Securing interim talent in a buoyant market

Four years ago, I fell into the world of interim recruitment. I had no experience and a mixture of expectations; some accurate, some not so much. Nevertheless, I jumped in with both feet and an open mindset, committed to learning and growing in my new profession. The childhood version of me never imagined this would be the career I would follow and learn to love.

One of the things that continually amazes me about recruitment is the learning. Every day I learn something new about the skill of recruiting, interim management or about the local government sector. All aspects are complex, but they are also constantly evolving and transforming, which means there is never a day when I can sit back and say ‘I know it all’.

As a recruiter I believe one of my key responsibilities is to share my knowledge and expertise with stakeholders, throughout the recruitment lifecycle, to ensure an effective process and ultimately a successful interim appointment.

One of the most important messages I am relaying to hiring managers and candidates at this point in time, is about the current state of the market and the implications this has on the recruitment process. Over the years I have certainly seen peeks and dips in the market but in the last year, as we start the COVID recovery journey, we have seen demand for executive level interim managers rise by around 30%, meaning the fight for talent is fierce.

In a candidate-led market it is crucial that hiring managers understand the profile of the candidates on offer and how to best appeal to them. Much is understood about good hiring practice in permanent recruitment processes and the importance of candidate attraction and candidate experience, but in the world of interim management these topics are less well documented. It has never been more important to make sure your offer is attractive, and that you consider candidate experience in the recruitment process.

Currently there is a broader range of interim managers on the market than ever before. Candidates are moving more fluidly between interim and permanent roles, due to the levelling effects of the changes to IR35 regulations in 2017 and the increase in remote and hybrid working has made interim management a more viable option for a broader range of senior leaders. This means that the age profile of interim managers is shifting – with people joining interim management earlier in their career (IIM Survey 2021). This change means that candidates are often less flexible on day rates, more interested in longer-term and full time contracts and particularly attracted by hybrid working arrangements. They can also be more risk averse, tending to accept offers as they come, rather than hedging their bets.

With this in mind it is essential that you do all you can to ensure your interim offer is attractive to a broad range of candidates and to ensure you retain the engagement of your shortlist of candidates right through to appointment.

Firstly, take some time to consider the problem you need to solve. Do you need to bring in an interim manager to cover a like-for-like gap or could you act someone up internally and bring in a coach/mentor to support them? Or could you separate out any project work or consultancy pieces? Do you need someone on site five days per week or would remote or hybrid working be more appropriate? We would advise that you remain as flexible as possible at this point to attract the widest pool of talent. Be very clear about the desired outcome but allow yourself to be guided on the possibilities involved in getting you to that end point.

Once you are clear on the problem, you can turn your attention to the solution. Consider using a small number of trusted interim providers to obtain a strong shortlist of candidates. Working with multiple agencies can result in excessive time spent on briefing and answering queries as well as receiving an overwhelming number of submissions, which creates more sifting work than is necessary. If you work with a master or neutral vendor ensure that the supply chain is appropriate for the role you need to fill and ensure the communication lines are open and effective.

Once you have established this clarity around brief and process, you can start the search and selection process. It is essential, in a fast-paced and candidate-led market that you ensure the recruitment process is as swift and streamlined as possible. As a seasoned interim provider, we completely understand that recruiting for an executive level interim position can be fraught with difficulty. The situation often involves an organisation in crisis or a senior team lacking in resource and capacity and these two factors alone make it very difficult to run a smooth recruitment process. The good news is that career interims will come in quickly and hit the ground running, so creating a little space to run an effective recruitment process will pay off tenfold.

Ensuring a swift, two-way communication channel is imperative. An interim provider will need to know detail about the organisational culture, finances, major projects and key focus areas for the role, as well as the clear vision for the future. Taking this time at the briefing stage will give the interim provider a good feel for the organisation and a clearer picture of who ‘the perfect fit’ of candidate could be.

A typical process to recruit an interim manager will involve the submission of their CV and potentially a short supporting statement. Any additional application forms are likely to put candidates off. Provide clear timescales for the recruitment process, including a potential date for interviews, where possible. This allows the recruitment agency to set expectations and reduces the risk of losing candidates.

Consider the length and quality of the interview, make sure questions are well thought out and adequate time is allowed to robustly screen the candidates and get a good view of their potential ‘fit’ in the team. Where possible make the process a one stage interview. A responsible interim provider will have already undertaken background checks and compliance, so you should be able to rest assured that the candidate is fully credible and ready to hit the ground running before you even meet them.

It is great to see a buoyant market for highly skilled interim resource, but this can cause an issue with supply and demand. If you want to secure the best candidates, you may need to adapt your approach. Some of the tips above may seem obvious but in a crisis situation, it’s surprising how quickly we can forget the basics. Following these few simple steps should ensure you are ideally placed to win the battle for attracting the best talent.

Beth Roberts is Associate Consultant at Solace

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