Answering the Growing Call for Interim Executive Talent

Private equity’s influence and an uncertain economy are two key factors in the surge of companies looking for interim leaders, not to mention shifting demographics and the rising call by top professionals to work when, where, and how they prefer. Nat Schiffer, of The Christopher Group, discusses the shift toward fractional talent and how his firm is responding.

December 21, 2022 – The trend toward executive-level interim services has only been growing in recent years. But now, as private equity firms grow savvier about their use of talent and prospects for the economy have dimmed, more companies are embracing short-term, temporary leadership. For recruiters like The Christopher Group (TCG), a leading HR executive search firm, this shift looks to hold significant promise.

“Over the last decade, private equity has raised trillions of dollars and they are tasked with making a return for their investors,” said Nat Schiffer, TCG’s recruiting services division president, managing director, and chief marketing officer. “The demands of those portfolio companies is to gain a return on their investment and their investment cycles are relatively short term, typically three to six years. So, the ability to provide different levels of service at different life stages of the company, whether it’s an interim contractor, or a fractional CHRO, so that they don’t under club or over club the role, becomes incredibly important.”

Mr. Schiffer said his firm’s ability to provide fractional CHROs with different levels of capabilities for different sized companies while they’re in the process of scaling is a critical lever it provides to the private equity world.

Mr. Schiffer cited the increasingly cloudy economic forecasts as a reason why businesses are increasingly opting for interim searches. “Companies are downsizing so to be able to have more flexible, off-balance sheet solutions, which can expand or contract like rubber bands, is really important, because the economy is doing that,” he said. “Finding ways to prepare to react to the forces in the economy right now is critical.”

An Agile Solution

So it is that TCG’s interim HR executive leaders practice has been busy, and getting busier, in recent months. Among its top selling points is the nimble nature of the practice. “The goal of this program is all about meeting our clients where their need is at, and that can be in different places,” said Mr. Schiffer. “The interim contractor solution is a very agile solution because we can provide a leader so quickly. Our mantra is to be able to provide a qualified capable HR practitioner to fill the role at any level of your HR organization in anywhere in the U.S., parts of Western Europe, and in Latin America within two weeks.”

Through the practice, TCG looks to place a leader within 14 days of receiving the request and is highly successful in doing so — posting a 99 percent offer-to-acceptance rate and a less than one percent first-year candidate failure rate.

Related: Retaining Your Employees During the Great Resignation

TCG, which has offices in Willoughby, OH; Sarasota, FL; and Kansas City, MO, considers the rapid placement program one of its most unique offerings. “We’ve learned from experience that when a client has a need, this truly is a burning platform,” Mr. Schiffer said. “They ideally would love to have someone in the position within a matter of days of calling us.”

Nat Schiffer has over 30 years of experience in human resources, corporate executive services and executive search. He has a keen understanding of business strategy and operations, organizational structure and talent acquisition/ assessment/ development. This combination of experiences enables him to play a pivotal role in partnering with senior executives at Fortune 500 firms, start-ups, PE-backed as well as private and closely held companies.

While speed is absolutely a priority within the interim HR executive leaders practice, it is also critical to find an individual who will fit within the client’s company. “We’re trying to match not only the hard skill needs that clients have, but also the soft skill needs,” Mr. Schiffer said. “And for us, the reason we’ve landed on two week guarantee, is because it gives us the ability to do many of the elements that we do in a formal search, when we are searching our inventory of contractors, so that we are taking into consideration both competencies and chemistries that are required to be for that person to be successful in the job so there isn’t any unwanted churn.”

Deep Assessment

Mr. Schiffer said that in a typical search TCG employs a four-point assessment system that deliberately dives deeply into a candidate’s capabilities from both a hard and soft skill perspective. He added that the firm also places a premium on the chemistry fit between the candidate and company, as TCG finds that this is a critical measure of a candidate’s potential for success.

Within the interim HR executive leaders practice, TCG takes a slightly diluted approach, specifically boiling the four-point system down to two assessment points — hard skills and cultural fit into the organization for soft skills. This allows TCG to provide clients with options for the position while still maximizing speed. “Our goal is to provide you with not just a candidate, but with multiple candidates that can be fully functional and ready to do that job for the length of the assignment,” Mr. Schiffer said. “Personality fit matters so we truly felt it was important to give our clients a number of choices and to not just force feed them with the first candidate capable of fulfilling the terms and conditions of the contract and the requirements of the role.”

TCG’s interim HR executive leaders practice also works to prioritize diversity within its searches, a key offering. TCG provides an average 81 percent diversity mix across all searches, a statistic Mr. Schiffer credits to the firm’s longstanding focus on diversity. The firm, he said, works to provide a diverse slate of candidates in every search by ensuring that the call planners and TCG’s larger network have plenty of diverse prospects to tap. In every search, says Mr. Schiffer, TCG guarantees that at least 33 percent of the candidates will be from diverse backgrounds.

“We have had a heavy emphasis on diversity for many years,” Mr. Schiffer said. “One of the things we always try to do is meet clients where they are at and now many of the clients are requiring diversity only searches. We have been doing these sorts of searches for many years and at no additional cost, because this sort of work for clients really matters.”

Related: Hiring Top Talent in Unprecedented Times

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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