No, You Can't Submit a Resume or CV For This Board Seat!

MAY 10, 2017

Creating Your Board Documents

Applying for a different job? Making a career change? Thinking it's time to take a leap into something new? Then you are likely ramping up the ol' resume mill to pump out your CV or resume to countless channels on the internet. But what about if your career change is leaning towards Board directorship? Do you polish up the same documents and send a resume or CV for Board positions? Sounds like an easy thing to do - after all, your experience is your experience, right? The answer is a profound "NO." ...and this mistake is made over and over again by those looking to move into Board directorship.

Submitting a resume or CV for a Board position is the fastest way to be eliminated from the Board candidate pool

Yep, that's right. Doesn't work that way! Now, I know that a few folks in the executive / board placement industry are going to write to me and complain, "...why are you giving away knowledge that currently makes our vetting process easier..." But hey, my articles are about truth and are designed to offer up insight and solutions. I must admit, too, that when building my Boards and soliciting candidates, I can tell within a matter of seconds if I have a serious Board candidate or not. First off, if the file name of their email attachment says 'resume' or 'CV,' I know I could have someone that is either not up to speed or likely doesn't have in-depth experience in the Board space. For companies in the public and private sectors (and potentially the non-profit sector), a serious Board candidate is required - not someone who is simply looking to fluff their career and have a cushy title. So give yourself a fighting chance! Create the proper documents!

Creating the proper 'Board Document' is the first step in representing yourself as a serious Board candidate

"So what is this mysterious 'Board Document' and how do I create it?" I thought you might ask! I have found the most success personally in landing Board seats and also vetting candidates for the Boards that I build with the following Board Document formula:

  • Most simply, be sure to name your file correctly! This is the first impression you will make. Something such as 'Mark_A_Pfister-Board_Document_2017.pdf' is clean and easily deciphered. You have shown the person receiving your request (and already cleared the first hurdle) by showing your understanding that they are Board Documents, not a resume or CV!
  • Remember that a job resume caters towards how you have managed, led and motivated teams or employees to accomplish goals in most cases within set budgets, pre-determined timeframes and defined measures of success.- essentially how you have 'worked' within a defined hierarchical realm where job deliverables are already defined and your reporting relationship is set via a published organizational chart. Conversely, your Board Document needs to convey what I view as a step above just run-of-the-mill leadership and deliverables - focus on true leadership triumphs and governance-type accomplishments is key to get the proper perception across. You need to show your independent thinking and thought autonomy outside of hierarchical structures. For this to be effective, you need to think strategic above and beyond tactical.
  • The top 4 or 6 lines of your Board Document are paramount. Did you capture me early? Have you established yourself as a serious Board candidate? This is your intro statement, or what's called your 'Board Profile.' Focus your summary on your thought leadership, innovation and collaboration. Have you established yourself as an industry expert? Good place to summarize this, too. Remember, this is only 3-4 concise sentences, so use your words wisely.
  • The concept of 'broad brush strokes' covering your experience and expertise is a good way to look at this. If your current role / title / focus spanned across multiple companies, list it in this way. This approach differs from a resume where you list the company first and then your role / title / focus when you were there.
  • Other activities above and beyond your day-to-day activities are great to include, also. This actually is similar to a resume or CV, but I prefer it listed somewhat differently. Personally, I use the section heading of 'Education, Certifications, Membership & Causes' to help in keeping my Board Documents more compact. I also don't feel the need to list dates next to the listed items in this area as it dilutes the summarized message.

Length of a resume or CV is typically a big topic of conversation (and disagreement). This is no different in Board Document discussions. You will typically hear that 2-3 pages is ideal, and this could be true based on someone's preference. I opt for slightly longer, but this is done in such a way that I can include two additional sections that I view as game changers, especially in candidate decision-making scenarios:

  • One is called 'My High Competency / Focus Areas,' which ties back my experience, expertise and passion to specific and common Board Committees. This has the effect of associating experience to actual Committee focus areas of a Board - whether it be as a Committee member or the Chair of a specific Committee. Seeing as how a bulk of the work on a Board is typically done within the Committee areas, you have just associated yourself to the solution-generation area of the Board.
  • The other added area I call 'My Core Competencies.' This lists characteristics I (and hopefully others) would use to describe my demeanor and approach in group and leadership situations. Categories such as Character, Communication and Strategic (to name a few) have listed descriptive words underneath them to support my 'soft skills' focus. This is one area that standard Board Documents do a poor job of representing - until now.

With these pointers, I wish you the best of luck in your Board endeavors. Just make sure your Board Document is complete and compelling.

What will you consider when creating your Board Document?

Reach out if you need help creating your own killer Board Document


About the Author: In addition to sitting on numerous boards, Mark A. Pfister is a certified Board Director and advises public, private and non-profit boards in efficient and effective operations. He is the inventor of the 'Board as a Service' (BaaS) engagement model and an expert project/program manager frequently consulting on strategic global initiatives in their initiation and operational phases....... <<here>>

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