Changes in board governance are creating opportunities for executives with certain backgrounds and experience. In our most recent webinar a panel of top search consultants from across Europe and the US shared their insights into the current movements and how best to take advantage of them.

Current Hiring Conditions and Trends

The situation differs slightly across Europe but major trends are a move towards recruiting more women onto boards and candidates with international experience. What is being sought is a diversity of ideas, experience and geography.

In France there is currently a frenzy of recruiting happening to try to fill female board quotas and the boards are not necessarily looking for French women, but they want French speaking women so they can add another level of diversity to their boardroom. In addition to the more general trends towards female executives and those with international experience, Germany’s boards are looking for diversity in age range and are trying to attract younger executives with a global mind set to rejuvenate their teams. The UK has seen an increase in the appointments of independent directors to private equity and venture capitalist boards where investors are taking a longer term view and value independent board members, specifically chairmen.

Globally there is still a huge demand for sitting board chairmen, but the prospective candidate pool has shrunk. More companies are restricting the number of boards their sitting directors can serve on and in some cases frustratingly, senior board members are not allowed to sit on any outside boards. This is partly due to the time commitment but also the reputational risks that go along with serving on another company’s board. This leads to opportunities for other key executives (COO, CFO CIO) to be considered for board opportunities.

Advice for Securing a Board Seat

It is not as easy as saying ’I want to be on a board’; one has to approach and think about board membership in a much more strategic way.

The biggest demand is for executives with specific experience and for women, but even if you tick those boxes you will still need to work to get that board seat. The first question a chairman will ask is what board experience does this person have? It is very well worthwhile considering any interesting board opportunities that come along, even if they don’t seem to be as grand as one was first looking for.

Be diligent in building your career and pay attention to your track record and your performance. Choose two people to approach to be your career advisors and make contact with search professionals. Expose yourself at proper events, by acting as a guest speaker for example. Add it all together and you have the beginnings of a strong network which will open up many board opportunities.

Don’t just send a cover letter and bio, send a recommendation! Ask a CEO or a board member of another company who you have worked with to send a recommendation on your behalf - that will get you noticed by search consultants.


This article was written by Sarah Wright, Marketing Assistant at the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at


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