In my last article, I explained why your non-executive director application must include a supporting statement. In this article, I will explain how to write a supporting statement for a Non-Executive Director (NED) or board application. Writing a compelling supporting statement is essential because it is the document you will be graded against, and often, this information makes the difference between a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. As such, it is critical to get it right – often more so than your NED/Board CV!
Not every recruiting organisation states that a supporting statement is required to be submitted as a part of your board application. But if there is a list of Essential or Core Selection Criteria, I advise you always to provide a supporting statement.
The formula for writing your board application supporting statement
A board supporting statement is pretty formulaic and structured and may sometimes feel limiting because it is not a place where any context or niceties are required – your board cover letter (that will always accompany a supporting statement) is the place to do this. Instead, here, you must focus on providing the information that the advertiser or recruiter needs to decide whether to invite you for an interview.
To write a compelling board application supporting statement, here is what I recommend:
Ensure you have completed online board research at the minimum before writing anything. Then, look over the selection criteria for the non-executive director role and jot down 3 to 6 examples you can provide to demonstrate achievements relating to the criteria. Remember, they are looking for someone who is not a risk to the board and the organisation and can do the job.
Address all the criteria
A board supporting statement is a document that directly addresses the selection criteria and provides details about how you have the competencies required to do the role. The assessing committee can then compare all candidates against the same set of criteria. Therefore, you must address every criterion, not just the desirable ones or the ones that best support your application. Your first step is to copy and paste all the selection criteria from the advert or job specification into a Word document. This will be the base structure for your supporting statement.
Convert each criterion to a heading, then write 1-2 short paragraphs (though I am just as happy if you prefer to use bullet points – actually, they can be more effective) about how you meet each criterion. However, it is critical here that you don’t just make statements. You must include examples describing the outcome (your success) and how you achieved it. If defining your individual success, you can always link your success to the organisation’s during your tenure on the board or in the role.
Don’t skip criteria
Address all the selection criteria even if you do not feel you do not meet the skills, knowledge or experience required to meet some. It is tempting not to write about them, but it will be noticed. Think outside the box and consider your board-level or strategic experience, committee experience, group management experience and voluntary roles. Address your willingness to gain the required skill or knowledge.
Don’t combine criteria
Don’t be tempted to combine criteria that seem the same. Each criterion is different, regardless of what you might feel. If you can’t see the difference, you should speak with the advertiser to understand the nuances. I can guarantee that there is one, and you will be judged against it if you don’t address it.
The format and style
The document must be in a style and format that makes it easy to read, interpret the information, and finalise conclusions. Board application supporting statement formatting tips include:
- Keep to 2-3 paragraphs in length (this will vary based on the number of selection criteria in the ad).
- Keep your paragraphs in the same order as the selection criteria.
- Use short paragraphs, not large blocks of text.
- Bullet points are acceptable to avoid too much text.
- Use a simple font that is easy to read.
- Use the same language and terminology as the ad or job specification.
- Use action-orientated words, e.g. executed, incorporated, led, secured, negotiated, maximised.
- If there is a word or character limit, don’t go over it.
Use the T. E. E. method when writing your board supporting statement
Too often, supporting statements spend too much time articulating the context of one’s experience. Equally, too much emphasis is usually placed on the mechanisms of one’s work – rather than how successful the work was. It is the latter that will separate you from your competitors.
Your response to each selection criteria for the non-executive director role should incorporate three elements adapted from the TEE or TEEL method of paragraph writing. These elements are:
Technical: Clearly state that you meet the requirements. Reframe the criteria from a question to a statement. If the question concerns governance, state clearly that you have X years of governance experience. Make the statement powerfully and unambiguously, then;
Example: Provide examples of your roles that support the previous statement. Something like ‘Perhaps the best example I can provide demonstrating my governance expertise was as a Non-Executive Director of X, Y and Z’ then finally,
Evidence: Provide examples of success in these roles. Perhaps say something like: ‘As a NED of Company X, I improved the governance by…’ (include your success and outcomes).
You will receive a return for your effort
Very few people enjoy writing supporting statements. The process can be time-consuming and dull, which is often reflected in the level of effort and quality of the applications submitted by applicants. This is actually good news because, by delivering a quality supporting statement, you can easily separate yourself from your competitors and ‘dare them not to appoint you.’. This is why you should always submit one and why yours must be compelling.
Don’t have the time to write a compelling board application supporting statement? We can help with our unlimited application review service in our Executive Membership.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments – The UK’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world.