This is an excerpt from the BlueSteps Executive Guide to Joining a Board of Directors, available for complimentary download here.
You would never set out on a camping trip without the proper gear: a tent, hiking boots, food and water. You should approach your board search the same way. You have to make sure that your career documents are ready for the journey ahead. We asked BlueSteps Executive Career Services Advisors Mike Lorelli and Dave Moran, who both specialize in board searches, how candidates can prepare their career documents to put their best foot forward in their board search.
How is a board focused resume different than a typical executive resume?
DM: An executive resume is purely historic. A board focused resume should be forward looking, showing how capabilities can be applied to the future challenges the candidate may face.
ML: A typical executive resume talks about how many dragons the candidate has slayed, i.e. how much they reduced expenditures by or how many departments they eliminated. A board resume should discuss softer qualities such as their coaching achievements and their mentoring experience.
Should a candidate highlight different positions, accomplishments, specific skills/certifications, etc. On their resume?
DM: A candidate should always try to differentiate themselves with the outcomes they have delivered, particularly in the difficult global economy. Simply listing skills is not enough, skills are too generic. But outcomes give the candidate definition and definition is key.
ML: As previously mentioned, make sure to highlight specific achievements that demonstrate the softer qualities you possess such as coaching accomplishments or success working on a difficult team. These are the traits that will be the most beneficial on a board so if you can showcase these skills early you will start your search in a good position.
Most people that are looking for board seats have had long careers, what should/shouldn't they include on their resume?
DM: They should include all elements of their career that form part of the sales pitch they are making for a board role. Any information that is not related to their board sales pitch should be discarded, it is simply noise and distracts the reader away from the board pitch.
ML: Talk about your entire career but make sure your resume isn’t too long. It should be no longer than two pages. And you want to be sure that you are highlighting the parts of your career that will be most relevant to board service.
Are different traits needed for different kinds of boards?
DM: Not really. The overall goal is the same for all kinds of boards, to prove and demonstrate capability.
ML: There isn’t any big difference between the different kinds of boards, but candidates need to be aware what skills any type of board is looking for. I always recommend that candidates create their own skills map, which is a diagram that figures out what skills the board needs to be successful. Plug in the skills of the existing board members and identify the gaps, then find which gaps you can fill.
How should someone interested in a board position write their LinkedIn Profile?
DM: LinkedIn is a chance to talk to the reader whereas a resume talks at them. They can use LinkedIn to support and augment their resume with additional information. Further, because there is no size constraint on a LinkedIn profile the writer can extemporize in the intro section and outline their interests and desires. LinkedIn profiles give the reader the opportunity to learn more about the candidate on a personal level.
Any additional insight you think is important for a candidate to know?
ML: Having credentials is a huge plus; go through the governance training from a credible institution. Having the education about governance will give the candidate a huge leg up compared to those that have no training. Also, it’s never too early to start the board search process, I always tell the people I coach that they should look to join their first board by 40. It doesn’t matter what kind of board, public, non-profit, private, but having board experience of any kind will only help them as they go forward in their board careers.