13 tips to make the perfect first impression

Norrie Johnston, one of the UK’s leading interim recruiters, shares his top tips for interim candidates.

How to sell yourself as an interim candidate:

  1. Ensure that your CV sells what you are really good at. 3 or 4 pages is normal. The first half page is crucial to catch the reader’s attention.
  2. Your CV is a sales document. Apply the “So What” test to each of your statements.
  3. Begin with “Profile” which tells the reader within a few lines who you are and what you are famous for.
  4. Include data on the size of companies that you have worked for, plus data on your responsibilities (number of staff managed, budgets, targets).
  5. You are selling your past experience, not your future aspirations. Eg: a good interim sales director candidate will have been a successful sales director at least 3 times before and ideally will have reached a higher level once before becoming an interim.
  6. Include on page one a “Relevant Experience” summary in your CV for a job application. This needs to show why you are exactly the right person for the role and that you have done the same role 2 or 3 times before. Are you a 90% match? against the client brief. At any one time there are lots of good interims chasing a small number of interim roles.
  7. Do not mention “Consultant” in your CV. Consultants are advisors. Interims are people of action and do’ers.
  8. Do not suggest that you can tackle most things. A good interim is not a “jack of all trades”.
  9. Register for job alerts with job boards such as: Executivesontheweb.com 
  10. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is updated and has several strong recommendations from previous bosses/clients. Xing is bigger than LinkedIn for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
  11. Ensure that the data available on public display at Companies House is consistent with your CV content.
  12. Video interviewing is now common practise.
  13. All agencies use the same candidate acquisition channels: (1)  LinkedIn which typically provides 50% of all candidates. (2) Job Boards. (3) Agency’s own data base and (4) Personal contacts.


The Client Interview

  • Usually only 1 interview of 1-hour duration for Interim
  • Much shorter process than for permanent
  • Be enthusiastic, energetic and confident
  • Look and feel the part
  • Take evidence of similar projects/successes
  • Don’t talk rates or terms! (refer to the agency)



Start a conversation by agreeing the deal

  • You sell to the agency who marks up and sells on to the client. Back-to-back terms based on the REC’s (the industry trade body) terms.
  • Agree terms and start date with the agency
  • Never leave a project until the client says “Great work, well done… you can go now.”
  • Good interims will usually be extended beyond the initially estimated duration and will frequently be asked if they would like to join as a permanent member of staff



What to expect on day one

  • Introductions by the client sponsor
  • Ensure that the project is fully supported by the client
  • Sell yourself and win confidence of immediate reports and seniors
  • Expect it to be twice as bad as indicated in the interview
  • Keep a log book of meetings, discussions, observations




Weeks One and Two Essentials

  • Meet as many people inside and related to the business as possible. Ask lots of questions.
  • Re-visit the brief. Confirm the 4 or 5 key issues/tasks.
  • Daily feedback to client sponsor. Test first impressions.
  • Be flexible. You are no longer an employee. You are a supplier to the client.
  • Now that you have got this far you have a 95% chance of succeeding!



The Mission. The Key. Your Assignment

  • Stay focussed on the 4 or 5 agreed key issues (don’t try to fix everything you find wrong). Fix these and you’ll be a hero
  • Meet weekly with the project sponsor
  • Be aware of politics but don’t get involved
  • Don’t try to tackle stuff that is outside your experience – call for other expert help
  • Give your expert and impartial advice, even if the news is not always popular


This quick check list should hopefully give you most of the answers but if you do have any further questions, do drop a note to Norrie.Johnston@njr.uk.com.

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