5 reasons you're not getting a non-executive directorship

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 14 September 2023

Seeking a prominent role in the world of non-executive directorships can be a challenge. It's not necessarily about your professional standing or calibre, but rather more nuanced factors that can hinder your path to NED-dom. 


Perhaps you're not yet at that pivotal juncture in your career, or maybe there are other unseen elements at play. Fortunately, many of these obstacles can be addressed, enhancing your prospects. Let's delve into the intricacies of the role and why you might be finding NED roles to be rather elusive.

What does a non-executive director do?

A non-executive director provides an unbiased, external perspective to a company's board, influencing its strategic trajectory without being involved in its daily operations. NEDs are instrumental to the effectiveness of a board, and in supervising company performance, ensuring accountability and offering invaluable insights based on their expertise. 


NED roles, while demanding, come with substantial benefits, including networking, leadership opportunities and a unique vantage point on corporate strategy.

What's the difference between a director and non-executive director?

While both director and NED roles are pivotal to a company's board, their functions and scopes differ. 


Directors are typically entrenched in the daily operations of the company, taking on managerial tasks and responsibilities. 


In contrast, non-executive directors offer strategic counsel without being embroiled in the day-to-day. Their external viewpoint, free from company politics and granular level detail, should provide a balanced perspective on pivotal decisions. 

5 reasons you're not getting non-executive director roles

1. You haven’t got the right experience for a NED role

Non-executive directorships demand a specific set of experiences. Challenges a NED might face in the current business climate include risk assessment, strategic realignment and stakeholder management. Companies seek evidence that a NED candidate is not just familiar with these challenges, but has also successfully navigated them. 


Gaining this experience might require seeking mentors, volunteering or undergoing specific training.


2. You haven’t shown you’ve got the right qualities

Beyond experience, qualities like integrity, critical thinking and resilience are paramount. To increase your chances, ensure your application and interactions explicitly and tangibly demonstrate these qualities. 

3. Competition is high in the current economic climate

Economic fluctuations have a profound impact on job availability and candidate saturation in the market. In periods of economic downturn or uncertainty, businesses might hold off on hiring for non-executive directorships, awaiting more stable times. 


Meanwhile, the number of candidates seeking these roles can surge, as many seasoned professionals look towards non-executive roles as a means to diversify their portfolios during challenging times. This creates a hyper-competitive environment in which even the most qualified individuals can find it tough to stand out. 


It's crucial during such times to not only rely on your credentials, but also to maintain a proactive approach - staying updated with industry trends, attending relevant seminars and engaging in continuous professional development, for example.

4. You’re applying to the wrong companies

A common mistake NED candidates make is casting their net too wide without a strategic focus. It's easily done and is a top reason why candidates choose to work with executive recruiters. They know the company on a deep level and they know what a successful candidate looks like for said company.


While it's tempting to apply to as many companies as possible, it's imperative to understand that not every company is the right fit. Each organisation has its unique culture, goals and challenges. A background in fintech, for instance, might not be as relevant for a company rooted in the healthcare sector, even if the core competencies of a non-executive director remain consistent across industries. 


Additionally, each company's board might have specific gaps they're looking to fill, be it in terms of expertise, diversity or experience. It's essential to research prospective companies thoroughly, aligning your personal and professional values with the company's ethos, and tailoring your approach to address the specific needs of each board. 


This not only increases your chances of success but ensures that when you do land a role, it's one where you can truly add value and thrive.

5. You aren’t networking with the right people

In the realm of non-executive directorships, your network is invaluable. Many roles are secured through personal connections and may not be publicly advertised. 


Recognise the value of executive search firms in bridging these gaps. Experienced executive search firms can support you as a potential NED candidate in your search for the right role by introducing you to key stakeholders within relevant industries.

Let Hanover help you find a non-executive directorship

At Hanover, we pride ourselves on our expertise in securing non-executive directorships for aspirants. With unparalleled industry insights, an expansive network and a bespoke approach, we can help you navigate your NED journey. 

Discover more about our non-executive directorship services

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