How to become a Non-Executive Director

By Matthew Donovan

I regularly sit down with up-and-coming executives to discuss the route to board and NED positions. One such meeting this afternoon prompted me to share some notes I had compiled to help guide aspiring executives on how to prepare for, how to gain experience in and how to find Non-Executive opportunities:


  1. CV: bear in mind that the role of NED places great emphasis on personality and ability, not just your career achievements. Your CV should demonstrate your independence of mind and readiness to take – and stand by – decisions.
  2. Social and professional networks: Ensure that your LinkedIn profile spells out your value to NED posts. If you opt to focus on NED opportunities in a particular sector – join the relevant trade association, give speeches and write articles for publication. In short, cultivate a reputation for being a serious thinker about the sector and its future. Reconsider your professional and social networks for the purpose of identifying – or even better, creating – a NED opportunity. Make an effort to widen your professional network so that your personal qualities are known to more people. This is not trying to succeed by resting on ‘who you know’ – it’s about making a good impression on people ‘you have worked to know’.
  3. Legal & Finance: To gain effective oversight of a business a NED should be able to demonstrate an understanding of company finance and legal matters. Usually this will be a product of your executive career but consider a personal development programme to be sure of your ability to shine a light on a company’s accounting and legal practices.
  4. Company Size: Be clear about the type of company you want to work for. Plc roles typically come nearest to a ‘pure’ non-executive position, as they are focused mainly on governance. At the other end of the spectrum, a non-executive director in a small business may have more involvement in operational matters and if you enjoy this it may be sensible to focus your efforts on this type of business.

Gaining Experience

  • Become a school governor: The school governor has the same duties and responsibilities as a NED. Providing the independent viewpoint in managing a school, combined with your business experience, makes you a more rounded NED candidate
  • Take an unpaid role as a NED at a charity or not-for-profit. This will demonstrate your ability to commit, as well as provide valuable experience.
  • Try and find a mentor who already holds a board role. Ask them to share insights into the working of a board, advise you on your campaign, and provide access to networks of directors as well as personal referrals.
  • If you are prepared to invest in your future as a NED, then structured training is an option.

Finding NED roles

Public sector

The Centre for Public Appointments has NHS roles, regulatory bodies, national museums & galleries, advisory bodies. You can register for fortnightly email with relevant posts although you will need to specify what you are interested in. Sign up to their regular newsletter or receive email notifications when new appointments are published that match your requirements.

Private sector

Many companies use executive search firms to select NEDs. A key advantage of entering a business through a consultancy like MRG is that you will have been asked to join the business, rather than applied to do so – a small but important part of the dynamic between you and the executive directors for your future working relationships.

NED roles do appear in the press, where the recruitment sections of The Financial Times, The Times, and The Guardian are the ones to watch.

The appointment of a NED

The services of a NED are secured with a Letter of Appointment rather than a conventional employment contract. A template Letter of Appointment can be provided MRG Interim Executives.

The main features of a Letter of Appointment are:

  • The definition of the time you are to serve as a NED
  • The time commitment required
  • Details of any board committee posts you are to hold
  • The fees you are to be paid

You can also expect the Letter to include a large quotation from, or paraphrasing of, the Companies Act 2006, which obliges you to act in the long-term interest of the business, all stakeholders, and the wider community affected by business operations.

MRG Interim Executives works with clients to appointment NED’s and Board positions in both the public and private sector. For more information about becoming an NED, or to discuss our fast-track search processes for specific mandates, please get in touch.

Matthew Donovan / Interim Executives / 07964 465 343

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