Whether you’re looking to use interims to plug a short-term leadership gap or to add in additional expertise at critical points, speed is of the essence. You need to find the right interim for your business, fast. This is why the Institute of Interim Management (IIM) estimate that more than 80% of organisations partner with an interim management provider who have a ready-available, proven network of interims to tap into.
However, there are a lot of interim providers out there (over 1000 firms in the UK at the last count) with new entrants appearing all the time. The type and standard of service provided varies a lot as do their fee structures, track record and ability to attract high-quality interims into their community. This can make choosing the right interim provider difficult and at times bewildering. Picking the right provider can ultimately be the difference between success and failure at critical points in your business.
From my own experience of founding and running an interim management firm and being in the industry for more than 20 years, here are some key questions that I recommend asking an interim management provider to determine if they can quickly find the best possible interim for you.
One- Are they specialists in interim management?
Or are they a search firm that dabbles in interim management when the opportunity comes up? Or a volume recruiter that is looking to interims to temporarily boost their revenue in a dry patch? Or even a digital CV agent that is happy to include interims in their database? Interim management is a very distinctive service and requires specific infrastructure, expertise and networks to be delivered effectively. This can only be built over time and isn’t something that can be operated “pop up” style or opportunistically. Ask the provider how much of their business is dedicated to interim management (rather than other recruitment or talent-related services) and how long they have been placing interims for.
Which leads to the next question…
Two- Are they recognised as a platinum interim provider by the Institute of Interim Management (IIM)?
Every year the IIM rank interim providers in the UK. Based on over 40,000 individual votes, they offer this ranking as a credible list of excellence in interim service provision. The top 16 ranked providers are given platinum status. If a provider is recognised as a platinum provider, you can be assured that they will provide a good level of service both to the business and the interims themselves. If they do not have this status, be cautious and dig deeper to understand why.
Three- What are the credentials of the interim consultants that will find the right interims for you?
Interims are seasoned professionals with years of experience behind them. The IIM say that the average age of an interim is 54. The best interims will want to work with interim recruitment consultants that are mature professionals in this space and understand how business work. You as a leader will need to partner with someone that understands the complexities of a brief, has worked in multiple roles so has experienced first-hand the importance of cultural fit and has the confidence to dig deep and constructively challenge what is needed and what would make the difference between a good interim and a great interim for you. A good interim recruitment consultant looks very different to a high street recruiter or a RPO manager. Ask for the credentials of the interim consultants the interim management provider uses and how they are screened and assessed during the hiring process.
Four- What is the average fill rate for interim assignments?
Interims are usually in demand when the business is experiencing a transition, the outcome of which can make a big difference to an organisations competitiveness and its ability to deliver its goals. Getting the right interim into the business fast that can make a difference from day one is crucial. Yes, there may be some skills and expertise in very short supply, but a good interim provider will have the industry knowledge and depth of connections and networks to find even those unicorns. Ask the provider what their assignment fill rate is and if it’s below 95% dig deeper to understand the quality of their networks. It’s also a good idea to ask them how long it will take them to select you a shortlist of candidates. If it’s more than 48 hours, question if they truly know the unique skill sets, achievements and motivations of their interim networks and catch up with them regularly or whether they’re just CVs in a database.
Five- How do they identify and evaluate candidates for roles?
Do they meet you for a full brief? Do they regularly meet with their network of interims? Will they send you a curated short shortlist with only the best relevant interns for the task in hand or will you be sent a ream of CVs to look through? Can they provide specific leadership assessment if required to help predict performance? These questions will help you determine if they will send you interims or the right interims for your specific needs.
Six- How do they identify the return on interim?
Finding the right interim leader is only the start. Good outcomes are not enough. Great outcomes are what you need. Ask the provider how they determine what great looks like and how they track and quantify the value the interim leader delivers throughout their assignment. If they cannot answer, then query further to understand how they define success in a way that makes a difference to you.
Seven- How many of their clients use them repeatedly as an interim management provider?
Actions speak louder than words. If clients continue to use their providers, then you can feel confident that they are consistently delivering what is required and delivering it well. Ask what % of their clients are repeat buyers and if it’s less than 60% ask why. In the same vein, ask about interim satisfaction and if it’s less than 90% ask why.
Regardless of whether it’s one or one hundred interims you’re looking to use, choosing the right interim provider is key. Asking the right questions of providers means getting the right interims for you and ultimately the right results for your business.