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Selecting the right interim provider with 7 simple questions.

29th January, 2018

Chances are you’re about to manage a planned (or unplanned) change. But how do you manage the situation if you don’t have the extra experience in-house at just the right time? Using an interim management provider to hand-pick the best interim manager available is an obvious option if timing is crucial.

But choosing the right interim management provider could ultimately make the difference between success and failure of a change situation. Hiring the right interim at the right time will provide crucial competitive difference for your business, and quickly.

From my own experience of launching and running interim management firms including the UK’s no.1, here are 7 simple questions clients should ask interim management providers to make sure they can hand-pick the right candidate. Equally, if you are a ‘top-flight’ interim manager, make sure you are networking with the right providers.

Are they a specialist interim management provider? 

Do they know the market well enough to provide a proper yardstick? Can they compare and benchmark interims at the level you need and provide the right candidate shortlists, quickly.

Do they meet a client each time there is a brief to discuss? 

Do they take a thorough brief, and do they really understand your business and what is really needed? It’s essential to agree on an assignment that’s deliverable. But make sure you are asked the right questions and feel that the provider can give a proper briefing to candidates. I often put the role description to one side and ask and what ‘success’ looks like in 6-8 months’ time.

Do they identify one or two hand-picked candidates or present a number of CV’s? 

Shorter shortlists are best. It saves your time. It really shows that an interim provider understands the brief and knows the candidates. They should be able to advise you which interim manager is best. Otherwise you may as well do it yourself.

Are they artificially ‘siloed’? 

Some interim management providers ‘silo’ themselves by function and sector which is often for their convenience not yours. I recently heard of an experienced interim manager being told by a well-known interim provider that they “don’t do his functional area any more.” Your company doesn’t choose where the next change may come from. A true interim provider should be able to help you anywhere in your business, not just in Finance and HR as many seem to be doing now.

Are they offering the wrong kind of interim manager? 

A recent interim management survey suggested (if it’s to be believed) that interim management starts at £300 per day and with interim managers beginning their career anything from the age of 25. These candidates are not going to lead and deliver business critical change situations. Interim management is the introduction of leadership experience into an organisation for a period of time when that experience is not immediately available in-house.

So, talking to the wrong interim management provider can be a waste of your company’s time and money.

Do they represent a hand-picked panel of known interims or a database of 1000’s of unknowns? Do they ‘tune in’ with them regularly? 

Huge databases are not a virtue. We can all pick unknown candidates from professional networking sites. Let providers add value and introduce you to someone they know can deliver! Just how well do they know the interim managers they represent and charge for? Providers can only properly recommend an interim manager if they meet and assess them regularly.

Are they really a recruitment firm with a conflict of interest? 

Is the provider also a permanent recruitment firm with competing and conflicting interests which don’t align with your priorities? Any specialist interim provider knows interim management and permanent databases don’t mix.

In my opinion, selecting the right interim management provider is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when managing change, transformation or transition in your organisation. Providers should earn their money by saving you time and sharing their knowledge of the best and most suitable interim managers available.

Hand-pick your interim management provider otherwise, as experience has shown, it just means that you will end up with the wrong interim, which proves pretty costly in the end.


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