tomorrows board

The time and resources spent on working out the skills needed to replace a board member can be as exhaustive as the process of finding the right person. The age-old approach of identifying potential candidates from a narrow and closely known network is no longer acceptable as it leads to stale thinking.

While the old methods for hiring no longer work, the recruitment requirements of boards are becoming more complex. Boards increasingly need not only to hire for the skills they need now, but also the skills they will need in the future. It is a perplexing conundrum that many boards face: how do they hire today the board directors that they will need tomorrow?

The answer begins with getting the process right. If a board truly wishes to identify new and innovative thinkers that will be able to guide the organisation through change and disruption, they have to hire differently. Here are five tips on how to run a board recruitment process that is adapted to the realities of the ever-changing world and will renew your board for the future.

1. Find passive candidates

A passive candidate is someone who isn’t actively looking for a new board role, but given the right opportunity would be open to discussions. If you don’t look for the passive candidates, you haven’t scoured the entire field. You could miss the person who is perfect for your board.

The CEO of Entelo, Jon Bischke, recently said: “One way big data is impacting recruitment is around using social data to identify people who are more likely to be open to new opportunities.’ In-depth data analysis can quickly summarise important information to help you identify passive candidates.

There are a few software programs like Promptcloud, Datahut, Heritrix that aid in the collation of available data. There are competitive intelligence tools such as BoardTracker, Copernic AGENT or CIRadar that can assist in identifying passive candidates and uncovering in-depth information on them during the search process.

2. Create a digital/technology sub-committee to identify candidates with the right skills

This committee would be in charge of identifying potential candidates who understand innovation and disruption. More and more Fortune 500 companies in the US are forming these sub-committees. For example, Morgan Stanley created a technology committee way back in 2011 to fill a gap that existed due to the board falling short on understanding IT issues.

3. Use psychometric, predictive tools

Innovative tools that look beyond someone’s written CV are now readily available. Properly used, a psychometric tool can confirm deep personality traits of candidates and provide an overview of how they will work with the existing team and whether they match the board’s desired skill-sets for the future.

4. Get serious about diversity

It is increasingly important for boards to be diverse so that they can perform at their best. It should be a mandatory approach. Think seriously about what diversity can bring to the board. Diversity of gender and race are incredibly important. Also look at the diversity of experiences, education and industry knowledge that could be helpful and that the current board members do not have.

By challenging your normal path when recruiting, you may uncover a truly independent thinker who will bring an outsider’s point of view and challenges the status quo. If done successfully, this will bring a fresh diversity of thinking.

5. Recruitment should be speedy and efficient

While it is important to be thorough, it’s important to send a message about how your organisation does business by how you recruit. By running a quick, understandable and efficient process, you are demonstrating to applicants that you are moving with the times. If a board takes too long to appoint or get back to candidates, they will lose top talent.


Peter Murphy is the Queensland General Manager for Davidson Executive and Boards. Peter is one of Australia’s leading recruiters in the finance and C-Suite industry. Peter was the former Queensland Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and New Zealand.

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