How to become a non-executive director

People in a boardroom, to illustrate how to become a non-executive director

The role of the NED has never been more important to companies. The Information and Advisory Service at the IoD outlines how to become a non-executive director…

Taking on the role of a non-executive director (NED) is widely considered the logical next step in the career of a senior executive. Paul Munden, the IoD’s lead governance tutor, says: “Companies encourage senior executives to get a job as a non-exec on a charity or public sector board so they can get a fresh experience of how boards work in other sectors.”

It can also open up further opportunities when it comes to life after the C-suite. Furthermore, there is a growing acceptance at both director and shareholder level that NEDs play a vital role in maximising board effectiveness and ensuring good governance, in both private and public sector. 

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that as NEDs become more important it also means they must be prepared to commit the time needed to fulfil the demands of the job and be aware of their duties and responsibilities. First, though, you need to know how to become an NED…

What constitutes a good NED?

A background in the relevant sector can be advantageous but is not essential. It’s more about having the knowledge, experience and independence of mind to challenge and ask the right questions. Munden says: “Think about your experience what you can bring to that board, what skills you have, how you will make a difference and how you might help to address the issues that board is facing.”

Do the groundwork

There are a number of tried and tested routes to becoming an NED. “Housing associations, charity and public sector boards are crying out for people with good commercial experience,” says Munden. “You’ll gain good governance experience for your CV.” Prospective NEDs should meet the chair beforehand and consider what they can do to improve the governance or direction of the business.

Not every role will be available through open interview but many businesses and institutions have a rigorous selection process. It may be some time since you last had to update your CV. The IoD can help you here as our team of careers advisers can review CVs and suggest improvements in person.

Learn from the experts

The IoD provides training for NEDs including a number of open courses such as the Role of Non-Executive Director. This will equip you with the strategies to identify roles and build networks for the future. You will gain practical advice and tips from top industry headhunters.

The programme includes an evening drinks reception and three-course dinner at 116 Pall Mall – providing you with anideal opportunity to network with your peers.

Louise Gulliver, the IoD’s managing director of professional development, says: “It’s important that it’s not simply a training event. We recognise the peer-to-peer learning experience and ability to network, with other NEDs, experts in the field and also recruiters.”


The IoD’s Information and Advisory Service (IAS) offers a wealth of advice and insight for a non-executive career, such as what your duties will be and what might constitute a conflict of interest.

To find out more about the Information and Advisory Service visit

Could the IAS help you?

The IAS provides IoD members with free business intelligence and advice to help them run their companies more efficiently and successfully.

The Business Information Service is able to investigate questions on behalf of members and supply them with valuable information ranging from market forecasts and industry trends to trading abroad and employee salaries.

The Directors’ Advisory Service provides confidential, independent advice from specialists on issues ranging from raising finance to board and shareholders’ disputes.

Members can receive prompt and confidential business, personal tax and legal advice through using the IoD’s telephone helplines.

The next open course is on 22 March, from 9.30am–9pm, at 116 Pall Mall

IoD members are entitled to 25 enquiries a year to the Business Information Service, 4 sessions with an IoD adviser, 25 calls to both the legal helpline and the tax helpline

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About author

Ryan Herman

Ryan Herman

Alongside his work for Director, Ryan has written for SportBusiness International, VICE Sports, Populous, Audi and Gallop Magazine and was previously editor of Sky Sports Magazine.

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