When is it a Good Time to Use Interim Talent?

Looking for Interim Talent? See how interim talent can be used for strategic uses and not only for temporary positions
Lionseye insights from AC Lion

We were recently approached by an up-and-coming MarTech start-up. They were preparing to launch a new offering to the market and believed that their growth warranted adding a product marketing team. Despite their lack of experience and understanding of the product marketing role, they mapped out an organizational chart where mid-level product marketing managers would report to the different product owners, and approached us to help identify the right talent for the new roles.

We were deeply concerned with this strategy. In our experience, adding a mid-level manager into an organization and charging them with the task of defining new practices is a recipe for failure. Instead, we recommended they bring in a seasoned VP-level product marketer for a short-term engagement. The senior-level interim employee would both fill the immediate need for launching a new product, while also assessing the situation and recommending how to best structure and staff a product marketing team in the company.

Within six weeks of the consultant’s engagement, our client understood they needed to separate product marketing from product management. The interim consultant we recommended helped shift their thinking and protected them from making a costly and potentially long-term mistake. Our client ultimately decided to hire the consultant as the VP of Product Marketing.

5 Situations In Which Short-Term Interim Talent Engagements Make Strategic Sense

Interim hires used to be viewed as placeholders. They stepped in for new mothers on maternity leave, acted as try-before-you-buy solutions when hiring managers had second thoughts about candidates, or filled an urgent organizational hole. The hope was that these hires would hold down the fort without causing too much damage until a permanent solution could be found.

Today, however, savvy organizations, including our MarTech client, are utilizing interim talent in new, strategic ways. There are a number of circumstances where short-term employees are engaged to add expertise, deliver results, and create value.

New Verticals

If your business is looking to expand into new areas where you lack deep expertise, interim talent can fill in the gaps. They may help during an exploratory stage, as you examine different options, or provide you with industry knowledge. This knowledge is crucial as you decide whether or not you should commit to moving in a new direction.

For example, a health care facility looking to develop digital health records that follow a patient wherever they go might be interested in on-boarding an interim blockchain expert. Blockchain expertise is beyond the scope of most health care organizations , and while bringing on a permanent blockchain expert may be overkill, having one on hand for six months would help the organization determine the feasibility of the venture.

Expert Functional Experience

Sometimes businesses need to shore up their functional abilities rather than their industry knowledge, but they only need the role filled for a short time. These roles are frequently brought in to develop strategy, build road maps, and establish best practices. As opposed to the expert who comes in with deep knowledge of a vertical, this expert lends his or her functional skills to the organization.

Often times, a startup that is just beginning their marketing activities doesn’t need a full-time CMO. However, they do need someone who can develop a strategy, define best practices, and help shape the direction of the marketing department. An interim solution with an experienced Head of Marketing would help guide the fledgling marketing team until a time when a permanent CMO makes sense.

Ambiguous Roles

One situation where interim talent is often strategically advantageous over direct hires is where the role is ambiguous. Frequently, organizations realize that they have a need to fill, but they aren’t quite sure how to define the role. Contracting talented, short-term employees helps management define what they need from the position, and where it should sit within the organizational structure – as illustrated by our client’s experience.

Budget Blues

When your organization requires a VP perspective and skill set but your budget only has room for a Senior Manager paycheck, an interim solution could buy you the expertise you need at the price you want. An interim “executive” is a relatively low-cost solution and protects you from thrusting someone who lacks the required experience into a role that they are not ready for.

Other times, a department may find themselves in the position where they simply don’t have the headcount for a direct hire. Hiring an interim employee will not only allow you to complete the task at hand, but can also demonstrate the need to increase headcount and take on a permanent hire in the future.

Temporary Team Building

Rather than relying on an agency or outside development shop, some organizations are finding it beneficial to bring on temporary personnel with the skills to complete specific projects in-house. Typically, this gives the organization more control over the end result and allows them more flexibility than they might have had with an agency.

One area where this comes up is with companies that are rebranding their websites. Rather than outsourcing the entire project to an agency, organizations are finding it beneficial to onboard temporary employees who can get the job done in-house. This generally leads to faster completion times, controlled costs, and more control over the project.

Additionally, temporary team building frequently leads to key project members being retained, either as permanent or interim team members. As the project was done in-house rather than through an agency, employers have the luxury of retaining individuals with intimate project knowledge, to help with future project iterations or ongoing maintenance.

Filling Your Interim Leadership Roles

Filling business-critical positions with interim appointments inherently has risk. You’re not only installing an asset without a vested interest in your long-term success into a position intended to nurture that long-term success, but you’re relying on them to lead teams of people destined to outlast their leader.

Despite the risk, businesses are discovering that these consultants and temporary placements are performing beyond expectations. Under the right circumstances, these interim employees can drive companies into new areas, create long-lasting practices, and provide experience that the company wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

Considering an interim appointment? Find out how AC Lion can help you find the right candidate for the job.

New call-to-action

Jeff Wernecke

Versatile and relationship-driven recruiter with over 10 years’ experience in all aspects of digital talent management and recruitment. A proven track record of providing talent solutions to Fortune 500 companies and start-ups alike.