Planning Your Résumé Content
Now that you know a little more about the type of board you are targeting — corporate or nonprofit — and what criteria go into the selection process, you can begin planning what to include in your résumé and how to present it.
Identify your areas of expertise and how they might benefit your target board. Both corporate and nonprofit boards have a need for members whose experience and expertise fall within the following areas: budgeting and finance, human resources, technology, strategic planning, risk management, succession planning, legal, compliance, marketing, public relations, and consensus building. Experience within the same or similar industries, and insight about customer/client needs is also essential. And both types of boards value members who have access to a variety of resources (government connections, attorneys, accountants, consultants).
Corporate boards also look for global experience and expertise in matters such as mergers and acquisitions, research and development, IPOs, shareholder proposals, and investments. A few terms that are commonly heard in corporate boardrooms — and that you’ll want to consider including as keywords in a corporate board résumé — are earnings per share, EBITDA, quarterly returns, stock buyback, real estate transactions, Sarbanes-Oxley, and Dodd-Frank.
On the other hand, nonprofit boards seek members whose expertise may include grant writing, fundraising campaigns, donor relations, endowments, 501(c)(3) applications, and volunteer management. Some of the keywords that you’ll want to include in a nonprofit board résumé are donor capacity, restricted/unrestricted gifts, pledges, stewardship, community education, foundations, and capital campaigns.
Keywords representing personal style that belong in both corporate and nonprofit résumés include consensus builder, collaborator, motivator, strong communicator, and diplomatic. Although you want to draw attention to your contributions and accomplishments, avoid language that suggests you single-handedly brought about results.
Whereas the content and tone of a jobseeker’s résumé is geared toward promoting the candidate and, ideally, elevating his or her career, the president and CEO of BoardSource made the distinction in tone and content clear in the following statement: “When you join a board, what you are really saying is that you agree to put your personal interests and ambitions in the background. You are there to best serve the interest of the company or organization.”
Constructing the Résumé
The overall format of your board résumé is not that different than your job search résumé; however, sections that are considered optional or secondary to actual work experience have more credence when positioning yourself for a board of director’s role.
- Letterhead:As with your job search résumé, design your letterhead so that your name is formatted as the most prominent feature. For contact information, include your city, state, and ZIP code (street address is not necessary), as well as an email address and phone number (because you are not targeting employment, a work email address and/or phone number may be acceptable). Including the URL to your LinkedIn profile is also a good idea — provided your profile is complete and you have taken the time to create a custom (“vanity”) URL.
- Headline:Instead of beginning with an actual job title that identifies what you do, the headline should make it clear that you are targeting a board position. The headline may include some key functional areas of expertise you bring to that position and the industry in which you have gained this expertise. For example:
Target: Board of Directors — Commercial Banking & Finance
Financial Analysis | Mergers & Acquisitions | Audits
- Profile:This can be a paragraph of three to five sentences. In a CareerTrend blog post, Ashley Henshaw offered these suggestions: “Broadly describe your professional qualifications in a sentence or two, focusing on how your leadership led to identifying goals and achieving consensus to overcome obstacles. Use the remaining sentences to explain your personal interest in becoming a board member for that specific company or organization.” You want to also highlight your knowledge of, connections in, and commitment to the industry or community in which the board is involved.
- Employment Experience:As you develop this section, think more big-picture and less detail. Unless your responsibilities and tasks are specifically relevant to the role you would perform on the board, try to keep the information very high level. Make sure you integrate relevant keywords and, when specifying accomplishments, spin them in such a way as to show they were the result of a collaborative effort.
- Optional Sections:Here is where you might feature more examples and details than on your employment résumé. Create a section for board experience;include organization names, cities, states, and service dates (even if they are not relevant to the position of interest, because they still demonstrate your commitment and leadership skills). Also include sections and details for professional affiliations/memberships, recognitions/awards, community involvement/volunteer experience,and presentations.And because diversity (age, gender, race, and ethnicity) is a key consideration when selecting board members, you might include things that you would normally downplay on a job search résumé.
- Education:In addition to the type of degree and field of study, include leadership roles and honors received, even if they are somewhat “dated.” Also include in this section professional credentials and certifications, as well as conferences and workshops attended.
In her article, Boardroom Bound? Ten Steps to Get You There,Kay Koplovitz nicely summarizes the key points addressed in this guide:
- Ask yourself why you want to be on a corporate board.
- Consider what you can offer the board, not what the board can offer you.
- Take an on-boarding class for first-time board members.
- Join online discussion groups and registries.
- Learn about board governance responsibilities.
- Learn the responsibilities of each committee.
- Read the company’s annual report.
- Make yourself visible through networking.
- Attend events for board members.
- Prepare for the interview.