Calling All Super Heroes!

By Julia Briggs

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Because that is what you are expected to be when you are an interim or consultant.  So how do you sort out the superheroes from the complete duds…surely you don’t just go on track record?? (er, their CV or LI profile?)  There’s much more to it than that!

So. what makes me an expert? Getting it wrong – as a hiring client, as the leader of a network of interims and consultants, as a head-hunter and as an independent since 1997 (with all my work through referrals). I’ve seen all sides.  And this is what I know.

1. Take it seriously – Prepare a brief and person spec – if you are working with a good third party they will write it for you. I do. Don’t confuse the fact that an independent is easy to get rid of with not having to select properly. And If you don’t know what you want how will you know you have found it?

2. Alert your trusted network – first port of call. Your best finds are going to come from people who know what good looks like as long as they know what  you’re looking for.  Once you have your route to market ….

3. Select with rigour – 

  • Experience  & Skills – easy if you have done a good job with the brief.  Dig deep. Ask about scope, size, key relationships and outcomes.
  • Intelligence – is this person quick on the uptake? Seriously, this is important as they are your expensive ambassador and they must move fast.  I always use a verbal reasoning test on a pass or fail basis and there’s research that shows a good correlation between VR levels and interim performance.
  • Professional indicators – are they set up as a business, VAT registered with PII?   What about their professional development? When do they leave assignments?  And my favourite – why do they work independently?  You’re after people who went solo voluntarily,  because they are driven to achieve great outcomes, in spite of all the politics.  You're also after people who get the majority of their work through referrals and callbacks.  Not through agencies.
  • Behaviours – the biggie. I use a psychometric and competency interviews. What marks out a great interim or consultant is the ability to: get things done; cope exceptionally well with ambiguity; persuade people to do the impossible; and leave a positive legacy through coaching others

4. Reference – you want their sponsors on their last 3 assignments, particularly if they have used them as examples.  Expect to take a good 20 minutes or so on the phone with each referee and ask lots of open questions.  I don’t have to tell you how to check their bono fides.  And also check documentation - certificates etc.  Quite a few blushing interims don't have a qualification they've claimed, but no-one has ever checked.

5. Work with speed and with courtesy – as you do for any hire, but speed is particularly important now for independents.  It’s been a slow market, but those little green buds are pushing through and if you are going to be thorough in your selection process then you need pace and you need to keep them engaged. You're in the vanguard if you are taking this much care over selection and, with the right approach, those really good independents will appreciate your rigour.  Especially all the fabulous feedback you will give them whether they join you or not.

That’s it.  My top tips for making sure, as much as you can, that you’ve hired a superhero and not a super-dud.  And if you ever want anyone to give your selection a good once over - you know which superhero to call! Though I won't be wearing the costume.....


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