Reviewing our extensive job listings, we know that the majority of role advertisements specify candidates who are already experienced in a non-executive role, or who have experience of corporate governance and sitting on a board. 

So as an aspiring non-executive director who may be seeking your first position at this level, how do you overcome the apparently insurmountable barrier of needing ‘experience’? 

Everyone has faced this situation at some point in their non-executive evolution, so how did current non-executives convince their interviewing panel they were right for their first role? And how can you learn from their experience? 

Anne Watson outlines the top three things you can proactively do to portray yourself as an experienced candidate.


In order to convince others that you are the right person for the role, self-belief must underpin any job search. Confidence in your skills and capabilities to make the right kind of impact and contribution round the board table will lend you the authority you need, both during the interview and for the job itself. Underpin this with solid research, understanding the legal obligations of the role, together with an in-depth understanding of corporate governance, and you will have made an important step in establishing your credibility.  

The right CV

Your collateral in terms of the right non-executive CV and a carefully crafted accompanying email or letter will be clear in demonstrating what you have to offer a board. You’re not putting yourself forward as a competent, successful and enthusiastic executive who aspires to a very different kind of career. You’re presenting yourself as someone who has mentally already made that step and who has developed the skill set of the effective non-executive director. It’s up to you to create a CV for every opportunity, a document that is the CV of a non-executive director, demonstrating competence and one that is highly relevant for the role you are applying for.

Meet as an equal, not as an applicant

When you’re attending the interview, act as if you already are a non-executive director. Make sure that the behaviours you exhibit at interview are those expected of a non-executive director. 

What might these be?

1. Attentive listening.

2. Incisive questions that will based on the very thorough research you have done prior to the interview.

3. Focusing on the board and their needs rather than showcasing your capabilities.

4. Ensuring that you question them about their corporate governance so they can see that you are on top of critical areas.

5. Be ready with a whole range of examples that demonstrate you are thinking like a non-executive.

6. Understand their company, their sector and their competition. Know your stuff!