There are two types of non-executive director recruited to Irish corporate boards, according to John Harty, a senior partner at executive recruitment specialist Korn Ferry.
As a corporate headhunter, Harty helps companies find both.
He divides the talent pool into, firstly, the corporate power-players who every PLC chair is aware of and who many will have on their wish list for board places, if they can be won over.
Then there's the category of aspiring non-executive director, with a solid track record in their own field, who makes a career choice that they want to break into the world of corporate boardrooms, which can be prestigious and potentially lucrative.
Every publicly listed company board is a mix of executive and non-executive directors.
Executive directors, usually the company chief executive and chief financial officer, are on the board by virtue of their day jobs.
Non-independent non-executive directors have some connection to the company, often as past executives or advisers.
To counter those insiders, corporate governance standards increasingly emphasise the need for a significant mix of independent non-executives.
Finding them is a more mysterious process.
Some are the classic semi-retired corporate titans, networked into other big firms who bring obvious clout and connections to the table.
Others are individuals who have built up a portfolio of work often across smaller entities, according to Harty.
"They've done really well and managed to leverage that to a larger scale and some success stories have led to that skill-set being sought out," he says.
Having the track record doesn't mean the aspiring director will be talent spotted.
The leap from aspiring director to being tapped for a board "is about making it known to the wider world that he or she is available to do non-executive work".
Networking is, Harty says, "very important".
He recommends simple things, such as deciding to target certain companies the aspiring director would like to join.
"[You should] write down five to 10 companies and then aim at those.
"You may not get on the board of X, but you may down the line get on the board of Y because you have been targeting specifically to network around that industry or sector and bringing that relevance," Harty says.
"It is also a check for people, some people can back themselves completely and say 'I would be a great non-executive director, I have seen other non-executives in action, I think I would do a better job', but I think it really brings out a self-awareness in terms of where one's skills lie and their suitability towards sectors and industries and their functional capabilities," he adds.
"If your phone is still not ringing there are some things you can do to progress your appeal - having a LinkedIn profile that reads from a CV, expanding your network and getting your "elevator pitch" right are key things any aspiring non-executives should be focusing on," he says.
The 30 or 60-second pitch must be really succinct and relevant, he says.
"In other words if you meet me and say 'I have worked in company X for 15 years or I am a specialist in Y', if I look up your LinkedIn 10 minutes later I would like to see that."
When a major business comes to Harty to recruit directors they'll either have a so-called skills matrix ironed out - to identify what, rather than who, they are looking for - or Korn Ferry will provide that service.
"We are looking for where the gap is, and also to [board] succession in important key roles, it is not necessarily the most important thing, but it is important," Harty says.
In recruiting for non-executive directors, PLCs will often have very specific needs in mind.
"They may look for someone with experience of M&A, downsizing, growth and so forth.
"Then there will be a functional role, for example chair of audit, risk, investment, remuneration committees. It can often be a case of 'we are covered in our sector, we need someone from a different sector'."
Geographic experience matters too.
Korn Ferry and other global recruitment and board advisory firms like Spencer Stuart, Odgers Berndtson and Heidrick & Struggles have moved into Ireland in the past half decade partly as a result of Brexit and the surge in foreign direct investment, but also because big Irish companies are also increasingly international.
"For an Irish company operating in 150 countries having an all-Irish domiciled board would be a little foolish, and we don't see that," Harty says.
A company looking to recruit non-executive directors will generally have anything from 10 to 30 profiles that could be reviewed before deciding who they approach and who they would like their recruiters to sound out.
Recruiting for executive roles can be more fraught, Harty says. Clarity and discretion are key.
"We have seen a lot of CEOs change in Ireland over the last number of years, both external and internal appointments.
"There is a huge amount of sensitivity to that, it is part and parcel of our business, the low-key nature of it," Harty says.
"Obviously it is much more discrete, it can sometimes involve a fewer number of people internally in a client organisation, and then we move into the rigour of our assessment process," he adds.