When formally applying for a non-executive director role, it is vital to include a supporting statement, even when not requested. This document will show that you understand all aspects of the role and ensure your application stands out from the other candidates for all the right reasons.
What is a board application supporting statement?
A board application supporting statement is one of three documents that you should provide when formally applying for a board role – the others being a board cover letter and your non-executive director (NED) CV. In some cases, the content of your supporting statement can be included in a Board Cover Letter, but for the purposes of this article, I suggest keeping them separate.
A supporting statement is a document that addresses the essential criteria that an organisation has defined in order to make a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision about who to invite to an interview for a board or non-executive director (NED) role. These criteria are often listed in the job ad, recruitment pack or position description under the title of ‘essential criteria’ and reflect what the recruiting organisation is looking for in the successful candidate. These criteria may have been decided upon having conducted a board skills matrix review that identified deficits or gaps in the skills that existing board members bring to the board.
A board supporting statement differs significantly from your introductory board cover letter and your board CV. Instead, it is a document that addresses each of the stated essential criteria individually.
Why you must include a supporting statement with your board application
Before writing a supporting statement, it is essential to first understand its purpose. When done correctly, your supporting statement should achieve the following:
#1 – It details your success
A board CV essentially outlines your experience, and a board cover letter is a document that gets you noticed and separates you from your competitors. A supporting statement is where you provide the detail that demonstrates that not only do you have the skills and experience required to be appointed but also evidence of your success as a non-executive director.
#2 – To grade your application
Board applications are graded by the recruiter or selection panel to determine who makes it to the interview stages. Board applications are individually graded against the key selection criteria. Board applications that have strong supporting statements not only make this task easier, but you also have the opportunity to communicate what you want them to know. The grading team does not have to search for the details, make assumptions or possibly ignore the application due to lack of time.
#3 – Separate you from your competitors
It is not uncommon for a NED role in the UK to attract hundreds of board applications. For that reason, it is important to do everything you can to ensure you get a positive review. A supporting statement will help this happen. Indeed, a detailed supporting statement can make all the difference during the application grading process, not least because few other candidates will go to this effort.
I have been working in board recruitment for more than 15 years, and I can tell you that most candidates will not include a supporting statement with the board application unless it is especially requested. Many that provide one will do it poorly with little or no research before writing the document. Others will include statements such as “Refer to my Board CV” or “Refer to my LinkedIn profile. So, if you want your board application to stand out from the others, providing a strong, well-structured supporting statement is a surefire way to make it towards the top of the pile.
#4 – Demonstrates commitment
Linked to my point above, writing a supporting statement takes effort. Unlike a board cover letter, writing a supporting statement is not a simple cut, past & edit task. It takes time to conduct the required research before putting pen to paper. The document is specific to your fit for one particular board role, so it essentially needs to be written from scratch. Chairs and recruiters know this, and they know and recognise the commitment that it takes. This type of commitment is one way to show demonstratable passions – one of the 5 core criteria that make the perfect board candidate.
#5 Prepare for the board interview
Preparation is critical to performing well in any board interview. If you have taken the time to research thoroughly and write a comprehensive board supporting statement (one that evidences your success), you will be well on your way to a successful board interview.
#6 Determine if the role is right for you
To be an effective non-executive director, you have to be a good fit for the role, and the role needs to be a good fit with you. Going through the process of writing your supporting statement for your board application forces you to really consider whether the selection criteria match your skills or experience. Indeed, it is not uncommon for many to discover that the role they were so excited about may not be such a good match.
Board application writing is not easy
Writing board application documents, including supporting statements, can be tedious and extremely time-consuming but well worth the effort. At times, it may be difficult to determine precisely what the board is looking for. If you are writing numerous board applications, you may find it difficult to remain focused and subjective.
When the right board role comes along, we are here to help. Our Executive Members receive unlimited feedback and support for their board application cover letters and supporting statements, bespoke training, board CVs written for them and access to the UK’s largest list of board vacancies.
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.