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What does it take to be a successful Senior HR Interim?

Posted by Richard Grove

Are you a HR Director or senior HR professional looking to make the switch from permanent to interim? Interim HR jobs may be a temporary provision of Human Resources but they are far from a stop gap for those working in HR. No, HR interim jobs are usually reserved for those HR heavyweights who have proven themselves time and again. Surviving and excelling as a successful Senior HR interim is a different ball game to being a successful permanent fixture. Interim HR jobs come with the benefits of flexibility, financial rewards and the opportunity to work alongside some very impressive and talented people while taking on challenging and interesting projects. However, it isn't a calling for everybody and this article attempts to help you determine whether you'd flourish or fail in an interim HR job. 

How does your CV hold up against all the other experienced interims on the market?

As senior HR interims tend to earn a higher rate than their permanent counterparts they are expected to be the best in a competitive market. With this in mind, you've got be sure that you stand out. Think about what your key strengths are and how you can match these to a client's needs. Highlight these key skills on your CV and portfolio so that the client can easily pinpoint exactly how you can help them when reading your application.

Are you financially independent?

It would be great to live in an economy where HR interims are consistently going from contract to contract. Unfortunately, the reality is there are often gaps between assignments. Some of these gaps can even last for a few months so you need to ensure that you have a plan B if interim work slows down. Ask yourself, are you are able to survive if you were to go three months without work?

What are your interview skills like?

Interviews for interim HR jobs are a much shorter, competitive and urgent than a traditional permanent role interview. You may only have one chance to make a good impression and get people to buy into you and what you can offer their organisation.

Would you be confident, mentally strong and physically able to constantly take on a new role and environment every few months?

Interim contractors have short notice periods, which means you are quickly and easily replaced. You need to be willing to pull out all the stops and work at your highest possible level to ensure you stay at the top of your game and be seen as irreplaceable. Changing your working environment and the colleagues you surround yourself with regularly can be mentally taxing, all those names to remember!

How strong is your network?

Good interim roles need good people, the best interim roles you will find will be on platforms such as LinkedIn so make sure you are connected to the right people and consultants who can help you when you are in between contracts. 

We spoke with an Interim Senior Recruitment and Resourcing Specialist who has been working successfully as an interim for six years throughout charities, educational institutes and regulatory bodies. As a Recruitment Specialist, he works both angles, as a hiring manager and candidate.

What advice would you give someone that is looking to start their interim HR career? 

To understand that it’s not a permanent role and doesn't have the security or benefits a perm would have. You need to be adaptable and flexible (stepping into new projects and quickly get up to speed). It’s a pressurized environment and things need to get done quick. You must be very proactive and not rely on others to give you the answers. Contractors are recruited for their expertise and are relied upon for advice and answers.

Be clear about why you want to become an interim and what success would look like, research the market, talk to and listen to recruiters and experienced interims who know your market and the decision makers, understand the IR35 legislation and the tax issues around setting up your own limited company, set an achievable financial plan and most importantly clarify and articulate your USP - what are you selling and how will you differentiate yourself in a crowded market where you will be in competition for work with experienced interims who have a track record. Your first role is crucial to begin to build an interim CV so be prepared to compromise on the money, the role, the location, the sector, the organisation

What would you say your biggest challenges are as an interim? 

The changing demands of the role and working on multiple projects. Currently, I'm working on 6 different projects.

When I was starting out it was managing the breaks between contracts and accepting that this is a natural part of being an interim; now it's all about keeping in contact with my network and understanding a changing market in order to adapt my own proposition. Understanding IR35 in the public sector (and its potential impact from 2020 in the private sector) is crucial  

What do you look for when recruiting interims for your team? 

Their CV must show they have been contracting for a while. I personally would not recruit someone who has been permanent and now wants to move into a contracting role, unless its a low-level contract.

A track record and the ability to remain an objective, independent third-party interim who is prepared to challenge the status quo while at the same time clearly shows an understanding, empathy and (short-term but absolute) commitment to the organisation and the team; also somebody who can articulate what success looked like in previous roles (i.e. outcomes) rather than just listing job description-type functions (i.e. outputs). Moving from role to role and organisation to organisation regularly means that relationship skills are incredibly important along with the ability build trust quickly at all levels

You still interested in senior interim HR jobs?

Whilst working as a Senior HR interim can throw up many challenges and takes nerves of steel it can be an incredibly rewarding career path for HR professionals. Having read the above, if you feel you have what it takes to make it in an interim HR job then please get in touch with Stacey on the details below. 


For more information about this article, or to speak to Richard about your recruiting needs or interim HR jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 02072696353 or



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