The Difference Between Executive Search and Interim Leadership


When it comes to appointing a new CEO at your organization, finding the best leader is imperative – but it can be an incredibly overwhelming feat to embark upon. Most companies are at a loss and don’t even know where to start, how long it will take, and even what type of leader or recruiter will actually help the company. As an expert in the executive search and interim talent areas, we specialize in placing top C-Suite leadership talent within Life Sciences, and have helped hundreds of companies that find themselves in this situation. When looking for a new C-Suite executive, there are two ways we recommend as the best approach – executive search and interim or fractional leadership talent. 

An executive search is one of the best ways to find, attract and hire game-changing, top-tier executive talent. This type of recruitment model takes a very methodical and deliberate approach to finding the right leader with the right experience, knowledge and skills to fit within the organization. 

An Executive Search Will Take Time

When it comes to running an executive search, it will typically take between 3-6 months to find, engage, interview, assess and decide on the best leader. If you have ample time on your hands or have an idea of potential leadership gaps or changes coming in the future – an executive search is a great place to start. An executive search will take a little longer than other forms of recruitment because a search firm will help not only find talent, but:

  • Advise you on the type of leadership your company needs and develop the role and strategic direction for the position itself
  • Take time to understand your company values, mission and vision and apply this to their research
  • Go to market and search for every possible candidate on your behalf – even if some candidates are not actively looking for a new career change or move.
  • Pre-screen, assess, interview and recommend the strongest candidates. 
  • Help you put together a competitive offer. 

An Executive Search Is An Investment In Long-Term Growth For Your Organization 

When it comes to an executive search, since the length of the search process takes around 3-6 months, you will likely want that leader to remain in their role for at least several years. This is an ideal solution for growing your company or business as it evolves and scales over the years at a sustainable and steady rate. Executive search will produce candidates and leaders who are not only committed to your company but committed to the role itself and are often driven by the fact that they will bring about permanent change and positive growth over time. Any senior executive that enters into the executive search process is interested in bringing value and change to the organization for years to come. 

Executive Search Will Uncover Great Talent.

After a lengthy search process, an executive search will uncover about 3-4 shortlisted finalists – all of which are a great fit for the company and the role. It’s at this point where a company will need to make a decision of who to hire and make the offer to, in some cases it becomes a tight race between 2 finalists – both of which are a great fit, have the right expertise and bring their own unique value to the table. When a company arrives at this juncture and both candidates are incredible options, they may choose to hire both. One will assume the role for the initial position and the other will be placed in a newly created position. Executive search, while it takes time and is a long-term investment, will undoubtedly produce and deliver the best candidates the market has to offer. 

Interim Talent or Fractional Hiring is exactly what it sounds like. It’s hiring or onboarding a senior leader to work on a fractional or part-time basis. This model is applicable to senior level roles (Senior Director level and above), where a company needs to quickly appoint an experienced and talented leader due to unexpected changes at the leadership level. An Interim leader is a short-term solution and their contract will often span two months to up to a year.

Interim Talent or Fractional Hiring Is A Lot Faster.

Unlike a full executive search process to find and appoint more permanent leadership talent, an Interim Leader can be engaged and hired within about 15 business days. The search process is very similar to an executive search process, but all Interim Executives have been pre-vetted, screened and are immediately available. The talent pool for Interim Leaders is highly skilled and highly qualified and able to transform and turnaround a company in just under a few months. Interim leaders are strong, bold and agile and they move quickly. Since this is the typical persona for many Interim Leaders, cultural fit and values take a backseat in the hiring process, as the position is only temporary and requires leadership change effective immediately. 

Interim Leaders Are A Temporary Solution

For Interim leadership placements, while the process is much faster than a typical executive search process, it is a temporary solution in every aspect. The nature of the role itself is often rooted in agile, change management that can drive for impact in a very short period of time. The type of talent that an Interim position attracts also enjoys the flexibility that an Interim engagement offers, since these types of leaders love to learn through experience and are quick to move on to a new challenge. It’s a great solution to a short-term issue, and while an Interim Leader is in place, a full executive search will be conducted at the same time to appoint a more permanent leader in the role. 

Interim Leaders Are Often Overqualified.

Since Interim Leaders are a temporary and short-term solution to leadership gaps within your organization, this means that more often than not an Interim Leader is overqualified for the position or role. This is due to the fact that Interim Leaders need to bring immediate value and change to the organization and can lean on past experiences in similar roles to do so. While Interim Leaders do gain new experience within every assignment, they end up moving much faster and quicker than their full-time counterparts across the organization. While this brings immediate impact to your company and faster growth, it’s not a long-term sustainable solution from a leadership and management perspective.

To learn more about Executive Search or Interim Talent or Fractional Hiring, get in touch with us here.


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