How best to prepare for an interim interview?

When hiring interim support, employers often want someone to solve an urgent problem – either an upcoming ‘person’ or ‘skills’ gap within their team.  As a result you need to approach interim interviews differently, carefully framing your skills & experience to meet the specific requirements of the contract; this is even more essential now video interviews are becoming much more common place, especially in fast paced interim processes.

Below, we highlight 6 points to address and prepare for interim interviews:

1. You need to evidence your ability to make an immediate impact in the role and organisation.

When you take an interim contract there is no lengthy induction period, so a key skill employers will be looking for is your ability to quickly embed yourself into an organisation. You’ll need to demonstrate your ability to quickly establish relationships to be able to influence and achieve results from the outset.Make sure you give specific examples of when you’ve done this, how you approached it and what you achieved. If transitioning from a permanent role where you may have had more time to embed into an organisation, highlight other key aspects of your experience – for example, have you inherited a team where you had to quickly build relationships and influence to achieve results and targets? Or have you had to identify key stakeholders across a complex organisation who can help you to get buy-in for a particular strategy or project?

2. You need to evidence a track record of meeting tight deadlines

Interim work usually requires you to meet tight deadlines, often implementing big projects involving change and transformation or implementing new communications strategies within condensed timeframes. Make sure you prepare examples of when you have had to deliver projects to tight deadlines, outlining your approach and your results. And where things may not have gone to plan, have a clear narrative as to why and what your learnings were.

3. Team management in interim roles requires a particular set of skills

If team management forms part of your interim position you’re likely to be inheriting an established team for the period of cover.  You may also inherit challenges that the organisation is keen for you to resolve. You need to reassure the interviewer that you understand the sensitivities around managing a team that you’ll be ‘handing back’ at the end of your contract. Be prepared to share examples of  how you’ve added value as a mentor and leader in previous roles. Evidencing your skills in team management, including how you have overcome challenges and kept colleagues focused and motivated during a time of change will be important.

4. When you are moving from a permanent to an interim role

A big question for many employers will be why interim? They may be concerned that you’re just waiting for the next big permanent job to come along, and therefore you risk dropping-out during the hiring process or leave quickly once you’re in role. Having a solid narrative on why you want an interim contract is vital, as well as a personal commitment to seeing the contract through if you’re successful.  Good examples include the breadth and variety offered by interim work, the chance to use different skills, or a desire to work on discrete projects.

5. Be prepared to talk about interim vs perm

Some employers approach interim recruitment in the same way as they would a permanent hire, due to a lack of experience in recruiting interim managers.  They may ask ‘why have you moved around so much?’ or ‘you have X amount of years’ experience in the industry, surely you are too senior for this post?’. Be prepared for this and show them why the breadth and depth of your experience is of real benefit to them as you’ll be able to hit the ground running.  An experienced interim manager can add value beyond the scope of the brief and help to make the hiring manager look good!

6. And finally – interrogate the brief

For some interim roles there will be a clear job specification and extensive briefing information provided; for others, it could just be a ‘top line’ summary of the experience the client’s needs, what they can pay and when the interim needs to start. All job interviews should be a two-way street, but this is particularly critical with interim roles – you want to be clear about the hiring manager’s expectations of the interim, what success will look like for them and whether this is realistic.  If the brief is sketchy, you can help to define it during the interview process.

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