First Time Interim Managers

15 Dec

First Time Interim Managers

Posted by: James Hunt
13 Comment
There seems to be a feeling in the market that Interim providers are reluctant to place candidates in their first interim assignment and would rather wait until they have a proven track record. This leads to a “chicken and egg” scenario, as they need to get their first assignment from somewhere!
Surely this is where the Interim supplier comes into the equation?
I have met and placed many people on their first assignment. Part of our role must be to educate people on how a successful interim conducts themselves and approaches the role. It is very different to starting a permanent role but as long as they understand how it works then it can work very successfully. These days many people have either used Interims or have ex-colleagues who have embarked on an interim career, who can also give them advice on the differences. 
Conversely there are some people, who have been Interims for years, who I would never put forward to a client. Their record is one of talking a great game but not delivering or worse still antagonising the client or their staff.  Herein lies the value of using an established Interim supplier, who understands the market and knows their candidates well, rather than someone who is simply peddling CV’s!
What are your thoughts on using first time interim managers?  Are you a first time interim manager yourself – what has been your experience?

13 Responses to First Time Interim Managers

As an experienced senior programme manager with over 25 years of experience in fortune 500 companies and over 10 years in director and senior director roles and who is now looking for my first interim assignment - I would concur with Jame's observations. My experience in the 6-8 weeks since starting to look is that the majority of senior programme management roles that I have applied for and then chased the recruiter up on, tend to have already been filled by candidates coming out of a previous assignment. As a result, my advice to any new interim candidate is to find which agencies specialise in the sectors or roles that you want to focus on, find out who are the partners or leading consultants in those agencies and then try and meet and build a relationships with those contacts. Throwing your CV at interim roles advertised on job-boards is ultimately a low-return activity.

December 17, 2014 at 09:25
As a first time interim manager myself, I find that I need all the help that I can get. As a chronologically "senior" person who went to work long before paper qualifications became a must, I find myself locked out by the need for "must have prior experience in local government/financial services/NHS/education/construction/etc." The same does seem to be true of "prior interim assignments". All I know is how to motivate staff, the strength of team-working, the power of building a culture that supports co-operation and trust, the advantages of giving individuals room to grow and develop, and the reasons for bringing all stakeholders on board. There are no certificates for these skills.

December 17, 2014 at 09:57
James, the key success for me in interim assignments is the ability to build relationships quickly and to really grasp and demonstrate that I understand the commercial needs of the client regardless of sector. Giving the client a sense of confidence in this area, demonstrating quick delivery and adding value through building relationships with the key stakeholders have always worked well for me. Coaching and supporting first time interims to help them accelerate this process so they can quickly establish themselves with a client is a great approach for a supplier to take as it hopefully sets you apart with the client as long as the interim then delivers.

December 17, 2014 at 10:00
I agree with the comment that interim recruitment firm should help more and this starts with being more proactive with candidates rather than, as you say, simply peddling CVs. They should take more interest in the professionals that they would seek to place. Surely the agencies want good people not just people they can "sell". Both people new to interim and experienced may need occasional feedback and guidance from the agency. Sadly this doesn't seem to be the case and most seem to just do CV to job spec matching just like perm agencies. It would help to meet with every candidate to see if they are serious about an interim career and what the skills and abilities beyond the CV are.

December 17, 2014 at 15:54
I found it very difficult earlier on this year to find and interim position for reasons you mention. After spending 15 years in Finance sector in IT and with the last 4 years as a manager in a very large hedge fund I thought it would be a lot easier. I now have a role but outside of financial services and this role came through a network of contacts rather than the traditional recruitment route. My goal is still to get back in the finacial services sector on the interim management side

December 17, 2014 at 23:38
I have just this week walked away from a permanent position with nothing to walk into, I decided that a New Year needed a new start, as such I am now looking for my first interim role, I'm public sector through and through, with 20 years in IT, a strategic thinker, a transformational leader, and someone who believes in delivering results not just talking about it, I'm passionate about a new challenge and able to bring a multitude of skills to any assignment, however I am finding the lack of support from recruitment agencies a real struggle, I did have a conversation just yesterday with a well known player in the Interim agency world, they had taken a look at my CV which I had sent through to be added to their books, they were great they asked me some challenging questions, probed into my background and skills, and now want to meet me face to face to talk through what I can bring to the table of an interim assignment, I am going to meet with 3 consultants at their offices as my expertise falls across each of their areas, I am in no doubt they are meeting with me to see if I am someone they want to put forward to clients, this tells me two things that they care about what they do and, that they are not just peddling CV's, and trust me even if I don't find my first assignment through them, they are going to be someone I will want to work with when I am looking to recruit and I am at a senior enough level in IT that I do a lot of contract and interim recruitment. I do hope other agencies follow their lead and support new interims into the Market.

December 19, 2014 at 10:20
As a first time interim manager, I find it very difficult to find a first assignment. As a generalist with a senior manager’s background, I continually come against blockages where there is a perceived need for prior experience in local government, financial services, NHS, education and also prior interim assignments. In particular the public sector would do well to widen their horizons and bring in unbiased skills to give them a fresh approach to their business issues. My skills are in leadership, how to motivate staff, the strength of team-working, the power of building a culture that supports co-operation and giving individuals room to develop and contribute to the success of their organization and themselves. Essential components for any business in both the private and public sectors.

January 28, 2015 at 12:49
On joining the ranks of the Interim management profession after a successful 25 year industry "full time career", i wasn't expecting the reticence of the Interim recruiters (and their clients) to engage with those new to this form of working. After trying to build contacts with Interim focused organisations (and being told, not literally, to "come back when you are all grown up sonny" ie when you have a number of assignments under your belt and you are a "proven" interim), i managed to convert my first assignment from one of my network of recruiters who don't specialise in interim per se. I think the comments about using your own network of contacts is sound advice, but this does not open up the broad range of opportunities that are out there. I have also come across the issue of responding to adverts for positions where you fit the requirements extremely well and then never getting any contact or feedback from the recruiter. One such instance, i did manage to get in front of a particular Interim recruitment specialist for a discussion and learned that she worked with a "short list" of about 100 seasoned interims, who she would cycle opportunities through - if you weren't on this existing list you had no chance of being considered (despite the fact that the position was advertised heavily online....). I do believe that a lot of people entering the industry are aware of some the specific differentiators when undertaking an interim assignment, but the need to hit the ground running, communicate effectively, be highly organised, strategic, be task and delivery orientated whilst assimilating seamlessly into a new organisation is not unique to being an interim - there are plenty of excellent operators out there that have been living that life albeit under a parent umbrella organisation for many years and delivering those things consistently over a sustained period. I cant speak for the Interim providers but its possible that enough time isn't put aside to meet with and get to know some of the new breed coming into the industry - for a small amount of effort on the recruiters part, expanding on your network and understanding of who's out there should make a lot of sense.

January 30, 2015 at 15:15
I am new to the world of interim and have just completed my first two assignments and aso agree that the agency needs to get to know the individual, what are their REAL skill sets and will they fit the culture of the company that they are going into. My experience has taught me that clients want to know that you are able to come in and 'hit the ground running', not needing much direction, quickly build relationships and deliver the 'goods' Someone said to me the other day, you know if you have done a good job when someone in the organisation that you have been working at thinks you have been around for ages!! I also find that you have to have a good set of contacts and several good interim agencies where you build a good relationship with the person trying to plave you. Once you have finished a contract always ask fro a reference - key to helping to secure the next role.

February 2, 2015 at 12:44
I've completed two interim assignments but through my own connections, never through an interim supplier. People face chicken-and-egg situations throughout their careers: seeking a first job, ready for a bigger role managing people, changing careers, going from perm to contract or interim, etc. The trend is that more people are leaving permanent employment, wanting to take a contract or interim position, but eventually arriving at self-employment (e.g. consultancy). There is a need for a guide or other help, to lead people to the understanding of what are the key traits to be successful, and make that jump - landing on the target.

February 4, 2015 at 09:45
The problem in finding the first role is more often with the end client than the agency - clients want people who've "done it before" and usually aren't prepared to risk a project or function to someone who is untested in an interim environment. I share the frustration of some earlier posters here who, despite excellent skills and experience, are essentially treated as novices by both clients and agencies and get pushed to the back of the queue. The advice I got from one agency was to find my first assignment via my network and then they would be happy to represent me subsequently - if I could do that then why would I need an agency? Many first timers do find work (after all everyone is a first timer at least once) and often success is through third parties, but perhaps the market over the last 6 years has got so swollen with ex-perms (like me) who are competing over a diminished supply of opportunities that clients (and agencies) can be as picky as they want. I've had some limited success ( a couple of assignments in six years) but it remains a real struggle to get in front of clients (and agencies sometimes)but we all remain hopeful that changes in market conditions will work to all our benefit.

February 6, 2015 at 10:48
James perfect articulation! I have similar experiences of applying for roles and never hearing and it appears alot of agencies are not interested in the relationship, but disappointingly peddling CVs. I will be in touch to utilise your expertise!

June 11, 2015 at 17:51
Interim management has always been for me and I've always known it. The barrier has been working in a region that is completely averse to interim and in building up my track record I've had to give in regularly and take the permanent role in order to take advantage of the opportunity to extract value and put another achievement next to my name. It also means that I've swapped industries a few times and have experience across a range of industries. My knack for spotting opportunity and simplicity in complex systems means that I can literally walk into any area of a business, sort out the issue, pull the resources together and deliver value for the business. Exactly what an interim is supposed to be right? Well then you come up against human nature - always play it safe. People always go with the tried and tested and this will never change. I find myself in a doubly challenging situation where I have moved from South Africa back to the UK to pursue my desire to build a career as a professional interim. No network, no friends!! I look at myself like a new business, doors open but no customers. When I started the sports retail store, I had no customers and woke up every day for that first sale. It came sooner than I thought and I surpassed the first 6 months expectation. All this when everyone told me I was mad. I have delivered results when I've been told it's impossible in other roles as well. So I guess I must be mad again. All it takes is one person to say yes and my business has a customer and revenue. I know I'm better than the rest and It's up to me to go and find that customer - they don't come running! The chicken and the egg yes, because no one is going to believe in you if you don't first. Business is easy if you are prepared to work very, very hard.

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