Not getting appointed? Take my Board Appointment Quiz

Whether you are seeking your first Non-Executive Director (NED) appointment or building a portfolio career, I am sure you are aware that it is a highly competitive process, one with many challenges along the way. To simplify the process, keep you on track and be more successful, take my Board Appointment Quiz.


If you don’t get your board aspirations right, everything you do subsequently may be destined for failure.

Questions to ask yourself: 

  1. Are you clear on what organisation you would like to serve on the board of?
  2. Are you clear about what organisation would appoint you to their board?

The most valuable thing you can do to gain a NED appointment is to start telling people. However, you need to be ready to answer two questions. The first of these questions is, ‘What company/organisation would you like to sit on the board of?’

Being clear on your board aspirations is a foundational step for your future board success. If you don’t know which organisations you both want and could be appointed to, it will be very difficult to gain an NED appointment. This lack of clarity results in others having less confidence in you and your abilities, reduces the number of introductions you will receive, and makes you seem opportunistic. 

Conversely, being clear about your board aspirations and being able to name the companies/organisations that you both want and could be appointed to provides comfort to those you tell of your board aspirations and ask you which board you are interested in.

Beyond answering the  ‘What board you are interested in serving on?’ question, you need to be able to answer the second question you are going to be asked.


‘Why do you want to be a NED?’ It’s a very common question. It won’t matter how many conversations you have, applications you write, or interviews you have if you are unable to answer this question, a NED appointment is highly unlikely. Unlikely because your appointability depends on convincing others of your value at board level. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you know what motivates a decision maker to recommend you for a board appointment?
  2. What is your expertise, and why are your skills and experience valuable at board level?
  3. Can you deliver your message in a water cooler moment (with a NED whom you bump into) or a 1:1 conversation?
  4. Can you write a compelling board application, including a board cover letter?
  5. If you were asked in a board interview, ‘why should we appoint you’ could you answer that question in a compelling fashion?

Answering these questions starts with writing a NED CV. A NED CV is a document that articulates your value and success at board level. It should begin with a very strong ‘board profile’ that addresses the five core criteria a Chair is looking for in a successful NED candidate. A few paragraphs that answer the question, ‘Why should we appoint you to our board?’ The CV itself is, of course, valuable and expected, but what is more valuable is the process of writing it because doing so will get everything out of your head that might be valuable at board level onto a piece of paper and will mean you are then in a better position to verbally articulate your value at board level – in a water cooler moment or in a formal board interview.


This means applying the knowledge of what your board targets are and your board pitch and turning it into a board appointment. It also means applying yourself and getting things done.

But start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Are you waiting for board opportunities to be presented to you via a recruiter or advertisement, or are you being proactive about finding board opportunities?
  2. Do you know how to find advertised board vacancies?
  3. Do you know how to work effectively with board recruiters/headhunters?
  4. Do you know how to approach companies directly that might want to appoint you to their boards?
  5. Do you know how to leverage your existing personal connections to gain a board appointment?
  6. Do you know who you need to develop personal connections with to unlock the 80%+ of board opportunities that are filled informally?

There are only four ways a NED appointment can occur. 65%+ of appointments are made via a personal connection (and 50% are made by people you see rarely or infrequently), 15% are made by individuals directly approaching companies with an offer to help, and less than 20% of all board vacancies are filled with any formal application process—using neither adverts nor recruiters. 

How are you going to make the best use of your valuable time? If you are holding out for a recruiter to call you, madly applying for every advertised board role, or waiting for a friend, colleague, or family member to tap you on the shoulder, I can assure you that statistically, this is not the best use of your time and will almost certainly end in frustration.

Next Steps

Are you ready to do things differently and make a board appointment a reality?

If you are, then the good news is that finding and gaining a NED appointment, whether it be your first or part of a board portfolio, regardless of your skills or level of experience, follows a very clear and easy-to-implement three-stage process. 

Stage one begins by properly considering what board you want to be a part of in the long term. From there, compile a list of companies and organisations that you want and are likely to be appointed to that, in the short term, can facilitate your longer-term board aspirations. Taking this approach makes everything simpler and quicker and will ensure you get a return on your valuable time investment.

In stage two, you must have a clear board pitch. To begin with, you need to be able to finish two important statements: ‘At board level, what I do is….’ and ‘I do that by…’. If you are not clear on your value at board level, it is going to be very difficult to convince others of your value in this context, either.

Finally, in stage three, you need to be proactive. That might mean refocusing or breaking bad habits by stopping doing things that you thought or are told would work but aren’t. 

In the end, there are only three reasons you aren’t gaining a board appointment. Once these roadblocks are identified and rectified, a board appointment can occur far more quickly than you might have ever imagined.  If you are ready to do things differently, reach out for a conversation today to see if and how we might be able to help. 


Board Appointment Quiz Questions Download

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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 almost two decades of experience in 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.

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