02 Nov 2021
Welcome to our special edition of
The Board Report
in celebration of Trustees Week!
This month’s newsletter is a little different to our usual thought piece, and instead includes a useful guide to all things cover letters, CVs, interview techniques and handling rejection when applying for Board appointments. But first I’d like to say a big THANK YOU from everyone here at BAME Recruitment & Consulting to all the aspiring and current Trustees who are willing to commit their time and energy to ensuring the success of organisations that make a difference to people’s lives every day.
Now, for those of you who don’t know what Trustees Week is, it’s an annual event where organisations from charities to recruiters to consultancy, unite to showcase the great work Trustees do and to provide you with lots of opportunities to learn, get involved and make a difference.
This is the 11th year of Trustees Week and it’s definitely the best year so far!
There are almost 70 events taking place this week hosted by organisations from all over the country, including the incredible Getting on Board who have an amazing variety of different events going on, along with others like The Young Trustees Movement who are hosting an event called Board Diversity: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which promises to be a thought provoking and honest look into the world of Trustees.
You can find out more about the events and everything else Trustees Week here https://trusteesweek.org/.
If you have a spare minute you can also take the Trustee personality quiz to find out which skills you might bring to the Board and how you like to lead https://trusteesweek.org/trustee-personality-quiz/
(I lead with a Green colour preference, in case you were wondering!)
Below we have given you a helpful guide to the first few steps of any Trustee journey.
We hope you find them useful...
The Cover Letter
For Trustee roles we believe that the cover letter is the most important document. This is likely to be your first opportunity to make an initial impression and you should aim to stand out for the right reasons.
Your cover letter can talk about your journey, your career, and your aspirations, but it MUST also cover three main points:
- Transferable skills in terms of the value you can add.
Organisations are often looking for a specific set of skills to complement their current Board and although your CV will outline your abilities in chronological order, your cover letter is able to highlight certain elements and offer a concise overview of how your talents can help.
- Understanding and passion for the organisation you’re applying for.
The intricate details from the initial research you’ve conducted into your chosen charity should be the reason you’ve decided to apply – you understand their mission and their values, and you can demonstrate that there is a clear passion alignment.
- Experience of any Board involvement you may have.
You will need to outline all that you feel is relevant, inclusive of subcommittees, steering committees, or crisis committees – you’re trying to convey that you understand what good governance looks like and why it’s important.
The best Trustee cover letters are the ones that are clear, focussed, and express excitement for the opportunity.
For Trustee positions you don’t always need to write a whole new CV. However, if you’re at a point where you need to refresh your current CV, or you’re looking at Board level appointments more generally, then having a document that is properly laid out is a good place to start.
The first thing to stress is that this document is not purely an example of what you can do in terms of your core skills but is an opportunity for you to emphasise your capabilities from an objective high-level perspective and outline your ability to lead and/or to govern.
You’ll be looking to showcase your industry expertise, financial understanding, and strategic planning along with your accomplishments.
What you’re trying to show is your value to the Board.
- Be concise
You should be able to pull out the most relevant information and showcase it in a succinct way.
- Have a focussed summary
You should be able to highlight your abilities and technical expertise clearly and without verbiage.
- Categorise important information
Evidence presented in a methodical manner is stronger and shows a logical mindset.
- Note networks and affiliation
If you have some, these can show that you have a passion for something and that you’re involved in supplementary activities that help others and could be potentially useful for the organisation.
Interview processes for a Trustee position tend to be a little shorter than your average interview process and a lot shorter than a few others (one global investment bank I used to hire for had a fourteen-stage process!!)
The purpose of the interviews for these organisations is to drill down into your skill set making sure you have the correct up to date abilities; your understanding of governance, which if very little, then your aptitude to pick things up quickly; and your passion for their organisation – something which is very difficult to be disingenuous about in person.
If you’re using a recruiter, you’ll likely have a first stage interview with them. That doesn’t mean it’s not formal or important so don’t underestimate them, they need to be impressed with you so that you can get to the next stage.
Top five rules to remember:
Number one: Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! (Of course). Read the full recruitment pack, study the accounts, look at the press releases, find out about their current Board and come armed with an understanding of their successes and challenges.
Number two: Be ready to discuss yourself at length. They need to know that you possess the essential criteria and that you have examples to demonstrate it. Look at your CV and take time to think about your accomplishments and have a couple of examples ready to go if they ask about the desirable attributes from the role description.
Number three: Ensure you have a well thought out answer to the question “Why do you want to join our Board?” The answer to this question is crucial, but if you’ve made it to interview stage it shouldn’t be that hard for you to answer.
Number four: Be able to confidently explain the need for good governance and the role that you specifically would play on the Board. For first time Trustees, they must get the impression that you recognise your position as “critical friend” rather the “doer”.
Number five: Ask questions. Inquisitiveness is one of the things that is most important for a Trustee, new or experienced. Your interview is the first chance you get, take advantage of it!
We all experience rejection at some point when looking for a new position and Trustee processes are no different. It can take more than one application to secure the right position and you need to try to remember that, as with any process, just because you believe you have the skill set and the passion for the organisation that does not guarantee that you’ll be offered the appointment.
To begin with:
- Refine your search – It’s important that you focus on your strengths. Know what you’re good at and where your skill set lies and apply for positions where they would be an asset. In other words, if you’re a Director of Finance don’t apply to a Board which is looking for skills in Digital Transformation, you’re not going to get very far.
- Manage your expectations – You’re unlikely to get every role you apply for and that’s ok. Even if you possess every desirable attribute and you know the organisation well, it still might not be the perfect fit. A Board can sometimes have 100 applications for one position which means 99 people, in the end, are going to be disappointed.
- Ask for feedback – Sometimes this is easier to obtain than others. If you’re working with a recruiter, you should be able to receive feedback (good or bad) at every stage of the process from CV application, and it should be constructive. However, a direct application can be a little trickier, but you should still definitely ask.
Key things to remember if you don’t get the offer:
- Allow yourself time to process – It’s perfectly natural to be disappointed and you’re allowed to feel that way.
- Reflect on the experience – What are the positives you can take away from the process?
- Don’t take it personally – These things are NEVER personal. Separate who you are as a person from your skill set, they are not the same thing.
- Keep perspective and stay positive – If it didn’t happen this time, it might happen next time. Don’t stop believing in yourself!
We, here at BAME Recruitment & Consulting, will always endeavour to give you the best possible experience, we’re here to help as much as we can and answer any of your queries and questions. If you are willing to give your time to help ensure the continued success of organisations that have the power to change lives, then it’s the least we can do for you!
If you're seeking a safe space to get some further advice on your journey to Board level then come and join us at our free drop-in clinic tomorrow. We'll be discussing all of the above and will be joined by special guest Melanie Williams Browne, who will discuss her journey to Board level and how she overcame challenges such as imposter syndrome to thrive.