A Typical Board Search

Johnson Partners has an excellent track record of sourcing qualified, interesting and appropriate candidates to meet the needs of your Board. We use our extensive knowledge of the director market, purpose built database and 20 years of experience as a specialist business to ensure a good outcome for your Board.

While every search is different, all searches have elements in common.  With the development of on line job boards and the proliferation of lists and registers of available directors, we pride ourselves on our ability to make quality assessments of suitability, complementary and relevance of all the candidates we offer for consideration.  We do not charge candidates for our services; the client pays all fees involved.  Like any exercise, the benefits gained are directly related to the effort expended.

Johnson Partners undertakes each search process with enthusiasm and experience, agreeing the parameters at the outset with you, and designing an approach that is capable of identifying a field of suitably qualified candidates to be considered.


Our experience tells us that there are certain core steps in any successful search process.  While the emphasis is different for every client, the key parts of the process are:

Agree the skills, background and experience that you require for the Board

A typical search process starts with a discussion with the person commissioning the search, who in most cases is the Chair of either the Nominating Committee or the Board.  During that meeting we establish the background to the vacancy on the Board, the key business issues facing the organisation, the Board’s principal roles and the skills and experience available through existing Board members.  It is important to distinguish between the essential ‘must have’ criteria and the desirable ‘nice to have’ criteria at this stage.

We then gather information about the position, the remuneration, terms, conditions, performance expectations and any particular arrangements that were relevant to the selection process.  Once we have this information, a specification for the position is drafted and confirmed by the client as the basis for the search process.  At this stage, we factor in to the specification any particular characteristics, experience, demographic or other criteria that are to be included.  (See the list at the end of this paper for prompts to assist with this stage.)

Identify suitable candidates

A thorough search process is now initiated.  Johnson Partners has an extensive range of research sources.  We have details of existing directors and chairs of both private and public companies (including unlisted ones) in Australia, where it is possible that potential candidates for your Board will be found.

Based on our own knowledge and contacts, we can identify several other source organisations with relevant operations and would examine their Boards and executives for possible candidates.  We have an extensive database, built up over twenty years that includes people we have identified as excellent potential or existing directors, as well as details of all previous candidates.

We will also gather ideas and suggestions for potential candidates from existing Board Members, and find that it is preferable to have a third party professional make contact to avoid any possible compromise or conflict later in the process.  Including nominations or ideas at this point also allows for assessment of all candidates against the agreed criteria. In this way, all candidates are dealt with in an even handed and objective way, which leaves you and your committee free to make decisions about those short listed candidates in whom you have expressed a genuine interest.

Discuss each of these individuals with you and agree on a culled list

Once we have assembled a selection of candidates who we believe meet your criteria, we will present brief details of our short list and discuss them with you.  At this point no contact will have been made with the candidates. The size of the list would be agreed with you at the outset, to ensure that you have an adequate pool from which to select.

Make contact with those candidates in whom you have expressed an interest to confirm their interest and availability

We will then approach those people in whom you have shown an interest and brief them about your organisation and the particular requirements of the position.  At this stage, we will confirm candidate details, availability and level of interest in the position.

Update CVs and gather any particular material that you may wish to have available to you as a part of the selection process

For those candidates who wish to be considered for the Board, we will provide up to date materials on their background, skills, qualifications and any other information that you may have specifically requested.  We will then present this information to you for consideration.

Arrange interviews as required

Once you have selected the candidates you are interested in, we will arrange interviews, participating in this process, if required.  It is important that these are conducted as peer discussions.  Potential directors are certainly candidates, but will not see themselves as ‘applicants’.  Interviews need to reflect this unique situation and be structured and conducted in a quite different manner from say a prospective employer/employee relationship. (Suggested areas for exploration are available from Johnson Partners if required.)

Advise all candidates on the outcome of the process and provide suitable feedback to individuals on the selection

On completion of the interviews, we are available to advise further on areas such as referees, the appointment process and terms and conditions.  Additionally, we would make contact with the candidates you have spoken to and advise on the outcome of the process, subject to your confirmation.

Some clients are actively involved in a number of these stages; others prefer that we undertake all steps until candidates are culled and then take over the process from that point.  It is always possible to tailor the process to fit the individual requirements of the Board in question and the budget available for the search process.



Questions about the organisation:

  • What is available for Johnson Partners to provide to potential candidates about the organisation?
  • What is the decision making process and who is involved?
  • Who will be the liaison person in charge of the process?
  • What is the timeframe for completion?

Questions about the position:

  • How has the vacancy come about?
  • What is the existing composition of the Board, in terms of size, skills and experience, years of service and general contributions?
  • Are there any specific tasks required?
  • How much time would be expected to contribute to the Board?
  • Will any business development role be expected?
  • Is any travel required?
  • Would this person be required to sit on/Chair any Board committees?
  • What are the fees for the position and how are they structured?
  • What is the system for assessing contributions to the Board?
  • How does the Board monitor its own performance?

Questions about the ideal candidate:

  • What is the key contribution expected?
  • What is the ideal background for the candidate?
  • What are the main areas of expertise that are required?
  • Are there particular industries with which the candidate must be familiar?
  • Are there any areas that would constitute a conflict, where we should not look to source candidates?
  • Is previous Board experience essential?
  • Are there any preferences regarding location, age, gender, cultural background?
    (Some Boards actively search for ‘diversity’ and seek particular characteristics in addition to the requisite skills and experience.)
  • Can the person currently be holding an executive position?
  • How important is profile or the ability to open doors?
  • What kind of ‘style’ will work best with the Board?


Our fees for search assignments are based on the remuneration for the position, or, in the case of honorary positions, we will agree a fee to reflect the work and degree of difficulty involved.  We have a tiered approach to fees to reflect our diverse client base, with fees scaled to the type of organisation (e.g. listed company, government body, NFP) and the scale of operations (e.g. market cap, turnover, number of employees). Fees are payable 50% on commissioning of the assignment, with the balance on completion or after three months, whichever is the sooner.

Where the remuneration is not known, assistance can be provided with setting an appropriate level.  We keep up to date information of remuneration across Australia and can access this if and when you decide to proceed with our services.

If multiple appointments are made from a search process, then a proportional fee will be charged for additional appointments. (This is generally 50% of the original fee.)

Expenses are charged at cost and only with the prior approval of the client. These are kept to a minimum and would involve any travel and accommodation costs that were required.

About Johnson Partners

Founded in 2005, Johnson Partners is a consulting firm specialising in Board search and advisory, executive search and leadership succession. We have successfully appointed over 500 Chairs and Board Directors, and 1,000 executives. We are trusted partners to clients including ASX100, private companies, professional institutions, government, community organisations and Not-For-Profit businesses.

In 2020, Johnson Partners acquired Boardroom Partners, a specialist firm with a 20+year track record in working with Boards across Australia. This acquisition has strengthened and expanded the capability of the firm as well as bringing deep experience with governance advice generally and Board performance reviews.

Related Articles

Back To