If you’ve been asked to submit your résumé for a board position, you may be wondering how that résumé is different than a résumé you would prepare for a job opportunity.
Much the same as writing a résumé for a job search, it is important to know your audience before you begin writing a résumé for a board position. There are many things to consider, from the broad to the specific. Are you targeting a corporate or nonprofit board? Does the company or organization that is supported by the board fall within a specific industry? How are board members recruited, screened, and selected? What skills, expertise, and experiences are relevant to board service?
Your answers to these questions will influence the overall tone of the résumé, what to include, what to exclude, what to spin differently, and what keywords to build into the content.
Corporate or Nonprofit Board
Before examining the similarities and differences between the two types of boards, first keep in mind the overarching differences between corporations and nonprofit organizations.
- For-profit corporations are owned by stockholders; their focus is on generating money for the owners, and they measure success by profits.
- Nonprofit organizations are owned by the public; their focus is on serving the public, and they measure success by meeting the needs of the public.
Whether the board oversees a Fortune 500 company, another type of for-profit company, or a nonprofit organization, there are more similarities than differences.
Every board has written articles of incorporation, bylaws, and governing principles that outline the responsibilities of the board of directors. Standard board policies cover member independence, conflict of interest, conduct/ethics code, expectations, confidentiality, and indemnification. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with these when targeting a specific board of directors will help you formulate your résumé strategy.
Both for-profit and nonprofit boards have a responsibility to approve, remain current with, and oversee the organization’s strategic plan, putting considerable emphasis on strategic thinking as a desired skill in filling board seats. Because they generally have a higher level of participation in developing the plan from its initial stages, members of nonprofit boards and start-up companies often serve on one or more strategic planning committees.
Overseeing the financial wellbeing of the organization they represent is a primary responsibility of corporate and nonprofit boards; however, there are some key differences. Corporations have an obligation to deliver a financial return to stakeholders; therefore, corporate boards are focused on net earnings, stock prices, and dividend rates.
Although many nonprofit organizations have turned their attention toward building and managing investment portfolios, they still rely heavily on fundraising. Because of this, nonprofit boards have a different focus in how they operate, and they consider a member’s net worth or ability to financially support the organization as essential to fulfilling their mission and goals.
Bringing in a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences can be key to an organization’s success. Whether the board is a for-profit or nonprofit, board member diversity (e.g., gender, socio-economic background, race, religion, and nationality) has become a high priority. Boards strive to mirror the demographic of their customers/clients and meet the interests of their regulators and stakeholders.
All boards have an obligation to serve as ambassadors for the organization they support, educating influencers and the community about the importance of what they do. And all boards face the same key challenges — rapidly changing technology, market competition, regulatory restrictions, limited resources, and finding and retaining good people. Just as a jobseeker’s résumé must illustrate an understanding of these challenges and the candidate’s ability to address them, a résumé for a board of director candidate must do the same.