Advice for the ‘Off Assignment’ Interim Manager

"A few years ago I was lucky enough to be sitting in front of a group of prospective Interim Managers. They wanted to hear my thoughts as to how to ‘crack it’ in their new world, and I talked to them about what an Interim Management career really entailed."

The most visible reaction I received was when I said, “as a veteran in the recruitment world, it is always exciting when someone decides to join my industry later in their career”. The faces looking back at me ranged between utterly horrified and completely uncomprehending. I then went on to explain that while being ‘on assignment’ may have strong parallels with their former career, being ‘off assignment’ meant they were the Sales Director of their own Interim Management recruitment consultancy. A recruitment consultancy with only one candidate to boot.

I assumed several of the people in the room were tabloid journalists, as they quickly made their excuses and left!

The event feels very relevant now, as I sit here working from home for probably an extended period of time. It’s tough, and I have the benefit of nearly 30 years’ experience in the industry; battle scars and badges of honour gained in several terrible markets and a strong and loyal network. What’s it like for the Interim Manager off assignment right now? Really tough, I imagine.

So, I think I should try to help. This is quite a long piece but, I guess, if you’re off assignment you may have time to read it. I hope you find something useful in it, even if it’s just to realise there are other people out there having a tough time too.

Stay positive

OK, this may seem the most banal piece of advice, but the truth is that there is work out there. Several of my clients are still hiring, and many of my colleagues are just as busy as normal. Inevitably, businesses who were already vulnerable may find COVID19 one crisis too many and certain industries will go into their own lockdown. However, clients with stronger balance sheets, better tech and positive attitudes to remote working are still hiring. True, we might all have to get used to interviewing by VC for a month or two, but this is certainly workable and many global businesses have recruited this way for years.

If you want to use the enforced isolation to learn a language or read Finnegans Wake then do it, but there’s no reason to let your network slide and your LinkedIn account lie fallow.

And hey, at least if you do get a gig the IR35 situation is a little easier than it was a week ago.

“Got any jobs?”

Even when the market is booming, clumsy sales techniques don’t create opportunities. Right now they look like desperation.

A few things to avoid….

  • Sending your CV repeatedly to your network of recruiters in the hope that they have very short memories and have forgotten you did the same thing last week. Making it obvious that we’re all on a massive circulation list doesn’t feel nice either. Think how you feel when you get an email headed ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ when you’re next tempted to send one starting ‘Recruiters’.
  • Applying for every job you see on LinkedIn. I know its tempting to chase an opportunity you feel you can do, but better to chase the ones you can win. If it is one you can win, then make sure it’s obvious that your best candidate by ensuring your CV and covering note emphasises that fact. Now is not the time to leave things unsaid.
  • ‘Come hire me’ messages on LinkedIn. Making it clear you’re available, on your beautifully curated and correctly punctuated LinkedIn page, is important. Plaintive and regular videos of yourself reminding the market you’re available, not so much.
  • Kicking the recruiters. Hopefully you’ll have realised by now that recruiters, in consultancies or in house, do a pretty tough job. Right now, it’s a really tough one, and perhaps a little kindness to the people who are trying to help you will not go unnoticed.

Be kind

It’s becoming obvious that one of the surprising side effects of COVID19 is that we’re all getting a little nicer to each other. Only a few months ago, neighbour was turned against neighbour over Brexit and the General Election. Now we’re checking if the neighbour is OK and volunteering to share our Ocado delivery.

This sentiment, applied to the search for an assignment, is equally helpful. I always take seriously the recommendations of my network when I am searching a role, and will always take the time to talk to a new candidate if they have been referred by a trusted advisor. Our networks will never be more important to us, but its vital as we see them as two way.

In this respect, rather than being the Sales Director of your one candidate Interim Management recruiter, you’ll become part of a team trying to source roles for all the candidates on your database.

You will not get this opportunity again

Well, let’s hope not.

However, there is definitely something to be said for a slightly fallow period allowing you to get other stuff done. Rather than make this theoretical, I will share what I plan to do while I am home alone…

  • Really get to grips with IR35 for when it reappears and ensure all my contracts, SOW templates and terms of business are as good as they can be
  • Ensure my website and LinkedIn profiles are as up to date as possible, both in content and look and feel
  • Learn how to use the most popular VC apps properly, not just to get my clients and candidates through the next few months, but because the recruitment world may not go back to insisting on face to face interviews to make hiring decisions
  • Giving whatever professional help I can to my networks; clients, candidates, colleagues, friends and family
  • Making the best of what opportunities do exist to fill assignments and place Interim Managers. After all, the business world has never needed us more as it negotiates stormy seas.


I chose to go into the recruitment world nearly 30 years ago and it’s a decision I have never regretted. However, that’s not to say it has been a breeze, and in tough markets it’s a highly demanding job. Winning assignments in the next few months will be challenging, but it will happen, and it will happen for many of the excellent Interim Managers who are currently between gigs.

Until that happens I wish them all the best in their role as Sales Director for their Interim Management business and remind them that – despite appearances – they are not on their own.

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