Talent Talks: Patti Clifford, Global Chief Talent Officer, Havas Worldwide and Havas Creative Group

2014 Patti Clifford Hero

There’s a lot of talk about talent in every industry, especially in our industry. We wanted to find out how execs in advertising and marketing are finding and keeping their talent, what the most important aspects of finding talent are, and if they have any tips for anyone who wants to know more about what they should do to get into this industry. We wanted to ask the expert in this field, and who other than Patti Clifford, Global Chief Talent Officer, Havas Worldwide and Havas Creative Group! Here’s what she had to say…

What are some approaches you’ve implemented for talent recruitment at Havas Creative Group that others should model?

We meet with people even when we don’t have a specific role open for them. We find it exposes us to other skill sets and experiences that might be helpful to bring into the agency or a specific client. It forces us to get out of the standard of hiring for the open role. It helps us stop and think about other models and possibilities. We also rarely have “boxes to fill.” Instead, we often times identify the talent we need/want, and then figure out what their role should be. It ends up being very rewarding for Havas and the hire, since the role is often “customized” for that person – to give him/her the type of role that makes sense in their career, while adding an incredibly valuable talent to the team to continue pushing us forward.

What are the most important characteristics that you look for in a candidate?

We look for “athletes” – people who have a strong core competency but also have developed a broad set of skills and experiences. We like people who are curious, adaptable, and interested in working in a collaborative environment, and people who are entrepreneurial, solution oriented, and collaborative who want to build something.

How can young professionals benefit from connecting with their C-suite role models through networking and mentorship opportunities?

There is wonderful two-way learning that can take place when the C-suite and young professionals connect. The C-suite typically have experience and wisdom that are super helpful for a young professional to tap into and they can also give them insights on how to approach situations and manage their career. The young professionals, on the other hand, have a perspective that is important for the C-level to understand; by connecting with young professionals, the senior executives have an opportunity to better understand what’s important to young professionals relative to their careers and the type of opportunities and culture they want at work.

What recommendations do you have for young professionals or college students who want to ‘make it’ in advertising and marketing? What should they be doing in school or in post-graduation? (Examples: internships, certain jobs, learning certain skills, etc.)

We definitely look for young professionals who are truly passionate about the field and can share their thoughts on the creative work with us. We also look for how they’ve engaged while at school – what coursework have they done, activities they have participated in, etc. We want employees who are well rounded and have a range of interests. Internships are very helpful because essentially it gives the young person perspective and some hands-on experience.

Candidates should also consider some type of professional portfolio (preferably online) that showcases best work (writing samples, art pieces, etc). Portfolios are required for those seeking creative positions (art/copywriting/etc), but they are also great for any professional to keep up to date for interviewing and networking purposes.

 Do you have any tips for how to attract and retain diverse talent in an industry known for lacking diversity?

You have to have an active and engaged community in your organization as well as provide career support in order to attract and retain diverse talent.

We participate in the MAIP, the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program sponsored by the 4As. It’s a wonderful opportunity to expose young, diverse talent to the world of advertising. We are using that program to more proactively hire the interns into entry level roles and then match them up with mentors to help them get a fast start in their role and the agency.

We encourage employee affinity groups under our Multicultural Employee Leadership Teams (MELT). During Black History month, we had a series of educational and social sessions for our employees including a session with Eunique Gibson Jones founder of Because of Them We Can who worked in advertising before starting the organization. In addition, our Women@Havas group in NY is launching a innovative mentoring program that we believe will help young women professionals with excelling in their careers.

What are your 3 favorite questions to ask in an interview with a candidate?

This series of questions gives me insight into self-awareness, confidence, ability to learn from experiences, collaboration, etc.

  • Tell me about an accomplishment that you are most proud of and why?
  • What’s a failure you’ve had and what did you learn from it?
  • Give me an example of a challenging team situation and how you worked through it.


  1. Carl Rogers on June 2, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Great piece, Patti.