The Path to the Boardroom

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Global management consulting and executive search firm EgonZehnder works with over 600 corporate boards annually. In this article, the firm draws on this extensive experience with corporate boards to answer the question: How precisely does one go about becoming a director on a corporate board?

Niche

The answer, EgonZehnder contends, is not so dissimilar from that pursued in an executive job search. Corporate director opportunities do not exist in abundance, but they do exist. Last year, in 2021, 456 new directors were appointed to S&P 500 companies.

Interestingly and perhaps encouraging to those interested in these opportunities, 65 percent of these 456 new directors were not C-suite executives prior to their appointment as directors.

Create a board biography

The first step in the search for an executive board role is to create a board biography, which is distinct from a CV or resume but draws on the information that likely exists in those documents.

A board biography, EgonZehnder argues, “should include leadership, mentoring, P&L responsibility, governance knowledge, board exposure and management experiences.” In an addendum to this article, the firm describes in detail the content that an executive board candidate should be sure to include in their board biography.

Conversations

Interviews for board positions tend to be more prolonged conversations than those for traditional full-time positions and likely will include “a series of conversations rather than an HR-style interview.” They also will include meetings and conversations with multiple corporate personnel, including the head of the board nominating committee, the board chair, and the CEO if that person is not the company’s board chair.  

In these meetings, a director applicant will want to come armed with specific questions that reflect knowledge of the company and its opportunities and challenges, a list of high-level, credible references who can speak to their readiness for a director role, and synthesized summaries of practical experiences in the applicant’s professional background that point to the value they would bring to a corporate board.    

Patience            

The final step, EgonZehnder reports, is patience because the selection of a corporate director is a process— and, like all processes, they take time.

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