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What They're Really Looking for in a Board Member

Discover the characteristics that companies are looking for in a potential board member.

The connections you make now offer exponential benefits as you move through your career, according to recent research.1 When successful companies look to fill positions on their board of directors, they want people who will give them an advantage or help solve one of their problems.

Knowing the right people can give you an edge. For starters, board members with a wide reach of connections are considered better watchdogs. They are expected to protect the interests of shareholders because they can relate to the shareholders. They will keep the company on the best track for long-lasting success. A well-connected board member is also linked with potential growth, whether that is being able to see different arenas or being a conduit for finding needed financing.


Being an expert can give you an edge. Sometimes companies want a board with broad connections, but sometimes a company is looking for board members with insight into a particular market or industry in which they have a concentration of contacts. Maybe a company wants to align more with a bigger firm, and having someone on the board who knows people at the target company can be an advantage.

In business, there are good times and bad. Sometimes companies have to deal with adverse events, either because of outside forces or a company mistake. A board of directors with strong connections in various business communities can help a company weather the storm, through support or just a good word to potential customers. A well-respected board of directors can be key to restoring a damaged reputation by getting multiple people in power to vouch for the company's leadership.

Great connections are often made through school. Degree earners have an opportunity to network with classmates, faculty, and even alumni. The shared experience of education can forge a powerful connection, and alumni can confidently recommend you if they know how good your education was from their own experiences.

The career advantages of making connections continues even after you get hired on the board of directors. The research shows that board members with more and better connections get put on more committees and leadership positions, increasing their earning and career potential.

The old adage should be changed to, “It's what you know and who you know.”

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