Joining a Board

Q: I am a senior-level woman running my own small business. I am eager to join a board. There is no roadmap. How do most board members get selected? Is it who you know? Or through headhunters? Or attorneys? Solve the mystery!

A: Good for you for asking. I think I can help solve the mystery! When we have a search for board members, we have used a variety of sources, including our own database, professional contacts and a number of professional associations. Often times boards are looking for a specific skill (e.g., accounting, finance, audit, marketing or strategic planning) to complement their existing board. Industry experience may also be on the list of requirements.

I consulted Laura Goode, Managing Director of, Kiradjieff & Goode, Inc., an executive search firms that specializes in recruiting board members for a wide variety of organizations.

Goode explains, “There is a growing trend for boards to seek out professionals with specific skills to fill their gaps. In addition, we are seeing more efforts on the parts of many boards to add women as many studies show that a company‚Äôs bottom line can be enhanced by having a more diverse board representation.” Goode shares that board members are typically selected through a variety of sources including:

  1. A referral by a current board member;
  2. An introduction by an outside advisor such as a law or accounting firm;
  3. Or, the organization decides to engage an executive search firm to help them define their particular needs and then conduct a broad-based search to identify qualified candidates who meet their specific requirements.

Goode recommends “touching base with all three sources and letting them know you are seeking a board position is a good place to start and keeping your activity level consistent will lead to you being successful.”

Nonprofit boards are sometimes a smart starting point for those interested in becoming a for profit board member. Candidates for non-profit boards typically have a strong interest in the nonprofit’s mission and community. Experience from a nonprofit board can assist a candidate in understanding how a board is structured and the responsibilities of board members.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.