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May 9 / admin

NED roles


We read a lot about the importance of having a good, diverse, independent group of NEDs with a variety of experience but perhaps we don’t read as much about the difficulty of becoming one!  I often work with candidates who would like to add an NED role to their full-time job or to their portfolio career but it’s a hard one to crack.  All too often, it would seem, it’s the old Catch-22: it’s difficult to become one if you haven’t been one already.  I discussed this recently with a headhunter who handles NED roles and I came away with the following helpful thoughts:

  • It’s probably easier to become an NED if you are or have been a CEO, a CFO or a COO
  • Get in touch with the headhunting firms that specialise in NED roles and also with all the large firms (including those on the right hand side of my blog page) which now have at least one consultant dealing with NED / Board level positions
  • Approach companies where there is real sectoral affinity with what you have been doing and tell them what you will bring to the party
  • As a first step – to crack the Catch-22 – try and land an NED / Trustee role in the public or Not-for-Profit sector as these can provide very useful experience and prove that you can do it
  • Think about joining the Financial Times NED Club  – – as this runs useful seminars and it should provide useful networking opportunities

Also it’s important to remember that the role is going to be different to anything you have done before as it won’t be a hands-on, directive role but an advisory and supportive but also scrutinising role.  It requires sensitivity as you will be advising the people in the driving seat, not doing it yourself!

May 9 / admin

Different types of interview


After the CV, the interview is the next most important element in the self-marketing exercise.  A company may recruit without a CV but it will never recruit at a senior level without at least one – and probably several – interviews.  Often, candidates have not been interviewed for some time and there is a danger that they may not do themselves justice, so it is important to prepare carefully in advance.  Before I look at other aspects of the interview process (in a subsequent blog), I am going to talk about the two main types of interviewer – headhunter and employer – as I think that each requires a different approach.

These can be very different types of interview.  Typically, the headhunter will be very practised at interviewing; he or she is likely to be interviewing on a daily basis and will have honed his or her approach to getting the best out of a candidate.  This is likely to be a more skilled interview than the subsequent interview with the employer.  However, the questions are likely to be almost entirely in one direction – from headhunter to candidate – and it is fair to imagine that the headhunter will inevitably know much less about the current situation of the company than will the employer.  The candidate therefore needs to be prepared to answer a range of questions on his / her career to-date and aspirations going forward.

By contrast, if / when the candidate goes to see the employer, the interview is likely to be of a different nature (unless – an important caveat – it is a competency-based interview).  Here the line manager / employer probably interviews rarely.   He or she may well be unnerved by the idea of interviewing and he / she may also have his / her mind on the other pressing operational issues of the day.   Here then, it may well be that it is up to the candidate to put the line manger at his / her ease by breaking the ice and generally helping the conversation to move forwards – but this is not an invitation to take over the interview!  There should also be much greater scope here for having an in-depth conversation about the job opportunity, about the company and about any current issues that need to be faced.   In what I believe to be an ideal scenario, the candidate would be able to say to the line manager, after some initial questions, something along the lines of: ‘well, I’ve read the job description, I’ve met the headhunter and I’ve done quite a bit of research on the company, but could you tell me what you see as the main requirements for this job?’ and that this would then lead on into a fairly open discussion about the role, the requirements, the current issues to be faced and the company as a whole.  If, at the end of the interview, the line manger is left thinking: ‘that was a really good conversation…it didn’t feel like an interview…I like that candidate…he or she seems to have the experience to deal with the outstanding issues… we seemed to get on really well’, then I believe the candidate has done a good job!