assist in their board candidate search. Recruiters will then follow the same path of advertising via newspapers, on LinkedIn and through their social media channels, in addition to reaching out to their database of people interested in board positions.

Responding to these advertisements is a common activity of aspiring board members, so I wanted to share one simple thing that I recommend for you to do if this is something you’re currently doing as part of your board search strategy to increase the odds of your resume making it to the short list.

And that’s calling the board recruiter directly.

It’s that simple, but there’s more to it, which I go into below.

Before that, please keep in mind that I use the term ‘board recruiter’ to encompass an actual board recruitment specialist AND/OR any person on the board (or associated with the board) who is driving or responsible for the board recruitment activity (for example, the Chair of the Nominations Committee, or even the Chair of the Board themselves).

Now I have also used the word “calling” specifically. This is where actually speaking / talking to the recruiter carries a lot more weight than something like an email.

So why do I recommend calling the board recruiter?

It is a perfect opportunity to build a relationship and some rapport to help your application to make it through the first cut (although it’s not guaranteed) and to introduce yourself to the recruiter for future potential board opportunities.

In addition to sounding them out a little more about the particular opportunity and whether this is indeed a board you want to join (“Why is the opportunity available?” may be an insightful question to ask). Your goal is to authentically build a level of rapport that will increase the likelihood of them actually looking at your CV and getting you in for an interview.

When you call the recruiter, ask questions about the opportunity/board role, the board itself, the organisation, and the recruitment process (timeline, responses, interview dates, etc.). As much as they are choosing you for a board role, you’re also choosing them (for when you need to recruit members for your board) and this particular board – it’s a two-way street.

Try to understand a little more of the specifics of the role and about their interview and appointment process (so that you can have your expectations calibrated correctly).

Ascertain what specific skill-set and other attributes they are looking for, and what their ideal candidate looks like; all very useful information needed for your board resume and cover letter.

You may like to talk briefly about yourself and your background and gain some feedback about whether you should apply for this opportunity. Have your unique value proposition and reason for wanting to join this board ready to go!

I think that’s a good amount of conversation, for an initial discussion, with the board recruiter at this stage of the process. You really want to focus on building a meaningful, authentic connection with the recruiter. Being well prepared for the conversation is vital.

And, if you say you’re going to apply, please apply (or tell them that you changed your mind if you choose not to apply for this opportunity so you don’t blow your chances on the next one).

What questions would ask a board recruiter in this type of conversation?

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