Advertising for board members – 5 common failings

Appoint has helped 250 organisations promote their governance roles over the last 12 months. Some received many high quality applications. Others didn’t.

While we acknowledge that an organisation’s brand and the level of remuneration on offer can influence applicants, mitigating the following five failings will always lead to a better response.

Paucity of information

You get out what you put in, so one or two line position descriptions don’t cut it.  Not only does the lack of detail fail to capture the interest of a potential director but it also reeks of “we haven’t thought too much about this” or “we can’t really be bothered”. First impressions do count.  Similarly, experience requirements that simply read “We require the person to have  requisite governance skills” or “A background in our industry would be an advantage” are lazy.

Not for Profit organisations tend to be the worst offenders in this area. Is it because they are under resourced and lack time to produce a full job description? Or is it  because they are desperate to find any director or trustee to volunteer their time so don’t want to make the screening criteria too specific?

Our application statistics show a direct correlation between the time and effort put in to crafting a detailed role description and the quality and quantity of the response.

Lengthy “Applications Close” Dates

Human nature sees many individuals submit their application on the last day.  Extending the closing date just prolongs the process and frustrates those potential board members who applied early (as they await to hear the outcome).  Worse still are roles that state “open until filled” as there is an insufficient call to action.

We suggest a period of three weeks (spanning two fortnightly email broadcasts on Appoint) as the ideal time for positions to remain open.

Failure to sell the sizzle

Good directors don’t need more roles, particularly unpaid ones.  They need to be attracted and inspired and this requires organisations to sell the sizzle.  And don’t think the sizzle is all in the brand or the pay.  Focus on the cause, the calibre of current board members, the quality of existing governance process, the ability to learn or the opportunity to invest.

Failing that, be honest and focus on the challenge!

If the tenure of the role is for less than two years then this should be explained. Also, think carefully about how the appointment process represents the organisation…. yes, we’re looking at those of you who ask people to post their application (rather than email or via online).

Remunerating the role

We know, we know….”Our organisation doesn’t have the funds [to pay the people ultimately responsible for its success]!” However, many capable directors and trustees are, understandably, looking to include paid roles in their portfolio. We encourage organisations to pay even a nominal meeting fee if possible.  This will differentiate the role from similar unpaid ones and attract greater interest from more capable board members.

As always, our first port of call for any remuneration advice is Strategic Pay.

Slow feedback to applicants

We receive a lot of positive feedback when we advise directors that their application will not go through to the next stage…. because we are honest and let them know quickly.  We communicate to all applicants within a week of application closing date.  Don’t leave the task of sending “thanks but no thanks” emails out until the board member is appointed – it’s too long.  Send “no” emails to the definite “no’s” and a “we’re still considering you so please bear with us” email to those when you require more time.

Displaying this respect to all applicants creates a lasting brand experience.  Remember that  a candidate who is not right for this role may become a great board member fit in subsequent years.

Considering a new board appointment?

Please make contact with us when you are at the formative stages of your board appointment process. We’re happy to share our experience or play a role in facilitating it for you.