Writing a board-ready CV

Rowena Ironside and Ruth Medd
Updated May 2017

A board CV is different from a career CV in a number of ways.  It is important that you identify your transferable skills, articulate your seniority and achievements and highlight past board (or proxy board) experience. All in a succinct way. This article identifies some of the factors in creating a document to get you to the interview  stage.

You have one minute or less to get the reader’s attention.  A strong summary that does you justice "in the round" and sells your seniority and breadth of experience is crucial.  Focus on the value you will add to a board, not your career trajectory. And keep your language objective. Do you have international or cross-sector experience? If so, make sure you mention it.  The summary may be the only thing people read so 2 sentences is almost definitely too short.

Audience: The Chair or recruiter reading your CV may not know your industry or sector; avoid industry jargon and acronyms.  And don't assume your job title will mean anything to them.

Identify transferable skills that apply to any organisation, for example strategy; financial/budget control; risk management; regulation; marketing; PR; digital/transformation; innovation.  Some of these may come from earlier in your career – don’t be too focused on your current role. [These skills should come out in the summary and/or be listed immediately after it, and then be evidenced in the rest of the document].

Focus on achievements rather than responsibilities and make sure they include the "so what?" (impact on the organisation). Quantify your achievements wherever you can; “large team” could mean 40 or 4000 so be specific. Put in values of P&L and budget responsibilities wherever the information is not sensitive, to ensure it is clear what level you are operating at. Two or three well written achievements for a role are much more interesting to a Chair than a long list of bullet points.

Language and relevance: Boards steer strategy and oversee governance, they don’t get involved in day-to-day operations. So make sure that your CV highlights skills and achievements that are relevant to this role. Use strong words like: led; implemented; designed; developed.  Don’t under-sell yourself or your contribution – claim ownership of achievements where appropriate.  Modesty won't get you an interview.

Board experience: If you are on any boards or committees (or have been in the past) then say so.  If you have never had an NED or trustee role have you sat on an industry association committee? Are you a school governor? Have you advised a board or reported to a board?  Include this proxy board experience to show you understand how a board functions.

Your networks and connections may be part of your value to the board.  Tell them if you have international, cross-industry and cross-sector networks/experience. You can also build credibility by naming well-known companies/brands you have worked for/with.

Length:  Keep it to 2 pages. However difficult this seems after a long career, this is all people want to see.  Details of your early career should be summarised in a sentence or two. Avoid long lists of bullet points - people will read 2 or 3 but beyond that you have lost them. Remember you need to get across the value you will add in the boardroom, not everything you have done in your career. It's all about focus.

We have two examples of Board CV's in our Subscriber Resources section of the Resource Centre. Click here if you are a paid subscriber.

Need more help? - consider our Getting Started Workshop, or if you further down the road, our Board CV Masterclass (see the Event Calendar for dates).

TOP TIP: Third-party review: your colleagues, clients and others who know you will often do a better job of articulating your unique strengths and contributions than you will.  Get several people to review and comment on your profile.  Even better if you can ask someone who sits on a board.

A final word: Boards are a collegiate environment; decisions are taken collaboratively.  They challenge and support the executive team.  They are looking for confident, accomplished, independent-minded individuals, not big egos.

The WOB Profile - a stepping stone to a Board CV

The Profile on the WOB website is designed to help you think through and perfect the key elements of a good board CV.  Using this pro-forma is a good interim step if you are translating from an Executive CV to a Board CV.   Click here for an article that will take you though the best way to use your WOB Profile.