Reed says the first thing to consider is your motivation by asking yourself “why this board and not just any board?”.
“You can easily offend if you project that you want to use the organisation to develop as a board member versus actually adding value to the entity,” he says.
“(You can) consider a volunteer board to ‘do your time’ but make sure you are genuinely connected to the cause.”
Reed says for those starting out on the journey they should seriously question their board proposition if they have yet to hold a serious senior executive role and also seek professional qualifications.
“Tick the Australian Institute of Company Directors box because its value is way beyond a box tick,” Reed says.
He also says that the road to a board position starts well before filling out an application, it starts with building a proper network and support base.
“Do professional deeds with no immediate or apparent personal gain – play the long game,” Reed says.
“Treat every professional interaction like the person is a potential referee and identify professionals who are prepared to be proactive and unconflicted champions, referees and sponsors and then earn and keep their support.
“Build meaningful relationships and connections instead of simply working the room.”
Reed says the actual written application is also critical in landing a position because the fields for both voluntary and paid board seats in South Australia are very strong.
“Less is more,” says Reed.
“Remember: Bullet points, not paragraphs, fact not spin, and examples not adjectives.
“Capture your proposition ideally in one page only and if this isn’t enough anything else you write is unlikely to make a difference,” he says, and always ensure to tailor the cover letter to the specific target board.
A good place to start in crafting your application, he says, is to “try to write your own appointment press release. If you cannot, they cannot”.
Reed has seen all the mistakes during his 20-year executive search and recruitment career and offers these 15 tips that should be self-evident but often are not:
- Research the board and interview Panel and conduct significant due diligence from the public domain;
- There are some stupid questions – do your research on the organisation and follow current affairs;
- Have an elevator pitch you can use in a phone enquiry or brief interaction;
- Anticipate and proactively declare any perceived or real conflicts of interest;
- Know and be able to illustrate your risk appetite and ask the target board for theirs;
- Articulate your diversity proposition;
- Demonstrate you have learned the multiple Royal Commission lessons;
- Avoid condescending language like “I want to give back to a less commercial sector”;
- Consider when you have been the first to spot a major business risk or opportunity;
- Project a contemporary proposition – can you navigate an online application portal?;
- Summarise all NED roles and all executive roles in reverse chronological order;
- Consider the appropriateness and reach of your LinkedIn profile and synchronise your profile with your bio;
- Don’t ask about meeting times and board fees as your first question;
- Name drop with extreme caution;
- Return every message in a timely fashion – it can be done.