How to attract the right people to your boards

Hiring boards
Peter Murphy


written on January 23, 2017

It’s a real dilemma many boards face: how to hire today the board directors you’ll need tomorrow. This is where HR can act in an advisory capacity.

Put simply, it’s all about the process. If boards truly wish to identify new and innovative thinkers that will be able to guide the organisation through change and disruption, they have to pay attention and know the current thinking in HR, and would benefit from having an HR professional assist the process.

Boards have to accept that their own networks – the ones they’re inclined to hire from – are probably quite narrow. So identifying potential candidates from that alone will no longer meet the expectations and requirements of a board you must look more broadly.

It’s also time to acknowledge that it is increasingly important for boards to be diverse so that they maximise their performance. Identifying the diversity gaps in experiences, life philosophies, education and industry knowledge currently not on a board is challenging, yet spending time doing so is extremely valuable.

By challenging the normal recruitment path, you may uncover a truly independent thinker who will bring an outsider’s point of view and challenge the status quo.

Another critical step is finding the passive candidates. Not everyone is actively looking for a board role, but presented with the right opportunity, a passive candidate will respond and engage in a discussion. But how do you search for the people who by definition aren’t looking for you?

In-depth data analysis quickly summarises important information to help identify passive candidates.

Jon Bischke, CEO of Entelo, says: “One way big data is impacting recruitment is around using social data to identify people who are more likely to be open to new opportunities.”

Another key for recruitment is to know what you don’t know. For example, you may need to create a digital/technology sub-committee to identify candidates with the right skills. This committee would be in charge of identifying potential candidates who understand innovation and disruption. Morgan Stanley in the US created a technology committee way back in 2011 to fill a gap that existed due to the board falling short on understanding IT issues.

Something often overlooked when recruiting for board members is the use of innovative tools that look beyond someone’s written CV, such as psychometric testing. Properly used, a psychometric tool can confirm deep personality traits of candidates and provide an overview of how they will work with the existing team and whether they match the board’s desired skill-sets for the future.

Lastly, don’t drag your feet. If a board takes too long to appoint candidates, it will lose top talent and the fallout might damage your reputation. While it is important to be thorough, it’s equally important to send a message that your organisation handles strategically critical tasks with decisiveness. ; Your recruitment process is evidence of your approach to business. By running a quick, understandable and efficient process, you will demonstrate to applicants that your organisation is equipped to move with the times.


By Peter Murphy, General Manager, Queensland Davidson Boards & Executive

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