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Being an Interim Manager

by Chris Lain


Starting Out? Interim Management Today and How to Get That First Assignment

The use of interim management has changed fundamentally over the last few years. Head of Research Chris Lain takes a look at these changes and how this affects those who are now considering entering the industry.

In times gone by interim recruitment was quite straightforward. Clients were clear that they wanted skilled and experienced individuals with the right background – but crucially with a strong interim track record too. Clients would often overlook candidates entering into the market in favour of those with interim experience – making entering the industry difficult for newcomers.

Today, labels on candidates are less relevant and clients are making decisions based upon a candidate’s skill set and achievements, rather than how many interim assignments they have completed. In my experience, over recent years, it’s results that you have achieved as an individual that are important to organisations, rather than the nature of the contract you performed under.

A topic that has been heavily discussed in the interim market is that of a candidate that uses Interim management as a “stop-gap” for permanent professionals between roles. I think that this occurs much less than it used to and is down to the recovering economy and the increase in business confidence, that has created more permanent positions; meaning that there are more opportunities for experienced interims to take interim roles.

Interim Management in a More Positive Space

A change that I have observed over the last twelve months has been the type of assignment that we have worked on. It is now not always associated with cost cutting, headcount reduction and crisis, although there are still plenty of “troubleshooter” roles. Interim management has moved, along with the economy, into a much more positive space with a large focus around business change, transformation and growth.

The Interim Newcomer

However this competitive environment also makes it harder for first timers. So what steps should you take if you are considering going into interim management?

  1. Financial – when establishing your daily rate or range, ensure that you understand exactly what you need to earn in order to live, and is in line with the market.
  2. Lifestyle – the interim world is one of peaks and troughs – an assignment may last for 6 months, but you then may be out of work for another 6 – are you ready for that?
  3. Assignment – when you do get that first role, make sure you fully understand the brief and what is required of you, with clear objectives and timescales.
  4. Define your proposition – it seems obvious but you would be surprised how many candidates don’t know or understand the importance of their key differentiators. Ask yourself, what are you an expert at – and then make sure you can articulate it.
  5. Networking – with the advent of social media such LinkedIn and Twitter, it has never been more important not only to keep up with your personal network, but develop it too. Along with working with providers, utilising your professional network online or face-to-face, is often beneficial to gaining that first (or next) assignment.

How do you think the interim management industry has changed over the last few years? What are your top tips for gaining assignments? Share with our community below.

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About the Author

Chris' work focuses mainly in the private sector where he has the responsibility for identifying and assessing candidates for specific roles and the delivery of interim assignments, whilst also establishing long term, mutually beneficial relationships with candidates and clients across a variety of industries.

  • Mark Hope

    Been an Interim for 13 years and now have the valuable track record of having assignments and also assignments in the various sectors and roles e.g. public versus private, buying side versus selling side, projects and change versus substitution etc. All the awkward questions about experience and diversity of skills and experiences have gone. My background was one of commercial contract management, negotiating contract terms for big deals for BT on the sell side for 20 years plus. Sadly the market was concerned about my lack of experience on the buy side, in the public sector and product/service sets other than telecoms and also that I wasn’t a long standing Interim. To cut a long story short, I had to go in at lowish rates at first to secure assignments in these areas and then charge more appropriate rates for repeat and similar business once the concern disappeared as a result of delivering. My skills are in fact and always have been completely transferable but only by demonstrating that I could perform in these areas could I convince the hirers. My advice to new Interims is that nothing has changed. Starting out is still difficult so I would suggest you bend on rates in order to get varied assignments under your belt and make hay later when your value is realised in both senses of the word. On a different note, I agree that you must look and smell like an Interim (not someone doing it in the absence of a permanent role) and you must be able to articulate your skills, experiences and value and sell yourself more than you have ever had to do previously in your life as a permanent employee.

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