Making it on to the shortlist for a top non-executive director (NED) role is a demanding process and your CV is usually the initial ‘make-or-break’ component. Your reader will bestow just a few seconds of attention to your CV before making their first screening decision, so you need a strategic CV that positions your strengths and experience as a perfect match with your target role.

The key question to consider when creating your non-executive CV is:

What does the audience want to see?

1. Relevant job titles

Demonstrating the right job titles 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’ and you need to address this 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 your CV with a relevant main title that gives 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 role.

2. A persuasive profile or executive summary

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 target role.  Avoid clichés, soft skills, excessive detail, personal pronouns or anything that doesn’t specifically sell your ability to perform the NED role.

Instead, focus on where you can add value and stay relevant to the target area. Include years of experience and summarise your specific expertise.

3. An understanding of the strategic direction of the company

Smaller businesses often look for NEDs when they are navigating strategic changes. For example, they may be hoping to seize a major growth opportunity, such as an acquisition or a big new contract. Highlighting your experience in this area early on will attract their interest.

Leadership teams will often be looking to a NED for strategic advice. They want a sounding board or ‘critical friend’ who can offer supportive but challenging guidance. Identify this ‘advisory’ competency by describing your achievements, using terms such as ‘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 your 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.

4. A collaborator and influencer

NED positions require a cooperative, collaborative approach to the incumbent leadership team, so you’ll need to illustrate how your record of achievements demonstrates your ability to build productive relationships. 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.

5. Customer orientation

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 improving customer experience; including any measurable outcomes that make it clear that’s where your focus was.

6. 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. Including a ‘key skills’ or ‘expertise’ section will get a good cluster of 10-15 keywords towards the top of your CV. This also helps the human eye (and recruitment-screening technology) at the initial scanning and assessing stage.

7. 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.

But, make sure each one is backed by a tangible, 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. You’ll also need to structure your CV to reflect the target job spec, illustrating each required skill in a list of bullets, using your achievements as examples.

Non-exec roles are extremely competitive positions to land. It takes years to perfect the art of writing a NED CV, LinkedIn profile & executive bio, so why not let our non-executive director CV experts do the hard work for you. Contact us for more information or call us on +44(0)20 7100 6656.