Interviewing an Interim Manager?

The interim management interview needs to be approached differently to get the right results.  In previous articles we looked at when and why to engage an interim manager and how to find the “correct” Interim Manager. Having found a short list of likely interims what should you, as the client, be focussing on in the interview? 

Probably the best place to start is to emphasise the difference between interviewing for a permanent role and an interim assignment.

So, what are the main differences?:

  1. An interim manager contracts with companies and organisations through their own limited company.
  2. They are therefore not employees of the Client and are not on their payroll. They charge a day rate, from their company, and from that meet their own PAYE, NHI, Pension etc. The Client only pays for the days they work on the assignment and are not responsible for their PAYE, NHI etc
  3. Therefore there is no employment contract to enter into or to exit therefore allowing complete flexibility in terms of when the interim is engaged, length of assignment and termination of services. As they are not an employee there are no redundancy payments or issues such as unfair dismissal.
  4. Instead there is a contract between the interim manager’s limited company and the Client. This sets out the scope of the services to be provided, fees, notice period, liability for taxes etc
  5. So in terms of the interview the Client should look at the potential engagement, from a commercial viewpoint, as he would the engagement of a supplier taking into account the added dimension that the interim manager becomes part of the management team or heading up a discrete project.
  6. Interim Managers are engaged normally for a specific project (e.g. to bring about change) or for a length of time  (e.g. unplanned departure; gaps such as maternity leave or cover) so the focus should be closely on what they need to deliver during the course of the assignment.
  7. It is best to interview more than one person for an assignment but three is probably the maximum.

How to prepare for the interview:

  1. Interim managers are in a resource “pool” and as such are available only when they are not on assignment. Therefore they will likely have several assignment possibilities at one time.
  2. Their availability can change quickly if they are engaged on another assignment. It is important therefore that once a short list of candidates has been put together that the interviews then happen as quickly as possible as dictated by the demands of the project. This limits the risk that having selected someone for interview they are not engaged somewhere else.
  3. Because interim managers are highly experienced normally just one interview is all that is necessary to decide who should be appointed. Sometimes this stretches to two interviews if a key decision maker is not present at the first interview or if the company is part of a Group and someone from the Holding company needs to meet them as well.
  4. A preliminary telephone interview can be useful as well as Skype. However there is no substitute for meeting “face to face”.
  5. In organising the interview ensure that the key decision makers are present.
  6. Hold the interviews on the same day wherever possible as it makes comparisons easier.

The interview itself:

  1. In the first article in this series we looked at “When and why to engage an interim manager” and part of that was the interim specification: Background to the assignment; Assignment deliverables: Must have skills and experience; Preferred skills; The person; Contractual; Fees.
  2. The interim manager would have applied against this specification. When engaging an interim manager for an assignment what you are principally looking for is someone who has delivered a similar project as an interim manager.
  3. So the focus in the interview is where they have achieved this before and understanding what their approach is likely to be to this project. In addition is that approach consistent with the company culture. 
  4. An interim with a track record of successful assignments is less of risk than someone who has never operated as an interim before.
  5. In terms of personality does the interim have the attributes and approach you are looking for? Can you work with this person? Do their values align with yours? Can they add value from day 1? Are they “sensibly over qualified” for the role? (i.e. you need spare capacity in the skill set to deal with the unexpected that inevitably comes up if a project is being driven forward)

The all important references:

  1. Always take up references on the interim from prior assignments, including the latest assignment, personally even though the interims may have come to you “as referenced”. Make this a condition of the engagement. Taking up these references will give you a valuable insight into their approach as an interim manager and whether that approach is likely to be appropriate to your own organisation.

and Finally …

The main focus of the engagement of the interim should be the Return on Investment (ROI) of the project. This will be covered in another article.

Mike Measures  – Interimconnect

Mike Measures Interimconnect

1 thought on “Interviewing an Interim Manager?

  1. Interesting and worthwhile exercise Adam. I carried out some research some years back where we asked interim executives to place a multiple on their cost v ROI. Outcome from over 800 interim executives was an average of 14 times ROI.

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