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Team Interview - Kate Young - Head of Marketing Agencies Practice

10 Jun 10:00 by Jon McNeish


Marketing and Communications is a fast-moving industry that values ambition, creativity and innovation. Working closely with agencies of all shapes and sizes, the team here at MacGregor Black have built a reputation for finding talent across disciplines such as design, production, social media and account management.

At the head of our Marketing division is Kate Young, an experienced recruiter who has worked within the industry since 2011, placing creative talent in senior and board-level roles. Kate came on board with MacGregor Black in 2019 to grow the Marketing Agency channel. In the first of our team interviews, Kate shares an insight into her own career background and offers her thoughts on the recruitment trends she expects to see over the coming months and years.


Hi Kate,

Can you tell us a little bit about your own career background?

I started my recruitment career 9 years ago in Leeds as a specialist Recruitment Consultant. My role has always been focused on helping agencies and brands find the best talent in Creative, Digital, Design and Marketing. I’ve worked with most of the Top 100 Digital, Design, Advertising and Marketing agencies in the UK, as part of teams in London, Leeds and Newcastle.

Over time I’ve had experience working with businesses of all sizes, right from the industry giants through to small independents. And I think that it’s important to understand where agencies share similar requirements but also where they differ. Matching candidates to a client is often about understanding the culture of an organisation and how an individual might fit within a team – particularly in situations where there are many candidates who seem to share similar qualifications on paper.


Could you provide an overview of your role at MacGregor Black and the work your team does day to day?

Currently we have consultants covering marketing agencies in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow. My team recruit across ATL & BTL agencies placing candidates in both creative and client services roles.

We also have a researcher within our team, exploring marketing agency roles in cities such as London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow. This can include opportunities in Business Development, Project Management, Strategy and Creative, to name but a few. While we typically specialise in board-level and senior roles, we are often asked by clients to find candidates at all levels.

Our daily work obviously entails traditional recruitment activity: client calls, candidate screening, posting jobs and the like. But much of our work also involves helping our candidates to present themselves well – both in the writing of applications and in preparing for interviews. Even at a senior level, we can add value by working with professionals to position their skills and expertise in the right way to appeal to their prospective employer. Working closely with candidates and helping them progress on their career paths has always been the aspect of my job that I love the most. That is made easier thanks to the supportive and professional team we have here at MacGregor Black.


What are the key skills that you would say are most valuable in the sector you recruit for?

There’s no doubting that to succeed in recruitment you need to be a people person. Whether it’s meeting a new client or taking on a new candidate it’s crucial to be personable and genuine. You have to maintain integrity by being honest, even if that means providing feedback that you know might be tough for a candidate to take. In the long run, that’s what benefits candidates most and in many respects it builds trust with our marketing professionals

I also believe that the best recruiters have the ability to read between the lines and understand situations intuitively. And, of course, being knowledgeable and anticipating market trends is a key part of what we do.


What would you say are the common mistakes you see among candidates in your sector?

Regular movement between agencies is relatively common in marketing but I would say that there are times when candidates look to move slightly too early. Ambition is a valuable trait and we would never discourage a candidate from looking to progress, however employers do often like to see that candidates have had a solid experience in at least one of their roles. A diverse CV can be appealing but a resume filled with 1 year stints can sometimes raise alarm bells with agencies.


What common mistakes do recruiting organisations often make?

There are times when agencies need to fill vacancies swiftly and they can be tempted to cut corners on the interview process. I would always recommend a solid 3-stage interview process. This benefits both candidate and agency because it provides a greater opportunity for exploring whether the two parties are a good culture fit, share the same values and have a clear understanding of the role’s requirements.


Following on from the above, what would your advice be to:

Employers looking to fill a vacancy?

To get the best results use one specialist recruiter who either knows your business or has built a strong relationship in the industry. A good agency can map out the market for you, who your competitors are, who works with similar brands, etc.

Often, the best candidates are not looking to move. So, our job is to unearth the best talent and match them to clients once we’ve taken the time to assess your needs clearly.


Employees looking to apply for a role?

Work with a specialist recruiter you trust. If you have never worked with a recruiter before, take the time to ensure that they are the right fit and understand what it is you are looking for from a future role. From that point, a good recruiter will work proactively on your behalf to make sure you secure an amazing opportunity. It makes life easier by taking away the endless job applications you never hear back from and opens a whole new world of jobs that haven’t even been advertised!


How would you say the recruitment landscape has changed in light of the recent COVID-19 crisis?

We’ve seen a significant increase in application volumes in recent weeks. Perhaps not surprisingly it’s online roles that we are filling right now and it is interesting to see how swiftly the ability to remote work from home has become a core requirement for many employers.


What can decision makers do now to assess their talent needs and plan for this return to normal phase?

For agencies looking towards the future and planning their next steps, I would say it is well worth briefing their recruitment agency on potential roles they may need in 1-3 months.


What are the lessons we should learn from these troubling times, do you think?

I think this period will see employers find themselves in one of two categories over the coming months. Those that have been loyal and conscientious towards their staff will be more likely to hold onto their talent as we come out of this lockdown period.

Conversely, we are already seeing employees who’ve felt undervalued or cast aside over recent weeks looking to move on.


You can contact Kate Young on 07964 689784 or