Building a High-Performing Board of Directors: The Role of Executive Search

A high-performing board of directors provides a significant competitive advantage. Board members need to have complementary skills across different disciplines to effectively guide strategy. It takes a diverse group of professionals with different perspectives to create a shared vision for success.

Board of directors’ recruiters have specialized experience in identifying and recruiting candidates with the right experience and skill set for leadership positions. Leveraging vast networks, databases, and relationships with top candidates, board search firms can help fill knowledge gaps and build high-performance boards.

The Importance of a High-Performing Board 

Amid economic uncertainty and a constantly evolving business environment, having strong leadership and guidance are essential to build an effective corporate strategy. Yet, just 29% of executives in a PwC study rated board performance as excellent or good. Nearly nine of 10 execs felt that one or more board members needed to be replaced and about half reported their boards do not understand stakeholder priorities.

Board of directors’ recruitment firms know you need engaged board members who provide counsel to the C-suite. Boards also need to be diverse — not just gender and ethnicity, but with age and experience to challenge assumptions and offer different perspectives. 

A McKinsey assessment of more than 750 boards showed that high-impact boards employ rigorous practices focusing on:

  • Reducing decision bias
  • Evaluating resource reallocation
  • Assessing value drivers
  • Assessing portfolio synergies
  • Adjusting strategy based on evolving conditions
  • Ensuring strategy stays ahead of trends
  • Engaging on innovation
  • Assessing portfolio diversification
  • Debating strategic alternatives


Board search firms find candidates that have the skills to excel at these tasks, such as:

  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Strategic orientation
  • Innovation and technology experience
  • Financial acumen
  • Cross-industry experience
  • Change management
  • Teamwork and communication


Boards must be able to balance the need between short-term financial performance and long-term value creation. Getting the right directors in place is key, but a study done by McKinsey and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) found that just 16% of directors said the board they serve on understands the dynamics of the company’s industry. Less than a quarter said they were aware of how their firms created value. Board member search firms can find candidates to buck this trend.

The Role of Executive Search Firms in Board Member Recruitment 

Top executive search firms for board of directors bring a wealth of experience to identify right-fit board candidates.

Leveraging Networks and Relationships

Board member search firms spend years developing extensive networks, tracking industry leaders, and building relationships with top performers. A combination of sophisticated search technology to help match candidates with board needs and build relationships with potential candidates. These connections help identify potential candidates for board positions, including passive candidates who may not be actively seeking positions yet have the requisite skills. 

Unique Requirements

Executive search firms have the experience to understand board dynamics and identify the unique requirements for each search. Every board search is different. Company size, industry, growth stage, and strategic priorities must all be taken into account to find the best candidates. 

Objective Assessment

Another key advantage to working with board of directors’ search firms is that you get an objective approach to the recruiting process. This helps eliminate biases and ensure candidates align with company goals and board needs.

Evaluating Compensation

An experienced board member search firm will also evaluate compensation expectations and help craft the value proposition to attract top candidates. While CEOs and boards may only look to fill positions occasionally, board of director recruiters do this often and know the current marketplace for top talent to help build attractive packages.

Handling Sensitive Data

Board of directors’ recruiters also understand the sensitivity of such searches. Recruitment at this level generally involves sensitive information and financial data. Board of director search firms are well-versed in handling confidential information and navigating legal and regulatory compliance. This helps clients stick to codes of conduct, meet diversity goals, and promote a fair and inclusive selection process.

Strategies Employed by Top Executive Search Firms (300 Words)

Effective board governance requires several key components. Top executive search firms for board of directors take the time to understand these components to help build a slate of candidates, including:

  • Composition, structure, and leadership
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Operations and dynamics
  • Skills and experience gaps
  • Outcomes and evaluation


So, board member search firms will first take the time to define the role and expectations. 

Defining Roles and Expectations

A detailed analysis will identify the required competencies and backgrounds and seek candidates with expertise based on organizational needs. For example, if an organization is undergoing a digital transformation, a company may be looking for someone experienced with both technology and change management expertise.

Conducting Candidate Assessments

Board of directors’ search firms also conduct extensive background checks on candidates to supplement any due diligence the board’s ethics committee might do. These checks include conflict of interest assessment, financial portfolios and holdings, social media presence, and more. The goal is to surface any issues before presenting candidates.

Assessments will also determine strategic fit. Candidates need to check the box for skillsets, but also fit organizational culture.

Presenting a Diversity of Candidates

Board of director recruiters understand the importance of diversity in building a high-performing board. They focus on assembling a slate of candidates that provides a mix of demographics, backgrounds, skill sets, and perspectives aligned to the organization's needs.

Successful Board Placements 

Successful placements by board of director recruiters do more than just fill seats. They provide the mix of professionals that companies need to lead them into the future and provide others benefits as well. Such was the case for a recent search for a nonprofit that helps families of handicapped children. The group was looking for a Treasurer with a specific financial background. In this case, the board of directors recruitment firm met with the CEO and board to understand the nuance of the role, the board dynamics, and the criteria.

Based on the due diligence, the board member search firm presented a short list of three candidates and helped facilitate a successful closing. The more rigorous compliance reassured donors, who responded with additional giving.


Top executive search firms for board of directors play a critical role in identifying and attracting the right board members to build high-performing boards and contribute to overall company success.

If you are looking for a Montreal executive search firm, Quebec executive search, Toronto headhunters, or global headhunters for your board roster, PIXCELL’s strategic approach is the solution. From talent search to assessment to selection, our proven process for executive recruitment produces top-tier candidates.

Contact PIXCELL online or by calling +1 514.812.1099 to discuss your executive recruiting needs.




Why should companies use executive search firms for board member recruitment?

Hiring a board of directors’ recruitment firm brings objectivity and expands your network, providing access to passive candidates you may not reach through postings alone. Search firms have specialized expertise in board recruitment to surface top-tier candidates that fit your needs.

What is the process for an executive search firm?

Board of director recruiters will create a detailed role definition, source candidates, handle screening and assessment, and present a diverse set of candidates. Board search firms match the unique needs of each organization with high-quality candidates with the skills needed for success. Engagements can include negotiations and follow-up after successful placements.

How do search firms source potential board candidates?

A top executive search firm for board of directors will leverage proprietary databases, extensive networks, and targeted outreach. By uncovering passive candidates who may not respond to job postings, organizations get broader exposure to candidates to find the right fit.

What qualifications should I look for in board candidates?

While specific qualifications can vary due to the industry and role, generally top candidates will have relevant industry and functional expertise, along with advanced leadership, strategic thinking, financial literacy, change management, and collaboration skills.

How can I ensure we find the best board members?

Vet board of directors recruitment firms thoroughly on their experience and networks. Working in partnership, provide insight into your organization’s goals, culture, and strategy to help frame the search.

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