Hiring CIO

Why does it take so long for a company to find and hire a CIO?

CIO jobs are now harder to fill according to recent research by Janco Associates.   One of the primary reasons is that both companies and candidates are becoming much more selective.

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When a company is being more selective, it's typically because it has identified a new skillset that the traditional CIO candidates do not have.  Some of the most common factors are:

  • Knowledge and experience in global markets: With the move towards a globally integrated business environment, having a technology leader who can work across cultures and understand the interconnectedness of business operations with both supplier and customer requirements across international borders is crucial to the success of the enterprise.
  • Cultural Fit: The CIO needs to complement the existing C-Level and enterprise operational environment and at the same time to be able to think outside of the box to communicate, market and implement the "right" amount of technological innovation.   This will also be driven by the reporting relationship to the other C-Level executives and how they relate to the CIO.
  • C-Level Succession: The CIO role has transformed from a staff function to a true business function over the past several years. With the technological complexity of running a global enterprise, many organizations see the CIO as a stronger succession candidate than ever before. However, those same companies want to see operational expertise and business acumen in CIO candidates.
  • Competitive pressures to be technological leaders: The Fortune 500 is rife with companies that want to be the organizations with the killer applications of the future.   In the 80s and 90s companies like FedEx, American Airlines, and American Hospital Supply developed systems that changed the business paradigm and companies are looking for CIOs who can do this for them.

When a candidate is holding up the process, it's probably because most of the recent CIO openings are too risky or not appealing to her or him. Reasons for this are:

  • Competitive pressures to be technological leaders: The candidate needs to understand what all of the competitive (both internal and external) issues he or she will face.   Successful CIOs do not want to walk into "no-win" situations.  
  • Terms of employment contract: Candidate CIO will typically be already employed and have an environment where there are successful.   Moving to any new organization is a risk and the individual will need assurances they will be able to succeed in the new enterprise and if they do not that they will be made whole.   Organizations may not want to negotiate an employment contract with the idea that they will have to provide compensation at the levels necessary for the candidate to be "comfortable".
  •  Focus on the bottom line: Most CIOs are seeking opportunities in companies with strong growth profiles. Unfortunately, many positions are with companies that are managing to the bottom line, either through driving efficiency to reduce costs or engineering costs down via productivity enhancements. While that could be interesting work, these companies are probably not providing a sustainable vision of growth for typical CIO candidates.
  • Reluctant to change organizations: Based on the lackluster economy over the past several quarters, CIOs are nervous and their tolerance for risk is very low.  Any new opportunity has to offer remarkable improvements over their current situation in order to justify taking on the risk that a job change entails.

Janco's advice to companies is: Think about internal promotions first.   Don't go into an interview process with the belief that every candidate is immediately going to fall over himself or herself to work for your company, particularly if it appears that your candidate pool is growing more discriminating.

Janco's advice to CIO candidates is: Think about how you can move up in your existing organization first. If you are looking for an opportunity outside of your company, do it with great caution.

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