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More than just a recruiter

Written by: Gemma Stevenson-Coupe is a consultant – talent acquisition and development, at Solace
Published on: 19 Aug 2021

There’s something to be said about making assumptions. We all do it I’m sure, it’s part of being human and probably something to do with how our brain is wired and how our natural thought processes evolve. According to the American Psychological Association, assumption is ‘The premise or supposition that something is factual or true; that is, the act of taking something for granted.’

Having worked with Solace for several years now, and having recently stepped into a new role as consultant – talent acquisition and development, I wanted to leap into the new role with an open mindset. There was and still is lots to learn, but I also wanted to take a fresh look at how many of us view our interim candidates. Is the assumption that they are all at the pinnacle of their careers, experienced, hardy individuals not in need of much support – an accurate judgement to make? 

I often have amazing conversations with our candidate base, they share their achievements, their successes and how they’ve overcome many a challenge within their local government senior leadership roles. But over the last year, especially with the trials of the pandemic I have found myself having some real honest and open conversations – not just about the day to day job, but about how they are on a personal level, about building personal resilience and how the threat of burnout among local government officers is a real concern.

It is time to take stock. I’m curious to look at the support available to interim managers and consultants. At Solace we are keen to ensure we don’t offer a crude transactional recruitment process – driven by getting bums on seats to promote income. Yes, that is the ultimate end game, to find a great match between candidate and client so they can do great things together. But the value our interim candidate base can offer is enormous, and we aim to consider their needs holistically, and not treat them like pieces in a chess game.

I recently facilitated a virtual coffee morning for our registered candidates who are new or fairly new to interim management and consultancy. We had a guest speaker, Ann-Marie Barlow, who has in the past year taken the leap herself to begin a portfolio career and was able to share her learning around this transition. Conversation flowed, everyone shared what they’d like to get out of the session, but what surprised me the most was the topics of conversation the delegates wanted to focus on.

It wasn’t IR35, CV support, or interview tips, it was more the psychological elements – how do I manage the transition from having a long-standing permanent career to working as an interim? Can I replicate what I’ve achieved in one organisation elsewhere?  What about my ego – having been so senior for so long and in an established role – how will I adjust to a new role with a different structure?  I’m missing the structure a permanent role gave me – how do I work through this? How do I build my ‘brand’ and network? And acknowledging that part of being an interim manager or consultant can feel isolating or may even leave you with feelings of imposter syndrome. 

It was great to see everyone open up and we were able to create a safe space for individuals to share their thoughts and reflections. It made for a far more interesting conversation, which added value and gave everyone the chance to see that regardless of seniority and job title – managing any life changing transition can be tricky, can create similar emotions and it’s ok to reach out and ask for help. The widely held assumption that most interim managers and consultants probably don’t need that much additional support beyond finding them a suitable role and all the operational day to day support you can offer (a solid brief, CV prep, interview prep and feedback) was firmly challenged.

In my new role I will be 100% focused on asking open questions and listening without judgement. I have no pre-conceived ideas about whether or what support our interims and consultants may need but I recognise that the need to ask is there and I will be present to support them in the most appropriate way.

Of course, this level of support should not dwindle for established interims or consultants and at Solace we are working hard to make sure what we offer is needed and is helpful.  We were delighted to be ranked in the top 10 leading interim providers nationally again this year, so we know we are providing a good service to our interim candidates, but we always want to do more.

We’re always working hard to listen to our candidates to get under the skin of what they expect from us as an interim provider.  From our research we are building a holistic view of the development needs of our interim community, whether that be personally or professionally, and we are building a programme of support where it is needed the most.

At Solace our aim is to develop and support talent in the sector and our interim community are no exception to this; whether you have a Solace candidate in a permanent or an interim role within your organisation you can rest assured that they are continually supported with their personal and professional development. Candidate care isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a must have and it should be at the heart of every recruiter’s agenda. 

Gemma Stevenson-Coupe is a consultant – talent acquisition and development, at Solace