When it comes to sourcing excellent and diverse Board of Directors (BOD) candidates, Jana Rich is the person tech giants and top unicorns turn to. In an insights-packed Virtual Roundtable session moderated by Dave Scott, Former Global Marketing Exec at Twitter, Jana shares the insider’s perspective on BOD searches and recruitment. Long before California legislation mandated board diversity and Goldman Sachs made it a prerequisite for an IPO, Jana started an executive recruitment business that had diversity and digital as its fundamental principles. The Founder and CEO of Rich Talent Group, she’s seen an 83% increase in board searches in the last year as the murder of George Floyd and the impact of BLM accelerated urgency for companies to bring diversity to their highest leadership table. Join us for this behind-the-scenes look at what top companies are looking for, how BOD searches are conducted, and how successful candidates land the independent director seat.  

The future of corporate boards is diverse. It’s not a moment. It’s a movement.
– Jana Rich

Making the right match. 

What Top Companies Are Looking For

Digital transformation experience and younger candidates who are digital natives are increasingly in demand.

  • Historically, marketers were not considered valuable in the boardroom, but that is changing as more established companies want to make digital transformations. While the CEO, COO, and CFO roles continue to be at the top of the list in search briefs that come in, Marketing, GTM, and Sales people – especially those with P&L responsibility – are increasingly sought after. 
  • To stand out in the pack, make sure you understand what companies are looking for in independent BOD searches (e.g. AI, Machine Learning, Big Data & Analytics, Crisis). Elevate your visibility by publishing and speaking on these topics and demonstrating your thought leadership position in the industry. 

How BOD Searches Are Conducted 

More than 67% of public companies source BOD candidates through outside search firms. How the process works: 

Step 1: Gap Analysis

This is a disciplined evaluation of the existing board, mapping the expertise in place against benchmark world-class boards and what company leaders believe are essential skills and perspectives to get them to the next level. The key abilities, backgrounds, expertise that are missing define the search criteria for the independent BOD seat. Example: “We want an independent BOD who’s a woman of color and has AI and Machine Learning expertise.”

Step 2: Candidate Profiles

The search firm presents profiles of candidates that address the requirements and the search brief. The candidates themselves may still be unaware that they’ve been presented for this specific opportunity.  

Step 3: Finalist Selection

The company picks five of the candidates presented and the search firm reaches out to each candidate to assess: 

  • Does the executive have the capacity to serve in a BOD seat? 
  • Would their company allow them to serve in this specific seat? 
  • Is there a conflict of interest? 
  • Is the candidate interested in this specific company? 

Step 4: Offer

Company leaders meet five candidates and they pick one. It’s a time-consuming process that takes 6-8 months or more.

  • During the pandemic, virtual meetings and the heightened demand for women and POC candidates shrank the process to 2-3 months. 
  • As the world re-opens, expect it to slow down again. There’s pent-up demand for in-person BOD candidate interviews. 

Successful BOD candidates are stars in their professions. We’ve typically seen them in 2-3 operating role searches previously. They’re direct reports to the CEO, have significant business responsibility and industry notoriety.
– Jana Rich

How Successful Candidates Land the BOD Seat

Getting into the loop and onto the radar. 

Nail your elevator pitch

If you had sixty seconds to tell someone what would qualify you for board service, what would you say? 

Develop your Board Bio

This one-pager has the specific skills and experiences that make you most compelling and explains how you would make material impact and add value on Day 1. Best practices for the Board Bio include: 

  • Short and impactful. 2-4 paragraphs max. Clearly articulates what you’re uniquely bringing. Written in the third person.
  • Includes specifics, metrics. Role, level, and reporting structure explicitly stated. Growth and improvement in major strategic priorities and functional areas of responsibilities (P&L, international, etc.) are quantified. 
  • Board experience. Very few boards are requiring prior board service but it is important to demonstrate you’re experienced at contributing at this level. List other board experience if you’ve served previously. If not, list how you’ve previously presented to the board or contributed to their work.

Build the network

  • Take the call from tier 1 recruiters. Even if you’re very happy in your current role and you’re at capacity now, the process takes time and things may change. Let the person who reached out to you about an operating role know that you’d love an internal referral to the person at the firm doing BOD recruitment. 
  • Elevate your industry voice. Convene a group, be a speaker, contribute constructively to the collaborative dialogue in your network and in the trade and business press. Your industry expertise is just as important as your functional expertise. Company leaders and executive recruiters take notice, and it helps them see how you could contribute at the board level. 
  • Get the word out with your network. If you have colleagues and friends who are being recruited for BOD roles, share that you’re interested in BOD service. Referrals come this way as well.

No matter what stage you are in the journey to joining a board – from turning over the idea to actively interviewing — understanding the specific things that you need to be thinking about at each stage helps elevate your board readiness.
– Dave Scott

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