How to write a good Board CV
In essence a Board CV is an opportunity to identify your value proposition and director capabilities. It should be seen as a sales tool. So says, only slightly paraphrased, Kirti Lad a Board level recruiter, who after a long time with Harvey Nash now works for Meraki in Hong Kong. A Board CV does a very specific job - so it requires some consideration regarding what you choose to write and the way the information is presented. Below are some tips that will make yours stand out.
Relevance is perhaps the most important, in my view. Kirti Lad talks about the 30:2:5 rule: "an assessor will spend 30 seconds scanning your CV, 2 minutes reviewing it and 5 minutes considering it in detail and looking into your background." It is vital therefore to make sure the skills and achievements you mention, relate closely to the vision the strategy, stakeholders and the longterm agenda of the Board and it’s shareholders. Your aim is to help the Board visualise how you can add value that would be difficult to duplicate.
Experts recommend that you distil your CV down into two pages. In addition, Board Direction in Australia stresses the importance of having your name in large print at the top as well as your details including your mobile, home address and a link to your LinkedIn information. They also recommend not including a photo - it is a distraction.
Thoughtfully present your Board or committee experience from the point of view of the organisation, especially any experience relating to governance starting with a strong summary.
All should be evidenced with relevant examples but in the interests of brevity one example will need to demonstrate more than one capability so craft them with care. Women on Boards stresses the importance of speaking about your achievements rather than your responsibilities and ensuring they are always quantified with ROI, EBITDA, stock value etc
The essential you
This is where your research can really gain traction. To make your CV stand out, your understanding of who you are and what you do is critical. There will be a pattern in past achievements that is consistent throughout your career path. One high street bank senior manager was fascinated with the technical side of banking transactions and had no luck at interviews until he understood that essentially, he was an engineer enjoying tinkering with the system to get tangible results. Pointing out this unparalleled skill enabled him to successfully target a start up company who could really benefit from his deep knowledge.
Connections and media presence
Women On Boards recommends referring to your connections, as this can be part of the value they are looking for. This includes your media presence, which if significant is important as a way of supporting the company brand. Make sure that all public information about yourself supports what you say. An obvious example is your LinkedIn profile.
Demonstrating motional intelligence is also a must, especially if it has enhanced business results. Effective Board work requires working together synergistically and for that, building trust is essential. Any Board will want you to integrate as effectively as possible and to be able to bring that skill to the intelligent unravelling of the inevitable people issues that beset decision making at any level. However straight talking is also a critical element as Bernie Marcus of Home Depot was quoted as saying in an HBR article in 2002 “I often say, ‘I don’t think you want me on your Board. Because I am contentious. I ask a lot of questions and if I don’t get the answers, I won’t sit down. That’s the kind of Board member that I want on my Board” If you have specialist knowledge demonstrate the times you have had the courage to speak up and make your contribution.
A number of organisations offer a CV writing service service but be warned they may be more interested in numbers than fitness for purpose. You would be better advised to look for support through someone who can provide useful strategic information about what they are looking for like the chair of the organisation you are interested in or an executive coach. Women on Boards offer feedback on your CV from a Board director and introductions to people who can give you more industry related information.
Demonstrate strategic understanding
As I mentioned, your CV for a Board interview, needs to do a selling job and the important aspect of selling is understanding the issues the organisation is facing. Barbara Geraghty in her book Visionary Selling has a helpful chapter on what she calls “strategic convergence”, which explains in detail how to use your research to strategic advantage in your CV. Demonstrating your leadership in M&As, restructurings, turnarounds, consolidations and rebrandings will not go unnoticed.
Fashioning a good Board CV is a skill in itself. The process of writing a good one, with inevitable iterations, will go a long way to helping you understand your unique contribution. If you take on the challenge you can produce a powerful sales pitch that will maximise your chances of securing a director role.