The Four Ways UK Board Appointments are Made

4 ways to an appointment

Typically, board appointments take place via four avenues:

  1. Through your personal connections;
  2. By a candidate directly approaching a board or organisation;
  3. By responding to an advertisement, or
  4. Through an executive search firm, recruiter or headhunter.

Whilst some of these avenues are more effective than others, there is a strong chance that you will need to navigate the application process that each demand over the lifetime of your board search. As such, it is important to understand the nuances associated with each.

The statistics regarding board appointments

I recently conducted a survey that asked current board directors how they were appointed to their most recent board. The findings were interesting:

  1. 65% of people are appointed to a board through a personal connection;
  2. 15% were appointed directly after approaching the company or board that they wanted to sit on;
  3. 10% via a recruiter and
  4. 10% in response to an advertisement.

From these statistics, it’s clear that most thought it was their personal connections that really mattered in board appointments. They were probably right!

However, it is highly possible that, in addition to their personal connections, they also had to respond to an advert or work with a recruiter to find their board appointment.

It is also possible that those who were appointed via a recruiter saw the opportunity advertised or were told about an available opportunity by a personal contact, after which they decided to directly approach the company about it.

Indeed, most successful Non-Executives I speak with quote their success in being appointed through their reputation and people they know. But dig a little deeper and almost all have had dealings with recruiters or had to write written applications at some point.

Furthermore, the really switched on directors make a career of directly approaching organisations they know they can contribute to.

The study I quoted is not perfect – they rarely are – but what these findings show, is that the directors who responded placed considerable emphasis on the importance of their networks in gaining a board appointment. So, take note!

Supporting the statistics

Mark Granovetter’s book (written over 40 years ago) called Getting a Job, looked at how almost 300 executives in the USA found their executive roles. In this separate study, we see that the statistics remain fairly constant regardless of time and the impact of social media.

He found that :

  • 56% of executives found their, then current, jobs via personal connections,
  • 19% by directly approaching companies
  • and 17% through adverts and/or recruiters

This classic study again proved it’s not what you know but who you know; it also demonstrated how social activity influences labour markets.

I think the statistics are compelling.

Where are you spending your time?

Here is the take away: If you are spending 100% of your time working with recruiters or responding to advertisements, then you need to question whether this is the best use of your time – statistically, it isn’t.

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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 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


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