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What to Look For…and How to Find It
A Conversation with Gary Erickson

Finding your company’s next CIO is a big task.  It is important to get it right, it is damaging if you get it wrong, and it is unlike most other recruiting challenges, making it that much tougher to find the right person even if you can first figure out who you are looking for.

What to Look For

The right person for any company’s CIO role will have to bring a perfect combination of skills, experience, and personality in three areas:

  1. Insider Champion:  Technical skills aside, you first and foremost need someone with deep industry understanding and insights. This person will understand how the role is critical to success specific to your industry, competitors, partners, future employees, and customers. With that fluency in place, he or she must believe in your company and believe that your reason for existing, your mission, is an important one.
  2. Translator and Culture Fit: A fundamental role of a CIO is to act as the universal translator – to communicate easily and effectively with the technical teams and with upper management. The result is a kind of buffer for the company’s technology investments because the CIO understands the bottom-line business needs and makes technology investment priorities that align with them. When this happens, a culture fit is achieved because shared goals drive what’s important to team members, and that defines culture.
  3. Chief Curiosity Officer: The CIO who encourages out-of-the-box thinking also champions a culture of innovation.  That will hopefully be an inspiration to most team members. It will be a threat for those who need to make a different career choice. The result is a team aligned along the CIO’s vision.

How to Find Your Next CIO

Understanding why the CIO role is critical makes it even more important to focus on how to recruit for the best candidate. Think through the following in determining how your CIO search can succeed:

  1. This is Unique: Acknowledge that, as critical as this role is, it may not be filled in ways you are used to. Posting a job description to ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn and waiting for the right person to show up is probably not reasonable.
  2. You Have Barriers: You need to compare the desire to finding the right person easily against certain realities:
    • The skills set you seek is rare
    • The fact that you are looking is a tip-off to your competitors and confidentiality might be called for
    • You are in a hurry and doing it yourself takes time and, if done improperly, has to be done again with added problems (see the previous two points)
  3. You Have a Track Record:  Sure, you’ve hired some team members who have worked well. But, what about those high-visibility, hard-to-find and expensive hires? You use outside experts (tax, legal, government, real estate and more) because you recognize their expertise is something that will ensure your success. Finding your next CIO is a task for someone who does this regularly.

A Mandate to Attract the Best

Companies dedicated to attracting the best IT talent need the kind of experience and process offered by Executive Search Partners.

Move from a mindset of “filling an open position” to one of “attracting talent.”  The latter requires more of an investment from you. Attracting talent requires great culture, opportunities to grow, ongoing learning, flexibility that encourages a well-rounded person…. plus competitive benefits and salary.

Founder and Managing Partner of Executive Search Partners, Gary Erickson, a former CIO himself, has been helping businesses find senior IT talent for 16 years.