By MacLaine Adler

An interim executive is so much more than a stopgap while you prepare for a permanent hire. In fact, they can be just what your charity needs to bring back focus to your mission and help you to move forward.

But hiring an interim candidate into a leadership role can feel uncomfortable if it’s not something you have done before.

Read on to find out why you might consider hiring an interim candidate to your executive team; what’s involved in the hiring process; and how it’s different from a traditional executive search.

Why hire an interim leader?

Speed: A gap in leadership can arise suddenly – and determining what you’re looking for in a permanent leader, then identifying the right person for the role, takes time. Interim candidates have experience of transitioning rapidly into a new role, and our consultants can take as little as 1-2 weeks to find the right person and bring them on board.

Knowledge base: The best interim candidates bring a wide range of expertise, and they are comfortable with stepping into an organisation and taking charge at times of crisis or directional change. They’re adept at handling internal governance and structure, and can implement their thoughts and ideas swiftly.

Fresh perspective: An interim post holder brings an external, objective perspective on your organisation and processes. And because they are temporary, they will often feel more comfortable sharing honest opinions about your charity’s needs and priorities than a new, permanent executive team member might.

Foundation: Interim post holders work in partnership with incoming permanent leaders, both to build on the direction they have set and to ensure a smooth transition without disruption to your services. The new leaders can build on this robust base, focusing on pushing your charity forward.

Reduced cost and risk: Interim staff don’t come with the same financial or legal obligations as a new permanent hire. Since they typically operate on a fixed-term contract, the commitment is much smaller, and it’s easier to end the agreement if they are not the right fit. Although their daily rate is typically higher, it’s a smart solution that mitigates risk.

The Interim Search process

The need for an interim CEO or senior executive can come on unexpectedly, so we actively maintain relationships with individuals who have experience of interim leadership or who have the right competencies to fill an interim role.

We’ve found this proactive approach makes a big difference to the search process, allowing us to find qualified interim candidates in a much shorter time frame.

A typical search might look like this:

(In this example, we’ve assumed a search time of 3 weeks.)

  1. Day 1 – Client briefing: You provide an outline of your organisation, the position you need to fill, and what you are looking for in a candidate. This briefing will need to include an in-depth mapping of your internal organisational structure, mission and goals, as well as insight into your leadership culture and why you’re looking for an interim. We’ll also agree on a timeline for the search.
  2. Days 2-6 – Research: We research potential candidates, using a variety of leadership and competency assessments to make sure that each one meets the requirements of the role. We’ll draw from both our established interim candidate pool and from wider sources.
  3. Week 2 – Shortlisting: We create a shortlist of 3-5 candidates for your consideration. We’ll go through each candidate’s strengths and unique experience with you, so you can decide which candidates you would like to interview. We’ll set up an interview time and make candidates aware of any information or documents they need to bring to their interview.
  4. Week 3 – Interviewing and choosing a candidate: Once interviews are complete, it’s time to choose your new candidate. We’ll immediately reach out to your chosen candidate to confirm that they will accept the role and start the onboarding process. We’ll also reach out to any unsuccessful candidates to share feedback and maintain a positive relationship.
  5. Duration of tenure – Follow-up and Assessment: We’ll check in regularly with both the interim post holder and your organisation to make sure that both parties to make sure the goals of the role are being met and that you are working effectively together.
  6. Post-tenure – Debrief: Once the interim contract has ended, we’ll once again meet with both parties to collect feedback and build an ongoing positive relationship.

How is this different from a traditional search process?

In many ways, it’s not! Our process for identifying candidates for an interim role is as thorough as our searches for permanent positions. 

We’ll work closely with you and fully assess prospective candidates to make sure they can meet the demands of the role. And as with any other search, we’re committed to seeking out candidates with unique backgrounds and skill sets.

In fact, the main difference is the speed at which the process is completed. By maintaining our networks of interim candidates, we’re able to very quickly identify people with the skills you need. And because candidates are poised to take on shorter-term roles, your new hire can hit the ground running and start making an impact in a very short space of time.

What happens next?

An interim post holder can help to clarify the direction your organisation wants to take going forward. That, in turn, helps you to define what you are looking for in a permanent post holder. Throughout the interim search and contract, we will actively work with you to determine what qualities and experience you need in a permanent team member.

Interim leaders will also collaborate closely with incoming permanent post holders to make the transition smooth and efficient.

Are you considering bringing in an interim CEO or executive? Get in touch to find out how we can support you through the process.