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Head of OD and Talent Recruited for Defra

Client Situation

Defra was undergoing a transformation process known as Next Generation HR (NGHR) - a cross-government change programme involving a fundamental restructure and modernisation of the Civil Service HR function. The aim was to increase effectiveness and professionalism, support a more corporate approach to government business and significantly improve cost efficiencies of the HR function. Three cross-government expert services had been formed to manage learning and development, resourcing and HR policy, whilst each department would retain its own smaller HR team to work in collaboration with the central teams and provide a range of strategic HR services. The current HR functions are merging to form one departmental strategic HR team to be underpinned by HR shared services.

The Challenge

Defra had followed the internal recruitment process for all senior management staff required, but the head of OD and talent role remained unfilled with no one suitable found to fit the skills and experience needed. Defra also wished to explore the pool of candidates available in the private sector.

The work was put out to tender with several HR and executive search suppliers, but it was Hudson that impressed the most with a proven track record of delivering talented senior HR personnel into the public sector, as well as deep expertise and comprehensive networks in the specialist areas of OD and talent.

The Hudson HR team was able to provide supporting testimonials as part of the tender process, and after presenting to the HR director and recruitment manager, Hudson was selected to work with Defra as a true partner on this assignment.

The Solution

To fully understand the role requirements, the Hudson HR team held an in-depth meeting with the HR director and recruitment manager, and subsequently prepared a tailored solution with a definitive time line and specific deliverables.

The role was advertised on HR-specific and equal opportunities websites, and Hudson embarked upon an extensive search campaign. 250 applicants were sifted through and over 25 first round interviews were conducted before a suitable list was presented to Defra, which included detailed application packs and interviews notes as well as CVs.

Hudson’s unique Business Attitude Questionnaire (BAQ) and reference checks on candidates were carried out before short listing, with the client for final panel interviews. Weekly updates were sent to Defra and the Hudson HR team attended all long list, short list and wash-up sessions after final interviews.

The Result

Working within a strict deadline, the vacancy was filled with a high calibre candidate and Defra was delighted that Hudson had provided the best talent available to meet their requirement. They were particularly pleased as historically it been difficult to find a candidate that had the optimum level of OD and talent experience, as well as the desire to tackle the environment of an ever-changing central government department.


“Katie [from Hudson HR] managed the recruitment process professionally, and proactively updated me at key points in the selection process ensuring that the service Defra received was value for money.”

Senior Appointments Team Leader, Defra

Project Snapshot



  • With HR functions merging and modernising to form one departmental strategic HR team, a head of OD and talent was required
  • Defra had been unable to fill the role with no one suitable found to fit the skills and experience needed
  • Defra also wanted to explore the private sector talent pool


  • After a client briefing, Hudson HR prepared a thorough, tailored solution with a definitive time line and specific deliverables
  • Both an advertising strategy and a search campaign was implemented to source candidates
  • 250 candidates were sifted through, and 25 candidates interviewed by Hudson before the shortlist was presented to Defra
  • Hudson's Business Attitude Questionnaire (BAQ) and reference checks were carried out before short listing


  • The vacancy was filled with a high calibre candidate, within the deadline
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