I recently participated on a panel for prospective Board Director members sponsored by the Wellesley Business Leadership Council. In preparation for this event, I selected three key points that I wanted to cover during my segment, which are provided below.
- Why do board director candidates have both a board bio and a board resume? How are they different and how are they used?
Finding a board position is very much networking driven. The board bio is a networking document. It is a kind of personal press release for the purpose of introducing yourself and getting other people engaged or excited about you. This is true for traditional networking and for the nominating committee when it is handling the search. The resume is more comprehensive, and usually a follow-on document if a board is interested in you – or if someone requests it. The exception is when the search is being conducted by an executive search firm, in which case, a resume is more important early in the process. For them, a board search is a search and will most likely be conducted in the same manner as an executive job search – and the resume is the operative document at the entry point into the process. Bios may or may not matter, depending on the firm or search consultant, but the resume will be the focus early on.
- What is the difference between a board resume and bio and an executive resume and bio?
First, I have candidates write “Board Director Candidate” or “Board of Directors Candidate” just below their names. This makes it very clear. 😊
Board bios and resumes need a board focus, not a functional leadership focus. As the others have said (presumably), the board is looking for someone who will be part of a small team that GOVERNS the organization through the highest level of strategy, policy, and risk management – as well as is specifically responsible for the selection and performance of the CEO. While specific functional expertise goes into the selection mix, for example, someone with general management, financial, legal, or technology background, that expertise is used within the context of board responsibilities. The company already has, for example a CEO or a CFO, and is not looking for the board member to do that. It is important that the board documents highlight board service, board interface, and/or governance experience along with functional leadership or subject matter expertise. It needs to reflect that you understand what a board does and what you would bring to that board. It is useful to think about, what would I bring to the board (as a board member, not as a functional leader) and why does the board want me?
- What are the key elements of a board bio and board resume? Where/how are candidate attributes showcased?
Differences: The board bio is a one-page document, about 350-400 words, and includes a headshot. And BTW, I believe the headshot is critically important. I have done a lot of work on this over the past several years and more information is available on my website.
The bio should be more than just a “short resume”, more than just a credentialling document such as summary of positions held and accomplishments. In the way I work with clients, the 1st paragraph of the bio describes the candidate in terms of who they are – in other words, if selected “who is the board getting”? This is the true differentiator among many prospective candidates. There will be lots of candidates who share similar credentials, career histories, and accomplishments. I have developed a specific methodology for developing this for the documents that is unique in the industry, which I have named the “positioning”.
This is followed by a career summary with emphasis on key, world-changing – and relevant – accomplishments. Finally, it concludes with a brief summary of credentials – education, certifications & licenses, recognitions, memberships, publications, media coverage, relevant languages, etc. For most board candidates, the career history will be very compressed, usually 150 – 200 words. The more credentials, the less career history.
The resume is a longer, more comprehensive document, usually 2 pages, sometimes with an addendum for lengthy lists of publications, speaking engagements, recognitions, etc. This is a detailed career history. The resume does not include a headshot in the U.S., as it is specifically prohibited by EEOC regulations.
Similarities: In my approach, both the bio and the resume include the candidate profile as described earlier. I also help clients select a few key defining and aligned competencies to be highlighted as key words before the text starts – and to have the document designed so that the candidate can adapt these competencies and sometimes board focus (industry, size of company public, startup, PE owned, high growth, turnaround) to the specific opportunity. Of course, the information on both documents needs to be consistent – and by the way the information on LinkedIn needs to be consistent as well – not identical, just consistent.