Boss Lady

How to get on a board of directors: what you need to know


Being a board director can be a very rewarding role to take on – both for your professional career and personal life.  Whether you’ve made the decision to join a board, or are just considering it, we’ve put together the things that you absolutely need to know for how to get on a board of directors and commence on your boardroom journey.

How to get on a board of directors: overview

Executives are more in demand to join boards of directors, according to a survey by Page Executive, an arm of the PageGroup recruitment consultancy. The movement took place mainly in privately held medium-sized companies. Boards are usually formed by more senior professionals who bring their experience to contribute to new strategies.

On the executive’s side, it is a chance to work in other sectors and companies. But what extra skills or preparation is required for how to get on a board of directors, for an executive?

Knowing how to ‘turn the key’

Knowing how to get on a board of directors is not just about having good business acumen. It is, above all, “turning the key” of the manager’s role to act as a representative of the partners. This is the main challenge for most executives. Leaving the day-to-day decision, thinking like a partner and acting through influence are the most frequent challenges.

In order to prepare for this change, the specialist suggests acting beforehand in support committees of the boards (financial, people and strategy) existing in publicly traded companies as a first step for how to get on a board of directors. In multinationals or subsidiaries of foreign companies, this experience can come through the executive’s contact with partners or through non-business councils, such as those in the third sector.

Understand what contribution you can make

Generally, boards are formed by different profiles, but three are more common. The specialist in corporate governance, who has a strong ability to reconcile interests and avoid conflicts; the industry expert, usually former CEOs who discuss more strategy and positioning; and the “financier,” usually former bank or finance executives who think about the best capital structure and advise on mergers and acquisitions. Do a self-assessment of the competencies and look for the strengths that are important as a key strategy for how to get on a board of directors.


According to the survey, currently more than 50% of the appointments of directors are made by the companies themselves, by HR professionals or by the shareholders themselves. Processes conducted by recruitment companies, however, have grown. One way or another, it’s important to be close to this audience or specialized consultants in how to get on a board of directors.

Being a board director takes time

Know exactly what time board membership will take up. There are companies that demand a monthly meeting from directors, in other cases, quarterly. Trips to the industrial plant, technical/advisory opinions, presentations and even reports are required from these professionals

Things you need to know to get on a board of directors

1. You should know what you’re getting into

Hint: If you’re joining to boost your ego… you need to seriously reconsider your motivations. Joining a board sounds like a fancy place to hangout. Chances are, your friends and colleagues will be pretty impressed when you tell them that you’re a director at a great not-for-profit or popular local sports club.  Stop. Right. There. That’s your ego talking. And letting your ego make decisions like this is probably not the best thing to lead you into the boardroom.

Being a director or board member comes with some serious obligations. Things like fiduciary duties and legal responsibilities that you can’t delegate to anyone else. Before you commence your board journey, it’s worth taking some time to read through some information online to understand your duties and responsibilities as a director.

A great place to start in how to get on a board of directors is sections 180-184 of the Corporations Act 2001. Even if the board you join doesn’t operate under this legislation, it’s a good minimum standard to hold yourself to.

2. You should use a board resume

When seeking how to get on a board of directors, you should be using a resume prepared specifically for board purposes. In your board cv there are some particular things that you should cover and focus on that are different from your traditional professional resume.

Tailoring it to the board and organisation, keeping it concise, and proofreading are some simple rules of thumb to follow for all resumes. Additional elements to include when writing your director resume include: a board profile, current and past board positions (or board alternatives if you don’t have previous board experience), career overview, education and qualifications, relevant professional memberships, recognitions and awards, and other relevant information. This guide can help you build a board cv.

3. You should be picky about the board you join

Joining the wrong board can be extraordinarily frustrating and extremely risky for you. Not only could your reputation be affected; you can be at risk financially and personally. All of that can be avoided in how to get on a board of directors if you go into any potential board position with your eyes wide open. What this means is doing your due diligence: heavy research into the organisation and board prior to joining that gets you to a point where you feel comfortable getting on that board.

Part of your due diligence should involve questioning: both during the formal board interview and informally with the Chair and other board members (if possible). Pay attention to the information that is shared – and not shared – with you prior to joining the board.

4. You should have a commitment to learning

You don’t need a qualification to be a company director. What you should have though is a commitment to learning. Your professional career likely calls for it and you should apply to same rigor to your board career.

Invest in learning and development related to being a company director – it is quite a unique and specific skill area, and the governance landscape is always changing and evolving. Formal or informal, there are many director education choices available to you (Boardroom Bootcamp being one of them) that will help you to get on a board of directors.

5. It might take some time

In between letting people know that you’re looking for a board position, networking with existing board members, preparing your board cv, and finding the perfect board for you, a lot of time can pass. Add to that the fact that boards sometimes meet infrequently and a crisis can pop up at any minute, it can take a while before you a formally appointed to a board.

Most boards also like to wait until their annual general meeting (AGM) before appointing / electing people to the board. The majority of AGMs happen in October and November each year, so keep that in mind about when to start your active board search or if you’re starting to get a little impatient with a board you have begun engaging with.


As you can see, knowing how to get on a board of directors takes some considerable forethought, effort, risk-taking, and commitment. The rewards are plentiful though and we encourage you to start your board career on the right foot.

About Lisa Cook

Lisa Cook is the Founder and Managing Director of Get on Board Australia . Get on Board delivers education and development courses that are open to new and aspiring company directors from all professional backgrounds and all types of industries (public, private, NFP, sporting organisations and clubs, etc.). Get on Board focuses on aspiring directors – those people looking to join a board in the near future – and on new directors – those who are currently in their first to fifth year of sitting on a board. Get on Board delivers the Boardroom Bootcamp course: a 12-week online program leading to a Certificate in Board Readiness. Lisa sits on the board of a number of organisations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in Adelaide and Sydney. Lisa holds a degree from Charles Sturt University in business management and marketing, and has completed the Foundations of Directorship program through AICD.

Recommended for you