Assessing Interims

Assessing Interims

By Keith Butler

All too often, interim managers are put through the same interview process as candidates for permanent roles. However, this is not necessarily the best approach and it is usually more appropriate to assess the suitability of an interim in the same way you would assess a new supplier, with emphasis on what they need to deliver during the assignment and the benefits of engaging them compared to their cost. Therefore, key things to consider include:

  1. You are probably retaining the interim to manage a specific project or for a limited period. Therefore, focus on their ability to hit the ground running and work at pace. Get quite granular in this area. How will they approach their first week? What do they see as the main priorities? How would they get to the nub of the problem quickly?
  2. Relationships: There are very few assignments where the interim does not have to strike up rapport with key stakeholders. How will they do this? Where have they done it before? Can you picture them engaging well with other managers, employees, customers, partners and suppliers?
  3. Demonstrating return on investment (ROI) will be important to you as the hiring manager, and indeed to the interim as their future employability may depend upon it. Where have they demonstrated ROI? What type of projects? How was it measured?
  4. Learning: You expect the interim you engage to bring a particular skill set, of course. But we know the best professionals seek to learn all the time. What have they learnt from previous assignments that will benefit them on this one? How effective will they be at imparting their knowledge to others during the course of the assignment?
  5. How do they view interim? Are they committed to this opportunity? Have they successfully carried out other similar assignments? Is interim management a conscious career choice or is this just a filler between permanent roles?
  6. Values: Whilst the interim is only going to be with you for a short period of time, it is still important there is not a cultural clash. What do they value? Do these things align with the culture and norms at your organisation?
  7. References: It can still be worthwhile obtaining these (or asking your interim provider to do so). Identify a referee who can give a candid appraisal. As in all forms of assessment, a structured approach (e.g. against headings such as quality, customer focus etc.) yields more validity than loose observations, and it is important to ascertain whether key assignment goals were achieved.

Of course, all of this hinges on you (the client) providing the interim with sufficient information and context on the organisation, the role and your expectations. Therefore, never forget…

  • Move fast – the interim market moves rapidly. Ideally there should ideally be ONE meeting, with all key stakeholders present, with a decision made quickly. If you are meeting more than one candidate try to see them on the same day so it is easy to make comparisons.
  • You are selling too – the best interims have choices about where they spend their time. Therefore, you need to describe (and then deliver on) a constructive working environment where they will feel challenged and valued.

In summary, when you have decided that an interim can add value to your business, you will need to determine exactly what you want him or her to achieve, assess their capabilities, experience and approach accordingly, ensure that you can work effectively with them and then act quickly to secure their services.

If you need any further advice, please contact me at keith.butler@wickland.westcott.email or on 01625 508100.


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