The rise of the C-suite super temp

The rise of the C-suite super temp

Companies are increasingly hiring experienced executives as interim managers, or “super temps”, instead of consultants. The latest survey by executive search firm Watermark Search International finds super temps may command more than $1000 a day, and 29 per cent have held chief executive positions, up from 16 per cent in 2012. Watermark surveyed 300 respondents, 63 per cent of whom were engaged in interim management work and most said it was a career choice they preferred it to permanent employment. Recent high-profile examples include REA Group appointing News Corp’s Peter Tonagh as interim chief executive in March, the Arts Centre Melbourne making Geoffrey Street interim chief executive officer last month, and from January to March, Terry Dillon acting as temporary chief executive of the St Kilda Football Club. Coined “super temps” by the Harvard Business Review in 2012, interim executives were common in job markets across the United States and Europe over the last decade.


Interim executives, including chief executives, chief financial officers, lawyers, strategists and human resource executives, are in the role for on average one to five months. They are either hired for specific purpose such as a restructure, provide the company with specific skills or to fill a gap following an executive resignation before the company rehires. Watermark Search International partner Danny Hodgson said Australia’s recruitment market for c-suite executives was now more like Europe and America, citing a growing pool of talent who prefer to work on specific projects or for specific periods as opposed to permanent placement. Mr Hodgson said the firm’s interim executive market had been growing and was now part of what he considered to be an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia. “We are now getting about 150 to 200 requests for this type of job from businesses a year,”he said. “Our biggest competitor is people’s networks and word of mouth. But many listed companies are now looking to search firms. It’s very much a hidden part of the executive jobs market.”


Mr Hodgson said initially the firm was placing interim executives in medium size businesses but now ASX 100 companies were in demand of the service with many having global ties and seeing how it works overseas. The survey showed a 5 per cent increase, to 28 per cent, in those committed surveyed committed to interim management as a career choice in the last year. There has been an increase in calls for interim expertise in CFO, financial controller and finance director roles. The 50-59 age group remains the most common age for people to undertake interim roles although for the last two years there has been an increase in the 60-plus age group with people delaying retirement. The survey says interim management will continue to grow over the next 12 months although the “job ­market as a whole remains somewhat cautious”.

This article was originally printed in the AFR on 14 July 2014, written by Lucille Keen (