How to Choose an Interim Agency

Norrie Johnston has worked in the interim management sector for over 20 years placing hundreds of interim candidates, more than almost anyone else working in interim management today. Drawing on this experience he shares his top tips for choosing an interim management agency.

1. Experience

Interim management is a specialist, niche recruitment service. Of the 5,000 companies in the vast £1billion UK recruitment industry – only a tiny handful specialise in interim management. So, check that it’s a specific part of a company’s offering, rather than something a permanent recruiter is dabbling in.

2. Forget Numbers

Any interim agency that tries to impress with the size of their candidate pool is selling you snake oil! With job boards, LinkedIn and web-savvy candidates there is no need to have a huge candidate database.

3. Process

Everyone can access masses of talent. The really important part is how you draw from this global pool to create a perfect candidate shortlist. That involves a rigorous process – so ask the interim agency to explain their process to you.  If they don’t have one don’t use them.

4. Brief

That process should include developing the brief before they start identifying candidates. Interim recruitment is not normally about filling a vacancy. Its about identifying the business issues and hence the 4 or 5 key tasks that the interim needs to fix.

5. Avoid Recyclers

Ensure that the process includes a wide search – ignore those who quote their ‘little black books’ – a good agency will not recycle the same small set of candidates.

6. Don’t be Tempted

Do not to be tempted by your current permanent agency into recruiting one of their candidates into an interim job. There’s a huge difference between permanent and interim roles. When you are looking for a permanent employee, you want someone who will grow into the role and can do 85 to 90 per cent of the job. But for an interim post, you are looking for someone who has already achieved those goals. Interims have got to hit the ground running. You need a very different process to select that person.

7. Timing

A good interim management agency should offer to supply a short-list of pre-interviewed candidates within 2-4 days.

8. Look at the Team

Interim management is often deployed at ‘mission critical’ moments.  You want an interim management agency that understands the world of recruitment, but also the world of business. So, look at the agency’s team – does it include people with a corporate background, who have been in your position, can relate to your challenge and talk your language?

9. Check the Work

Ask the interim agency who they have worked with – and ask for case studies with named references.

10. Chemistry

Don’t forget old-fashioned chemistry. An interim agency needs to have a good relationship with you and your business. If they understand the culture and fit there will be a better chance of them finding the right interim candidate for you.

11. Stay Focused

It may be tempting to spread the net wide by briefing lots of agencies but this may cause confusion and take up a lot of your time. You will not have enough bandwidth to brief lots of agencies well. So it’s better to have just one or two good ones on board.

12. Power of One

It’s worth considering appointing just one agency. You will get a better service and candidates will get a much better impression of your business. For instance we at Norrie Johnston Recruitment have a 99% success rate with sole agency briefs.

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