Ad Chat - Esther Clerehan, Headhunter

Esther Clerehan is not your regular recruiter, she's headhunter extraordinaire. While you can find her on twitter, facebook, and in Sydney, Australia, you'll probably also stumble onto her anywhere in the world seeking out talent. She started in the mail room at Ogilvy in Melbourne at the tender age of 17, the very day after her last senior school exam. She then moved into worked in Traffic and Production, working for several top Melbourne agencies. She had drive, she had ambition, and people noticed.

"At 24, I made an offhand remark to a wise friend about my dissatisfaction with a meeting I'd just had with a recruiter. lt led to a phone call from the doyenne of the industry recruiters offering me me a job. Then at 27, my boss sent me to Sydney to run their Sydney office and I left 5 years later to start my own business. My company, CLEREHAN, is celebrating 20 years this year. I work alone and mostly with Australian agencies, but have dabbled in all parts of the world."

db: Now, here's one that you might have advice on, as I've seen people struggle with this a lot when they hop from agency to agency : How do you know - both as an agency or employee looking to work there - who is a right "fit" for you?

Esther Clerehan: First rule is "trust your gut". If you ask someone who is unhappy in their job when they first realised that it wasn't quite right, they'll almost always begin by mentioning the interview. Secondly, don't fall for image. Many agencies are far removed from the PR "shop window" they have cultivated. To the agency doing the hiring, do a background check, but always hire someone imagining that their best work is ahead of them, not simply what is produced in their book. Finally, learn to see the world through the eyes of others. When you think about that, you can see where your own needs and desires fit in and will flourish. Too often, as companies and as people, we are selfish.

db: Tell us something we don't know about you....

Esther Clerehan: I am a movie buff and have probably read every Hollywood biography from the 1930s to '60s. I have been vegetarian by choice since I was four years old. When I grew up, I was delighted to discover that martinis are vegetarian.

db: Yes, thank goodness for that. What piece of art (movie, book, music, painting, etc) has influenced you most?

Esther Clerehan: I grew up with an Architect father and an Artist mother. Art was all around us. My favourite film growing up was Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter", quite a dark film. It was an obscure box office failure but now regarded as a classic. Turns out I had pretty good taste.

db: What's one thing that excites you about the future of advertising?

Esther Clerehan: I guess I'd say that it's about the future of how we will digest information. I have NO IDEA about how that will happen but I do know that the answer will make someone a lot of money. And it does make it a very exciting time to be around the industry.

db: Who is your favorite mentor and why?

Esther Clerehan: Michael Cook who was my boss at Ogilvy. Michael is one of my closest friends and confidantes. He's the Co-Owner of an amazingly successful Production Company called The Feds. Also, I have to mention the late, great Claire Worthington who schooled me in recruitment and had brilliant instincts.

db: What job are you most proud of?

Esther Clerehan: Well I placed David Droga for Bob Isherwood as the ECD and Regional ECD for Saatchi Singapore and Asia. I gave Bob two names and phone numbers and told him they were open to talking to him. It happened very quicky. I think Droga was 26 at the time. The other guy knocked it back because he'd worked in Asia before and he felt that he would be "going backwards."
But I am really proud of the "Ask Esther" advice column. It wasn't my idea. Ed Howley who runs approached me to do an agony aunt column for juniors with job or job search dilemmas. Now I borrow it back for my own website and we publish simultaneously.

db: What piece of advice do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Esther Clerehan: I wish I'd listened to the people who told me to learn to touch type. I avoided typing because then it was seen purely as a secretarial duty. I think the workplace improved very dramatically for women when men started to use keyboards.

Thank you for doing this little chat with us Esther. :) Vegan lunch is on us when we hit Australia. Note: Esther's business cards are awesome and made by Leuver Design.

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