When boards and search firms look at candidates for board seats, do they value board service courses and certificates?
November 27, 2023
The jury is out. Depending on your experience a board course or certification may help you but it's also possible that you don't need one.

While there are numerous board certification courses online, you don't need one to secure a coveted board role. However, there are benefits in getting additional education that may enhance your ability to secure your first board seat.  

Board directors should understand the company’s products, main competitors, health of the business and larger industry, how consumers view competitors, tax rates, regulatory burdens and the global competition for top talent the company requires.

The most effective directors and board members possess a deep and expansive view of their roles. Their commitment extends beyond compliance to ensuring value creation for all stakeholders. CIO Magazine makes the point that "Board leadership training is a great choice whether you aspire to be on a board or have sat on a corporate board for decades. Board governance best practices can change year to year, and it’s important to stay on top of your industry with the latest research, governance training and networking opportunities for executive leadership."

Programs can be found from Northwestern Kellogg, Harvard Business School, the Board Leadership Program, Stanford, Wharton and numerous other organizations which help leaders to become aware of the responsibility of a board role. They cover topics like CEO and director selection, how to be successful in the boardroom, the general principles of board leadership, strategic management, and understanding a companies financial statements. 

For any open board seat, the search committee receives anywhere from 100 to 500 resumes, meaning that regardless of your qualifications or level of effort, your chances are less than 1% at the best. Advice offered includes that "Gaining a board seat is more difficult than securing an executive role in an organization. The most effective way to improve your chances of securing a board seat is through relationships. The operative phrase is “its who knows you, not who you know.” I.e. who knows you, and will recommend you, is the board equivalent of driving in the express lane."

Meanwhile, Inc shares that "there are countries like Canada that have already made certification a requirement to serve on a board. And there are advocates in the U.S. who are pushing for a similar requirement. The smart move could be to get certified now in anticipation of such a shift, as there will likely be a short supply of certified board members available."

According to the NACD, "In the 2018-2019 proxy season, 77 percent of all newly-elected public company directors had never before served in that capacity. That means that a staggering three out of every four new public company directors took on this leadership role for the first time. In the two previous proxy seasons, that number was 54 percent. If directorship ever was simply an ad hoc responsibility, it no longer is. Today, directorship continues relentlessly to increase in complexity making it a true profession that demands the right knowledge and skill set."

"You have to be sure you and your team have the tools they need to succeed in a very competitive marketplace. The Directorship Certification provided me with the knowledge and insights to successfully navigate regulatory framework and public markets," shared Seth Goldman, NACD.DC; Chair, Beyond Meat


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