Want a seat in the boardroom? Here are 3 things your resume needs

Photo: reynermedia

Despite unprecedented economic and social changes in 2020, board leadership remains a lucrative area where many in the C-suite are heading towards.

Recent insights from Spencer Stuart’s Board Index 2020 Highlights show that the average total compensation for S&P 500 non-employee directors is over $300,000 annually, representing a 1% year-over-year increase. 

If you’re a senior executive or C-suite leader looking to make a pivot into the boardroom for an organization, your board resume will navigate through different terrain as opposed to a standard executive resume. That means charting your career accomplishments and showcasing your impact across key functional areas, including financial management, corporate governance, due diligence, risk governance, strategic planning, compliance, and stakeholder engagement. 

Desiring a coveted seat in the boardroom? Here are three things your board resume must have to properly support your application:

Board membership and high-level leadership

Board members hold enormous discretionary decision-making power, and the weight of their decisions impact the business infrastructure and its shareholders. As a result, prior board interactions or high-level leadership experience is a material consideration when aiming for a board seat. 

Consider areas where your leadership value has been tested and proven across domestic and international experience, committee and task force leadership, strategic initiatives, and through a well-rounded acumen (legal, business, financial). Board leaders are focused on the strategy of the business, the financial profit and performance of the business, the structural governance of the business, and the operational fortitude of the business. 

According to Spencer Stuart’s Board Index 2020 Highlights, 27% of directors joining S&P 500 boards have financial backgrounds. Consider ways you have shaped organizations and pivoted them into new areas in the marketplace.

Ask yourself these questions: have you been a champion for change? Have you played a key role in influencing stakeholders? Have you driven financial turnarounds? How have you managed crisis during the tumultuous 2020?

Expert Tip:  A reported 28% of new directors served on their first corporate board in 2020. If you do not have prior board leadership experience, you may want to consider reaching out to organizations that offer training and fellowship opportunities for aspiring board members and corporate directors such as the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD).

Your mission and value-add growth

Board leaders are changemakers. They seek to evolve organizations for long-term influence. Prior to applying for a board seat, think about your own personal mission, values, and goals.  If you’re committed to social change or impact, a non-profit organization may align with your personal goals.

If you’re more focused on driving the financial prowess of a corporation, you may desire a board seat at a Fortune 500 company or privately held corporation. Keep in mind, however, for-profit and non-profit boards will require different skillsets, experience, and aptitude.

For example, as the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, I quickly joined the board of directors of a non-profit breast cancer organization several years ago because it was a cause close to my heart. I subsequently served on the board of directors for a national nonprofit resume writers’ association where I leveraged both my legal and business acumen to review and draft ethics policies, develop social media policies, and create other pertinent governance documents. The organizations were different in purpose, yet both represented values that aligned with my professional and personal goals. 


Expert Tip:  Think about the industry you want to concentrate on applying to for a board seat. Is it germane to your own career industry experience?  Do you have a story to share about why the cause or mission of the entity is important to you? Connect this to your board resume for greater impact.

Corporate governance and identity

If you’re seeking a board of directors’ role, it’s important that you focus on your work that surrounds corporate governance, entity formation and growth, and corporate identity. The first step is to consider how organizational infrastructures have evolved over time and what role you’ve played in transforming the organizations through times of growth and times of underperformance.

If you’ve taken a struggling organization, established EBITDA positive, and driven it to profitable economic growth, showcase how you surged the financial footing and primed it for a successful sale to a publicly traded company. 

Other factors to consider include whether you have played key roles in the acquisition, sale, or divestiture of the organization, and aspects of due diligence and integration you’ve also led.

Think about board processes and procedures, business and corporate initiatives you’ve driven and implemented, contracts you’ve negotiated, and how you’ve shaped the public image of the corporation through speaking, media, and community involvement. 

Expert Tip:  Consider how you have leveraged financial growth and impact of the organization’s governance through various channels: expansion, cost savings, profitability, and performance. 

Keep in mind that your board resume will also need a mix of soft skills specifically applicable to board leaders that span collaboration, stewardship, consensus building, and relationship management across governments, stakeholders, and board interactions.  

Wendi Weiner is an attorney, executive resume writer, and founder of The Writing Guru, an award-winning resume writing services firm. She creates powerful career and personal brands for attorneys, senior executives, C-suite, and Board leaders for their job search, LinkedIn presence, and digital footprint.