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Your Experience and Expertise Matter in Public Sector Board Appointments: Key Elements to Keep in Mind


Expert insights by Kate T Lawler, Potential Achieved, and author of ‘Your Experience & Expertise Matter - A Guide to Your Competency Based Interview'. This blog has been written exclusively for IoD Ireland members.

No more than looking at any other role or position, doing your homework, knowing the areas being sought, and your area of interest and expertise, all assist you in being successful at achieving an appointment to a State Board.

Being a director of a state body is both a responsibility and a privilege. Remember what you are doing. You are the keeper of the organisation’s integrity, responsible for the budget, the representative of the citizen, the recipient and holder of confidential information, which affects certain sectors of society and, ultimately, each member of society.

Do Your Research 

My experience, as Chair of numerous selection panels, is that some applicants and candidates for roles at this level, do not do their research. Do not wait until a particular role of interest shows itself.  If you want to do this work, then prepare.  Sometimes the cover letter (and supporting CV) does not clearly specify how your particular background and experience meets the requirements of the board position(s) specified. Also, please fully answer any supplementary questions which are presented to you as part of the online application process. Everything matters. Everything counts.

Stateboards.ie is a mine of information. On this site you will find a list of every Government Department and within each Department you will find a list of the boards responsible to that Department and Minister. For example, when you click on the Department of Agriculture you will find 12 named boards. Clear information on each of these is given.  Just ‘click’.

Legal basis: The Act under which this organisation was set up and which gives its raison d’être and responsibilities. It also gives the maximum number of positions on the board.  The gender balance (numbers and percentages) and any notes about the board. This might include tenure, current availability of positions etc. The Irish Statute Book will give you full information about every Act so, if you want further information about the basis upon which an organisation was set up, this is a terrific reference point. 

The Information Booklet  issued by Stateboards.ie for every role notes that, “Members of State Boards are appointed to act on behalf of the citizen to oversee the running of the affairs of state bodies. State bodies must serve the interests of the taxpayer, pursue value for money in their endeavours (including managing risk appropriately), and act transparently as public entities. Members of State Boards, and the relevant management team, are accountable for the proper management of the organisation.”

The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies 2016 (the Code) (1) provides a framework for the application of best practice in corporate governance by both commercial and non-commercial State bodies. In order to be an effective contributor on a State Board it is recommended that members should: 

  • bring independent and objective scrutiny to the oversight of the organisation. 
  • be prepared to be challenging, when necessary, while being supportive to the delivery of organisational strategy and objectives. 
  • be equipped to offer considered advice on the basis of sound judgement and experience. 
  • be prepared to make a time commitment to their work commensurate with their role.”

Important Questions to Ask Yourself 

I suggest this is where you start. 

  • What are your interests?  
  • What is your experience?  
  • What is your expertise?  
  • Check out the Departments which interest you and then check down into the various boards responsible to those Departments.  Check out the legal basis.  Do you believe in this board and what it wants to achieve?  
  • Can you take on the fiduciary responsibility that comes from being a member of this board.  What is its history.  What are its plans.  
  • Do you want to be a part of its future?  
  • Can you uphold their hopes and dreams for the future? 
  • You also have another decision to make.  Some State Boards pay their directors, and some do not.  Are you looking for a paid or unpaid role?  
  • Where does your interest lie?

Once you have done that, check the number of positions on the board and when directors are due to change or complete their stint.

I recommend you decide on a few boards, look at the representation and which representatives are due to retire.  Do you fit what they require?    

Another experience is that applicants for board membership do not know the requirements. They make an application, complete a CV, without being specific to the role.  Rip Off and Duplicate (R & D), otherwise known as Cut and Paste, really gets applicants into trouble.  You would not believe the number of times I have read a CV (or cover letter) and gone back to check which role we were recruiting for.

So now you have decided, and the role has been advertised.  You will know the role because you have registered to receive notifications of board vacancies from www.stateboards.ie .  

This is really a good idea.  You will know everything that is coming up.  When you received a notice, check it out.  It may not be exactly what you are looking for, but it could be close enough.

Some questions people have posed to me recently:  

  • Does my age matter? No.
  • Does my gender matter? It may.
  • Do my qualifications matter? Often.

Sometimes the member being looked for is independent – they literally represent the citizen, and the requirement is that they do not have experience of the discipline.  This is particularly true of Regulatory Organisations where there may be a conflict of interest.

So Now for Your Application

StateBoards.ie will issue an Information Booklet.  If you require any further information, contact them.  They are delighted to respond to any question in strict confidence.
Work back from the closing time and date.

I cannot emphasise this enough – read the Information Booklet from beginning to end.  Do not assume you know what it is all about, even if you have done your homework.

The information you will get is:

  • The role - location, number of vacancies, remuneration, time requirements. 
  • The board - background, functions of the board, objectives, and functions. 
  • The applicant - categories for application, what all candidates must demonstrate. 
  • Assessment process.

Submitting Your Application 

Before submitting your application, please review the self-assessment questionnaire which is provided as part of the Information Booklet. This questionnaire is designed to help you in considering whether to submit an expression of interest - you are not required to submit the questionnaire as part of the application process. 

Be true to yourself.  Know what you are bringing.  Be specific.  General statements do not work, do not get you any marks.  Give the evidence that you are the right person for the role. Take nothing for granted.  

Go for it: The Assessment 

An independent Assessment Panel (the “Panel”) will be convened by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) to consider and assess the applications, review, and discuss the expressions of interest received against the specific appointment criteria for the role, assess potential candidates further once they meet the specified appointment criteria by undertaking any or all of the following steps:

  • Consideration of the written applications
  • Meeting/conference call
  • Referee checks
  • Any other selection or verification method deemed appropriate (this may include PAS requiring statutory declarations from shortlisted applicants as to the bona fides of the qualifications and experience contained in their applications.

A shortlist of suitable candidates will be sent forward for consideration by the relevant Minister. For more information, visit the Public Jobs website. Please find some other helpful links below.  

•    How to Register
•    Application Process for State Board positions
•    Appointment Process for State Board positions
•    Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards
•    Appendix to Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards – NewERA Companies
•    Pre-Application - Self Assessment Questionnaire


(1).  Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies (2016)