Sally Henderson
Powerful change from the inside out




Want successful leadership recruitment? Get clear. Get results.

We all know the story, senior person leaves, owners/leadership team think:

“Oh sh**te what do we do now?”

No-one pauses for breath. Usual suspects get called up in the headhunting world and the same ineffective, old-fashioned Executive Search process splutters into life.  Bodies from an anticipated network, who haven’t been properly briefed or had their career needs fully understood in the first place, get “sold” a great opportunity, or go along anyway because “Hey one day they will be right for the role so better not p*ss off the Headhunter” and everyone loses energy, time and money. And so, it goes around again.

Why is it an industry norm in the creative sector that recruitment, especially at leadership level, so often happens through luck and banter over proper strategic planning and investment? It’s true when “they” say that people are the best asset any creative business has, so it seems ludicrous to not apply the same energy, dedication or creativity to talent in all its glory that is applied everyday on behalf of brands. I have heard more stories than I can to recount how employer brands have been damaged through bad recruitment, critical talent missed due to poor planning and approach, and in the worst cases, companies go under when their leadership talent pool dries up and they fail to stay relevant to the market.

What should be happening as standard in the creative agency market is for critical leadership recruitment to be given the investment and commitment it needs to do what it says on the tin. Critical. Leadership. Recruitment.

Imagine if the leadership team were aligned in what “great” looks like from this hire before going to market?

What would happen in there was a highly compelling brief waiting to inform and inspire equally to help people self-select in or out of the process so leaders only met great on-brief potential talent?

And just think if every person who was part of the recruitment process signed up to best practice and quality standards throughout the duration of the recruitment experience?

The answer?  Creative agencies would have informative value adding recruitment taking place at the heart of leadership teams driving business (and industry) to even greater success and results.

The good news is (drumroll!) that with simple, yet effective, steps we can change this!  And it doesn’t need huge investment or time to apply yet the impact available can save multiple-thousands. Here are my top tips:

1.    Take the time to understand what you want from the hire. I mean really want.  I have designed my own Need Profiler to help clients achieve this.  Take into account culture, commercials knowledge, milestones, motivations and pace and impact of leadership style required

2.    The potential of an awesome written brief. Communicate to inspire. Don’t write a list of tasks that came from the HR cupboard or the dusty Job Description you have on file from the outgoing person.  Think about your target audience. What is in it for them and what’s going to make this role stand out from the others? (Clients forget that when demanding only top talent, said talent should naturally have lots of choice!). Let’s also remember you only get one shot at first impact and impressions so choose to make it a great one!

3.    If you want best in show, commit to best practice.  How many times have creative organisations gone into leadership recruitment with good intentions for lazy habits to creep in as the process gets underway.  People not being briefed properly, reading CV’s/Bios as the meeting gets underway, asking the same questions that have been asked already and not really being clear on the job the candidate has come in to interview for (I could go on!).  Having seen this occur, more often than not, I have created a Best Practice Convertor that provides a framework tailored to agency spirit and culture to keep senior interviewers on track, minimises the energy and time required to prepare effectively and sets up for maximum opportunity to acquire desired talent

So, next time your agency is gearing up for leadership hires, or reacting to a leader leaving make sure you gain clarity around the need of the role, create a powerful brief to put into the market that will attract and repel in equal measure and commit to best practice for all involved. I guarantee if you do these three things then the rest of the process is being set up for success and you will save thousands in resources.  On a human level, for those interviewers with families think of the bed-times you won’t have to miss un-necessarily and for those who want to make time available elsewhere following these steps can save on average 3 hours per week during the interview process. 

I’d be delighted to share these tips and tools with any leader of a creative organisation looking to improve results, minimise disruption and reduce costs to set up for success when undertaking senior leadership appointments.

Look out for my next 2 blogs on How to Attract Exceptional Leaders and How to Retain Critical Leadership Talent.



I have been advising leading creative organisations on talent and recruitment for the past 20 years.  I am on a mission to rid the market of shoddy recruitment practices, upgrade the creative industry’s approach to talent and help ambitious companies IDENTIFY, ATTRACT & RETAIN Exceptional Leaders

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