Of the ways to land a non-executive appointment, the main ways are:
- Responding to an advertisement in the National, Regional, or Trade Press
- Contacting a Search consultancy
- Using personal contacts
Public appointments are advertised in the National Press, often in The Times/Sunday Times or on The Guardian website. Advertisements are placed by the organisation concerned or by a search consultancy with the mandate to do so. At the time of writing:
Other press publications have taken it a stage further and offer programmes to help individuals become NEDs. The FT, for example, runs The Effective Non-Executive Director Programme beginning in October.
2. Search Consultants
As a generalisation, Search Consultants prefer to concentrate on assignments to fill full-time appointments – the fees are higher! The consultancies that handle NED roles are either the major ones or specialist firms and approaches are best made though a personal introduction or via a Trade body. Much of my own work is in the closed end funds sector and individuals either contact me direct or via the AIC (The Association of Investment Companies) the industry’s trade body.
3. Personal Contacts
This is often the most productive way.
Start by going through your address book and contacting individuals who you know have already gone down the non- executive route. Arrange to meet them, ask for their advice and if possible, for specific introductions. There is nothing degrading in asking for help and most friends are happy to provide it.
Research companies in the sectors which interest you, identifying directors who have served on Boards for eight years or more and whose background and work experience is broadly similar to your own. Where there is a director in this category, it is likely that the Board will need to look for a replacement in the reasonably near future. Register your interest in being considered as a candidate, either through a current Board member or by using any contact that you may have with one of the company’s professional advisers – auditors, lawyers, brokers, etc. This can lead to an exploratory meeting or with your interest being registered with company’s preferred Search consultancy.
Always do your research first and if you have more than one contact in a target company, choose the one who knows you best and focus on him – scatter gunning is never a good idea. Be patient and disciplined, allocating specific times each week to researching target companies and arranging meetings/interviews. Whenever you can, attend seminars on the NED’s role and ensure that you keep up to date with developments in corporate governance. Above all, take every opportunity that you can to network – nobody will know that you are looking for a non-executive appointment unless you tell them!
In my next article, I shall give some tips on how to structure and compile a cv, stressing items that you should and, even more importantly should not, include.