Getting your first corporate board seat

12 Nov 2019

Getting your first corporate board seat

There is intense competition for a first-time director position and you must be proactive, self-critical and strategic to be in the running, as our guide explains.

The Odgers Berndtson executive search guide to your first board seat offers advice on what makes a good director and how to position yourself best for success when taking this important step.

In compiling this guide, we have drawn on our experience of leading hundreds of successful executive searches for board members on behalf of some of the world’s best-known companies. We’ve also reflected on our clients’ evolving expectations and needs when appointing their board members, and analyzed trends across the global Odgers Berndtson executive search network.

The boardroom has undergone significant conceptual change since the global financial crisis. The corporate director role has been professionalized in the past decade, accelerated in countries like the United States by post-financial crisis legislation.

New faces on board

In addition, some countries in Europe and the state of California in the US have implemented requirements related to gender diversity on public company boards. Germany is the largest economy so far to address the board diversity deficit in this way, mandating that women hold 30% of public company board seats.

Norway was the first country to legislate a mandatory 40% quota for female representation on corporate boards in 2003. Since then, France, Spain, Iceland, and the Netherlands have all instituted similar quotas.

Greater diversity and accountability

Big institutional investors and private equity companies are also pushing for greater diversity and accountability of corporate boards. One way they do this is to adopt investment policies or voting guidelines aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities represented on the boards of their portfolio companies.

All in all, a company director role is far more active and demanding than it once was. But that makes it a more rewarding and fulfilling role at the same time.

These days, directors play a more active role in—and are held accountable for—their company’s health, culture, and performance. Directors are expected to bring their relevant expertise to bear in the boardroom, and this has clear implications for the way you sell yourself.

Some companies have even begun asking their independent directors to serve on no more than one or two other corporate boards. This request reflects an awareness of the increasing demands and time commitment placed on directors, and also the increased value companies place on their boards of directors.

Our guide covers the following:

  • The shape of today’s board.
  • Why good executives are not necessarily good directors.
  • What exactly makes a successful director?
  • Why your skillset is not enough.
  • The nine essential steps to take that first board seat.
  • The importance of honest self-analysis.
  • Writing a board CV the right way
  • Acing the interview
  • Leveraging your identity
  • Working with headhunters
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Your first board position

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