A Board CV: should I write one?
I often get asked, “My executive CV is up to date, so why do I need a Board CV?” Often potential board candidates are unaware that a Board CV is different. It should be a complementary resource that will reinforce in the mind of an appointing organization that you are a strong board candidate. Your Board CV needs to differentiate you from your competitors and dare them not to interview you.
YES! You must write a Board CV and include it with every board application
As an ex-board recruiter, I couldn’t tell you how many times I received an executive CV from a candidate who was applying for a board role. This immediately indicated to me several things:
- #1 – that they were not entirely serious about gaining the, or any, board position
- #2 – that their competitors who had gone to the trouble of writing a dedicated board CV we far more committed
- #3 – they had not given proper consideration to how being an executive differed from being a non-executive
- #4 – that they did not know their value at board level
Not only do these elements adversely affect my ability to grade them positively against their competitor, but I am also very unlikely to risk my reputation by recommending them to my client. Having worked with hundreds of boards and board chairs, I can assure you that they usually feel the same.
How does a Board CV differ from an Executive CV?
A Board CV is not the same as an Executive CV. An executive CV is crafted to gain a C-Suite role and will use the language, aspirations and referees required to do just that. The executive CV focuses on the individual duties, achievements and successes, rather than the more strategic elements required at board level.
The reader (often the Board Chair) is not interested in how many people you manage(d) or the details of your day job. Instead, they want to know how you can operate on, and contribute to, their board.
A board CV is less of a static document than your executive CV. It should be continually evolving, requiring you to spend more time keeping it up to date. For most people, you will be applying for far more board roles than executive roles. You can have multiple board roles at the same time as an executive role and the tenure of the roles are much shorter.
Getting your Board CV past the AI gatekeepers
I can guarantee that at some stage, you will apply for a board role that is listed with a recruitment firm, search firm and/or join a board role matching website or platform. In the vast majority of these cases, your board application will be uploaded to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), where it will be filtered and graded by selection criteria before a human even sets eyes on it. The algorithm will vary depending on the system used, however, they all look for keywords in your documents to determine relevance.
Tips to beat the AI application systems:
- Ensure you customize your board CV and cover letter for every board role.
- Analyze the key selection criteria to determine a list of keywords. Then ensure you include these keywords in your board CV and cover letter.
- Review the vacancy description and list the required & qualifications, skills and experience. If relevant to you, ensure you include them in your document.
- Ensure your job titles and qualifications are stated in the long-form format as well as an acronym eg Master of Business Administration (MBA).
- Avoid using tables and non-standard fonts.
- Avoid putting important information in headers and footers.
- Submit all files as a word document (.docx) unless another format is requested
Getting past Board CV the human gatekeepers
Regardless of who is conducting the board recruitment process (formal or informal), there will always be at least one human gatekeeper assessing your eligibility as a viable candidate for the board seat. These human gatekeepers include: recruiters, headhunters, hiring managers, human resources personnel, board members and the board chair. These gatekeepers may assess your application slightly differently, depending on where they sit in the selection and decision-making process. However you can only submit one board application and board CV, so you need to ensure that yours will set you apart from others competing for the same position.
Get your board profile right. It needs to clearly convince the decision-makers “why you should be appointed to this board”.
Recruiters and board chairs take comfort in those who have done the role before. So, if you have been or are an independent board director make it apparent. If not, articulate what experience you have at board level.
Highlight any Governance Qualifications you have completed and/or prior governance experience. Not only will you be seen as less of a risk, but it also shows your commitment to serving in governance roles.
Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and representative of what is in your Board CV. Inconsistencies may just be enough to downgrade your board application.
How to write a Board CV
Based on what you now know, it’s time to write your first draft. The process of writing your CV is almost as important as the document itself. In doing so, you will be articulating your successes at board level. This information often remains untapped or forgotten unless written down. Moreover, you will be forced to think about your board pitch – what you do and how it is valuable to boards.
The basic structure or format of your board cv should be as follows:
- Personal information & contact details – I usually recommend that you do not include a photograph of yourself as it may detract from the content
- Board profile – include examples of successes you have achieved at a company level
- Board & committee experience – list in reverse chronological order
Executive experience – include any experience at board level or working with boards
- Qualifications – list in reverse chronological order
- Extra professional activities & memberships – that are relevant and have not already been listed
- Referees x 2 – not include contact information (this can be provided upon request)
A final word of advice
The best advice I can give you right now is “Don’t get too bogged down in writing your Board CV”. Don’t get me wrong, your board CV is critical in gaining a board appointment, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Your board CV will become an evolving document that you should customize for every board application. Through trial and error, you will make improvements. Sooner or later, whether as part of a formal or informal process, you will be asked for your board CV. So it must be compelling and provide confidence to the reader (and whoever they send it to) that you have the skills and experience they require to appoint you.
If you would like me to personally write your Board CV, it is one of the service I provide to my Board Appointment Coaching Program PLUS members.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments. He has over a decade of experience in putting people on boards as an international headhunter and recruiter. He has interviewed hundreds of directors and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP director roles in the world.
Hi David. I always enjoy reading your articles,very informative and spot on. Let’s start with putting a winning Board CV: 1.What do you require to Kickstart the process?
2.What is your rate/price?
Franklin, to start the Board CV Writing process, David needs a copy of your current Executive CV. The process of writing your Board CV often takes several drafts before you are both happy with the final version. The service costs $599, but it is included in both our Board Appointment Coaching program packages – https://boardappointments.com/coaching-program/.