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Reviewing our extensive non-executive director (NED) jobs listings, we know that the majority of role advertisements specify candidates who are already experienced in non-executive roles, or at least have experience of corporate governance and sitting on a board. 

So as an aspiring NED who may be seeking your first position at this level, how do you overcome the apparently insurmountable barrier of needing, gaining and showcasing ‘experience’? 

Everyone has found themselves challenged by this situation at some point in their non-executive evolution; however, we can logically deduce that current non-executives evidenced their experience and convinced their interviewing panel they were right for their first role. 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:

How Can I Find My Self-Belief?

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 in the boardroom will lend you the authority you need, both during the interview and for the job itself. Support this with solid research, understanding of the legal obligations of the role and an in-depth understanding of corporate governance and you will have made an important step in establishing both your ability and credibility.  

How Can I Optimise My CV?

The right business collateral of a polished non-exec CV and a carefully crafted accompanying cover letter or email will function by clearly in demonstrating what you have to offer both to the board as potential colleagues and to the objective governance of the institution as a whole. You should showcase that you've already functioned in enterprise in a competent, successful and enthusiastic manner as an executive; however you’re now ready to further capitalise and share the benefit of that development and experience - with the skill set of an effective non-executive director. Be proactive in tailoring your CV to every opportunity by using a service such as the one here. 

Meet as an Equal, Not as an Applicant

When you meet the board, it is important to maintain strength and to read the body language of the boardroom well. Acting as if you already are a non-executive director elsewhere can assist with the confidence needed to showcase your ability in such a senior role. Make sure that the behaviours you exhibit at interview are those expected of a non-executive director: 

1. Attentive and active listening.

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

3. Focus on the board and their needs rather and how your capabilities answer these.

4. Ensure that you question them about their corporate governance so they can see that you are already actively considering critical areas and challenges.

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

6. Understand the company, sector and know the competition to showcase your proactive knowledge, insight and thought-process.


Update, 19 June, 5.00pm

We recently wrote an article, 3 Questions Non-Executive Directors Often Get Asked at Interview. As a future non-exec director, you're likely to be curious about what kind of questions you might face from the board on your path to becoming a NED - which is exactly why we followed up with some of the most common ones that get asked. Be sure to take a look and be confident that you're prepared for your interview.