Scanning someone’s career history, what does it mean when you see the word acting in a title?
The language around interim executives, executives who specialize in growing, transforming and turning around companies can be tricky as executives in the specialty don’t always identify themselves with the same language. But in some cases acting can be another indicator that you have found an interim.
Consider your audience: is the executive being presented to the board of directors, the company at large, or to the general public?
When it comes to public companies, the language is precise and if an executive has temporarily stepped in while a permanent search takes place, they will be described as interim or acting. Things get confusing because public companies often appoint board members to this interim or acting role who serve as more of a baby sitter or placeholder. Beware that this is not the same thing as a career interim who can be identified by their career history taking on high impact engagement after engagement, helping cause companies to grow or turnaround.
The far larger use of interim executives is in private companies worldwide, whether for profit or nonprofit. In this case language varies based on audience. A CEO may be under contract to the board of directors as an interim, but described more generally to the public as CEO. The reasons are various: if the executive’s contract is open ended, the board may wish to avoid confusion. Or, if there is a possibility the executive could be recruited into the permanent role, again, confusion is avoided.
The important point is how the contractual relationship is structured between the executive and the company. Interims are not full-time employees of a company. They don’t have permanent benefits or severance. They are hired as contractors to achieve fixed deliverables and goals.