Meet The headhunters

Presented 29 March 2023

A session not to be missed if you are considering approaching head-hunters or embarking on your board journey in the government, NFP, ASX200+ or private sector space.

What are non-executive recruiters looking for in a board candidate? What do they want to know about you? And how should you present yourself and approach hean-hunters?
Our guest head-hunters, Watermark Search International work primarily in the ASX 200+, not for profit, government and private sector space.

In this candid and revealing disucssion, three Watermark partners, Jacinata Whelan, Jen D'Arcy Smith and Daniel Nicholls share their generous insights into what they are currently seeing in the board recruitment market and what you can do to increase your chances of success, including:

  • The search process: What’s in demand; skills, expertise etc
  • The importance of networking and key tips on how to improve your network.
  • What boards are looking for in addition to the traditional skills matrix set and how to stand out

Jacinta provides a comprehensive overview of what boards are currently seeking and market trends. Daniel discusses live examples of Boards that they have recently worked with, outlining the process and the structure. Jen takes a deep dives into the importance networking from an executive search perspective plus they answer a broad range of questions from the audience.
Conversation snippets include: 

You really need to start thinking about what your value is to those boards. Almost every appointment that I've done in the last two or three years has been very specifically focused on a set of capabilities. And I think probably what we're seeing in the changing market is that it's becoming more niche capabilities.


We do a lot within government boards, both with independent agencies and  government owned enterprises, and what we're finding at the Commonwealth level  is they're towards creating pools.  So instead of going to market with individual appointments, they're going to search firms and asking  the search firms to create a pool of  candidates that the government can then draw upon  to make appointments quite almost directly. 


Our tip is email the chair and get to know the chair, because it looks good for chairs to be  identifying new talent or talent that doesn't have the  same exposure as perhaps the known names out there


They're doing a review into public sector appointments at the Commonwealth level.  …and that may or may not change things.


Jennifer (Jen) D'Arcy-Smith - Partner - Executive & Board Search, Watermark Search International

Jen is an experienced search consultant joining the Watermark Search International Melbourne team in October 2018 and is a member of the firm’s Board Practice. She focuses on Board, CEO and C-suite level searches and is trusted with high profile, often confidential, sensitive engagements. With more than a decade in executive search, Jen has managed complex Board and executive search assignments in both the public and private sectors in a diverse range of organisations that includes: government, healthcare, higher education, consumer, agribusiness, community and not for profit in Australia and New Zealand.

Jen has partnered with boards, chief executives, senior leadership and elected members in the appointment of directors and executives sourced through local and international networks. Prior to joining Watermark Search International, Jen worked as a Managing Consultant in the leading global professional and executive search firm and as a Principal Consultant with one of New Zealand’s longest established and respected integrated HR consultancies. Beyond Board and executive search, Jen has previously facilitated the development and review of chief executive performance management frameworks, organisational review and design management processes, executive talent management, and coaching & mentoring leaders.

Jacinta Whelan, Lead Partner - Watermark Search International

Jacinta is an author, thought leader and popular speaker on the concept of Interim Executives, Portfolio Careers and future ways of working. She leads the Melbourne office of Watermark and has over 25 years’ experience starting and leading Interim businesses in Hong Kong, New York and Australia.

Jacinta advises corporates and governments on the Executive Interim marketplace. She is regularly asked to speak to Boards and business leaders looking to stay abreast of the way organisations are engaging executive talent. The future of work has well and truly arrived – it is the NOW of work. The paradigm has shifted in how we engage with work and both individuals and companies are questioning what it means for them.


Daniel Nicolls, Partner Executive Search, Watermark Search International

Daniel-Nicholls.jpegDaniel has over two decades of executive search experience, working across Asia and Australia. He began his search career with an established search firm in Tokyo, leading and growing their functional search practice, specialising in finance, operations, information technology, human resources and legal appointments. He then set up a Tokyo-based boutique search firm as one of three founding partners, growing its coverage across ten countries.

With Watermark, Daniel is a leader in our Government practice, with in-depth exposure to transport, infrastructure, health and human services sectors at the executive and board level. He also has coverage of our for-purpose and association practice and a strong interest in the renewable energy and wellness sectors. Throughout Daniel’s recruitment career, he has built broad expertise in assessing and recruiting a range of roles across general management, operational, service delivery and technical positions.


Non-Executive Director, WOB Pty Ltd (appointed April 2006)
Executive Director, Women on Boards Australia (appointed Feb 2018)
Chair, Central Coast Conservatorium of Music
Non-Executive Director & Governance Committee Chair, Coast Shelter Emergency Accommodation Ltd

As the co-founder of Women on Boards, both in Australia (2006) and the UK (2012) it goes without saying that Claire has a wealth of experience in working with women who are seeking board roles. She is an informed,  entertaining and engaging presenter who brings the world of boards across a wide range of sectors alive to participants and is able to quickly connect the dots and match people to areas aligned to their skills and interests. Claire is an experienced Non-Executive Director on small businesses and large Not-For-Profit organisations and has a deep understanding of the board environment across a wide range of sectors.