Three ways to recruit your next trustee

“We need to recruit a new trustee”

As CEOs, Executive headteachers and trust leaders, you might well have varying responses to hearing the phrase, “we’ve got a vacancy on the board”... And when your board comprises volunteers with careers and responsibilities outside education, your Chair may logically look to the most senior expert in the sector they know – you – for advice.

To help you, we’ve pulled together some ready-to-go actions that your board can take forward, along with our take on how to make these solutions perform best for your trust.

1. Encourage everyone in your trust to be your recruiters

This is something REAch2 has really strived to encourage. Gareth Brisbin, Recruitment Manager at the largest primary-only academy trust in the country, says this approach has meant “a greater awareness of everything we do, reinforcing brand awareness and spreading the message of the trust. If you have a positive experience, talk about it. Not enough people talk about the positives!”.

The more advocates you have, the better; and the positive messages will travel. Be cautious though and ask yourselves, if by looking within your trust’s own network, will you be reaching as diverse a potential candidate base as you possibly can?

Our advice

  • Take time within your next board meeting to confirm what your strategic aims are over the next 3-4 years. What expertise will help to achieve those? Do you already have this expertise on the board? Can you train for it? Do you need to recruit for it?
  • Consider what you might put into a role specification to attract that kind of expertise – what value could someone new contribute to your board and why should they choose your trust?

2. External advertising

These days, with job alerts available from all the major job platforms, both active and passive candidates will have the chance to see your role, with algorithms pushing content to a wider range of potential applicants than ever before.

There are many job platforms to choose from when seeking trustees / non-executive directors, at varying costs, from free to £5,000+ per advert.. How will you know how well your advert is performing against other recruiting boards? Which job platforms are likely to link you with the most relevant applicants for your trust? Do you / the trust board have time to sift and respond to every single applicant?

Our advice

  • Post to as many different channels as possible to encourage a wide and diverse applicant base and provide a choice of candidates to consider for your board
  • Make it easier for your board to sift CVs by carefully ensuring applicants can rule themselves in or out when they read your advert. Try to be as specific as possible about what your board needs – it will pay dividends in the long-term.
  • Factor in enough time – recruiting pro bono roles is highly unpredictable and your board may need to re-write and re-run an advert multiple times before reaching their ideal audience.

3. Seek independent support

The invaluable experience and guidance from your trust’s governance professional will really help to ease the way; not only will they be able to support trustees with process advice and insights, they are likely to have a wide network across the sector who could help to share your vacancies wide and far.

There are also specialist executive search firms who have dedicated teams sourcing candidates for both paid and unpaid board roles, within both the private and public sector. However, the requirements of board governance specifically in the education sector are not widely understood – nor are the drivers for encourage people to give up their time and skills pro bono - and this can result in disappointment when it is time for the candidates to be interviewed by the board.

Depending on the type of role (Trustee / Committee Chair / Board Chair), the recruitment fees can vary widely in line with private sector rates, and may include retainer fees with no guarantee of success. Finally, once a candidate has been appointed, will the executive search consultant be on hand to provide support and sign-posting to help the candidate navigate their way during the first year and beyond?

Our advice

  • When selecting an external recruitment partner, consider these points:
    • Is there a team dedicated to recruiting in the education sector, and specifically to academy trust boards?
    • What is their track record in matching volunteers to academy trustee roles?
    • How transparent are they in telling you where they will source candidates from?
    • Which corporate organisations do they work with to leverage employee networks?
    • Do they have a 1:1 screening and selection call with every candidate they shortlist to you?
We can help!

Your trust could be eligible for one of our two free services (Match and Match+) from the Academy Ambassadors Programme, which is funded by the Department for Education. We provide all of the above, and more, and have matched over 2,000 board appointments across academy trusts since 2013.

If your trust is eligible for the Match service and would like to find out how to access the Match+ service, we can talk to your board about our low cost-high value Premium Recruitment Service from the team behind the Academy Ambassadors Programme.

Book a call to talk to us