As with CVs in many competitive senior environments, finding your way onto the shortlists of the best roles can be a demanding process that requires considerable forethought. An effective Non- Executive CV is usually the initial ‘make-or-break’ component for your audience, who will bestow just a few seconds of attention before making a decision. So, your strategy needs to position your strengths and experience in a perfect match with the target.
The key question to consider when introducing your Non-Executive CV is what does the audience want to see?
Titles are crucial
Getting titles right is all about taking advantage of the power of confirmation bias combined with the short attention span of the typical recruiter. Boards and business owners are looking for a ‘value add’ that you need to address in your executive summary. Frequently, specific subject matter expertise, thought leadership or relevant industry experience will be a defining factor in their thinking, so immediately addressing these areas will make a persuasive early impact.
Open the CV with a relevant main title which should also give a sense of your credibility and experience. If you’ve held the role of Non-Executive Director before, say so, with a mention of the relevant industry sector if appropriate. If you’ve never held the target title, then ‘seeking’ will work just as well. This is a great way of immediately making it clear that you’re well matched to the job.
After the title, your profile should consist of three or four bullets which sum you up in the most efficient, compelling way. Think of the key strengths and achievements that reflect the job at hand. Avoid cliché, soft skills, excessive detail, personal pronouns or anything that doesn’t specifically sell your ability to perform the NED role.
Focus on where you can add value and stay relevant to the target area. Include years of experience and summarise your specific expertise.
Think strategically and about change
Smaller businesses usually look for NEDs when there is change on the way, which, more often than not, revolves around a major growth opportunity – an acquisition, perhaps, or a big new contract, so mentioning experience in this area early on will be useful.
Leadership teams will often be looking for relatively low-cost strategic advice from a NED, a sounding board or ‘critical friend’, who can offer supportive but challenging guidance. Identify this ‘advisory’ competency by mentioning similar examples and achievements. Useful terms here might be ‘influenced and guided strategy’, or ‘decision support’ or ‘trusted advisor’.
Having a clear sense of your own value and ability to advise strategically is a crucial factor. Reflect this on the CV with the use of examples. Think of a strategy or business improvement project that you initiated and ask yourself how you overcame challenges, and how you ensured key stakeholders were kept up to date.
Collaboration and influence
NED positions are of course very different from a classic leadership role and require a cooperative, collaborative approach to the incumbent leadership team, so illustrating how your track record of achievements demonstrates the ability to build productive relationships will be very effective. Try to identify and validate your USP – what do you do better than most? How does this help drive bottom line impact? Think about your biggest advisory-related achievements and refer to one or two that illustrate your key strengths.
Make the customer the priority
Finding ways to make a business more responsive and aware of its customers is often a great way to add value as a NED. Make sure your CV illustrates your abilities to drive revenue through customer satisfaction, including any measurable outcomes that make it clear that’s where your focus was.
Include Non-Executive Director keywords
Finding the most effective words and phrases connected to NED roles in your industry sector is critical for getting past the first screening stage. Make sure that job titles, section titles, profile and professional experience are full of keywords and make sure to include a ‘key skills’ or ‘expertise’ section so that you can get a good cluster of 10-15 towards the top of the CV. This is great for the human eye (and for recruitment-screening technology) at this initial stage.
Competencies and achievements
As with any CV, NEDs will need to demonstrate a strengths toolkit. These skills will usually be contained in ‘candidate essentials or desirables’ lists on NED job descriptions. Ticking each competency off to make sure your CV reflects it is a very effective CV writing technique used by the professionals. Make sure each one is backed by a tangible, preferably measurable, achievement. You need a list of bite-sized anecdotes on your CV that show not just that you’ve done that job before but that you’ve done it well. For a particularly attractive job, you could even structure your CV so that it exactly reflects the target job spec, illustrating each required skill in a list of bullets, using your achievements as examples.