We’re all familiar with the concept – there’s an absence at work and we need some cover. A quick Google search and we send off the details to a few companies that we see on our screens. Next day we’ll have an inbox full of CVs. If we’re lucky and we find someone that might fit, then the recruiter gets paid and we have our temp. You’ve done most of the work searching through the CVs and you’ve taken the risk. The recruiter has done very little – certainly no due diligence but they get paid in any event.

Not the way to go for senior interims

The question is, would you take this approach if you were looking for an interim director or even an interim CEO? Unfortunately, many companies do just this and it doesn’t really make sense. After all, they wouldn’t dream of hiring a permanent CEO in this way. Why not? Because what you receive when you go down this route is data without context – raw unsubstantiated data.

The CVs will very likely comprise individuals who have time to give now, or soon, or never. They will likely associate with key words that resonate with the kind of skills you desire in such a professional, but which they may not actually have.

No due diligence will have been conducted because the interaction of a consultant working on the shortlisting exercise will have lasted minutes, with a focus on speedy inclusion in the ‘shortlist’ taking precedent over everything else. The right candidate can often be missed because the CV becomes the decision tool.

Due diligence on any professional, especially a senior interim, cannot be achieved in seconds and yet this practice is considered acceptable by many businesses. The service hasn’t changed over decades of influence and is often culturally entrenched.

After all, you wouldn’t choose a house builder just using leaflets pushed through your door. Yet senior leaders are being potentially entrusted to join businesses and take on similar levels of responsibility in such a manner. Clients should demand better and the industry should seek to provide better.

The tortoise and the hare

A far better approach and one much more likely to be successful, is to slow down the first phase of the search and to ensure that the recruiter does the due diligence on the candidates before you see their CVs. Don’t worry, you’ll still meet your timelines.

Start the process for any interim assignment by putting out a Request for Information (RFI) to trusted recruiters with expertise in finding senior talent. You can safely seek out proposals before selecting the best one. By moving the competition from the delivery of CVs to pitching for your business, you’ll gain more control and have better visibility on what success looks like from a single preferred partner.

In return, the recruiters can demonstrate their expert knowledge upfront during the RFI stage and the successful recruiter can take more time to deliver your shortlist. By slowing the process of receiving CVs or, in this case recommended candidates, you can create a process that focuses on effective due diligence.

Although this needs time at the beginning, it’s an investment that will be well rewarded. Because, better due diligence means better people on your shortlist and an overall shorter time to hire.

Such commitment reduces the risk of a failed interim engagement and will give you a greater chance of success. It’s not the first interim through the door that counts, but rather the person who will drive the project the most effectively.

We should know because we continue to successfully challenge the industry to try it another way.

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