A major retailer found themselves in urgent need of an interim HR director when their existing one requested a sudden leave of absence. We were called on to find a high-quality replacement for this key member of staff at short notice. Using our network of contacts, we were able to find a suitable replacement that met the client’s requirements within the timeframe.

Client need

The client was a major retailer in the FMCG space, with premises across the UK and satellite offices worldwide. The HR director suddenly needed to take leave of absence for personal reasons, leaving this major business without a functioning head of HR. Retail is a fast-moving industry and HR is a major part of the success of any FMCG enterprise. This meant a really critical position was suddenly unfilled. We were called in with some urgency to find an interim HR director with exposure to retail in an organisation of a similar size and outlook. Because of some internal projects, the company ideally wanted someone in place in only 10 days’ time.

Our approach

Our particular concern was recruiting interim talent that had experience in a similar kind of organisation and could hit the ground running. We knew the client would favour an individual with exposure to the FMCG industry in their area of business, so recruiting someone with relevant industry experience was our priority. However, we felt that they might also consider a suitable candidate who had experience in a role of similar stature at a company of similar size and scope, but in a different industry. We were prepared to consider this kind of candidate if we couldn’t find one in the right kind of industry and pre-agreed this with the client. We focused our attentions on getting together a shortlist of candidates. We asked our top executive search consultants in the HR area to use their own contacts, speak to previous candidates we had worked with, and we pursued other avenues such as online research and other specialist HR networks that we had relationships with. Many of the best candidates were already employed and would not consider a move for an interim position. We spent some time negotiating with candidates who were looking for a permanent position about the potential of the role, in order to persuade them to consider it.


By pursuing a number of avenues of research and drawing on our full network in the HR field, we were able to draw up a shortlist of around five top quality candidates for the position. The client decided to interview three of these, and shortlisted two. The first one accepted their offer and the client was happy. In fact, when their original HR director decided not to return to her role following her leave of absence, the candidate was asked to join on a permanent basis, which they did.