Step 4 of 8 to Join a Board of Directors: Reach Out to Executive Search

executive search

As we said in Step 3: Your strategic Target Twelve are the most important relationships you want to kindle in your quest.

“Susan Stautberg, co-founder of a membership group called WomenCorporateDirectors, said upping the number of female directors will take a combination of outspoken CEOs raising the issue’s profile, active support for women by executives and board members, and the building-out of resources that help companies identify qualified women directors.”

Raise your level of visibility and consider your relationship with the board executive search partners.

The company’s Board’s Nomination and Governance Committee are responsible for recommending new board members to hire. The committee may use the who-they-know process, and other times they hire executive search firms to find top qualified board candidates.

Executive Search firms, big and medium sized typically, have specialists in-house that are partners focused on board search and CEO placement. You have probably already dealt with several executive search firms during your career. Your contacts in executive search may not specialize in director placement. Now is the time to utilize your connections to be introduced to the board search specialists.

Realize that most of the companies in the USA are not public companies. One executive board search partner stated that upwards of 60% of their board search business is private company board placement. When you ask for a company board opportunity, be open to all the possibilities: large, medium or small company, public or private. Do your homework. See the trends in global board governance, trends in board composition, board practices and director compensation or how directors feel about the economy, board effectiveness and compensation.

Do you know of one search firm executive that might be your champion should you need one inside the search firm? If you are a highly respected global business line executive, you may need a champion inside the firm to ‘get you over the hump’ of resistance to place a non-sitting CEO. Seek this person out and ask for their advice.

Getting the endorsement of a sitting CEO for the aspiring board candidate carries much weight. This is particularly true of women seeking their first public board. For example, some executive search firms make use of a database of several hundred women seeking their first corporate board, all of whom have a specific CEO recommending them as a board member.

Make sure you’re ready.

You are ready to reach out to executive search about a board role assuming your board bio is written, resume is polished, your references are lined up and your target companies have been researched.

a)  Through your contacts, reconnect with representatives at these firms and ask for an introduction to the board search experts.

Some examples include:
Spencer Stuart

Heidrick & Struggles

Korn Ferry

Stanton Chase

Pearson Partners

Egon Zehnder

Russell Reynolds

RSR Partners

Diversity in Boards

b) Send in your resume.

Unless you have a specific relationship with an executive search person, your goal is to get into their database. Once in their research database, you’ll be visible through the tool they use the most, as it is such a needle-in-the-haystack search for each position or assignment, including board of director positions. E-mail your resume to the people you have met in executive search firms. Follow up with a phone call to touch base. Keep it light; do not be heavy handed. Every twelve months or so, when something substantial occurs in your career, update your resume and send it in again to keep your executive search colleagues up-to-date with your latest information.


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