Questions You Need To Ask About Your Next CIO Job

Asking the correct questions is what you need to do get the right job
Asking the correct questions is what you need to do get the right job
Image Credit: Noelia

As CIOs we will eventually go looking for our next CIO job. When we do this, we need to be prepared to answer plenty of questions on various technology, business and personal topics. However, before any employment meeting ends, it’s always a good idea for you to toss a few probing questions back to the interviewer. Keep in mind that as the potential employer seeks to ensure that you’ll be able to perform professionally and productively, you’ll be risking nothing less than your reputation and future career path on commitments made during this interview. What types of questions should we be asking during our CIO job interview?

What Is The Status Of The IT Department?

When you go to interview for your next CIO job you need to ask if you will be leading an IT department that’s an equal partner with business and which is helping to drive innovation and revenue. You need to understand that companies that don’t include IT in planning and other business-focused activities generally view the department as a cost center that’s little more than a necessary drain on resources. These companies don’t realize the importance of information technology. This is important to understand because these types of companies are typically less willing to give IT the time and budget needed for exploration and innovation.

As a CIO you need to keep in mind that it’s important to be at an organization where IT is viewed as a critical part of the business. You can benefit personally and professionally as the organization will value you and your department more.

What Is This Company Looking For In Their Next CIO?

A good way to find out what the company that you are talking to is looking for in you is to ask them what the attributes they valued most in their last person in the CIO position? This is an important question because it can be a telling sign – a red flag – if the person that you are talking with has trouble defining what he or she most liked about their enterprise’s last CIO. It is possible that they may have never worked with a good CIO, but there should be some level of realistic expectations.

Listen carefully to what they say. If the person that you are talking with simply parrots a series of bland CIO attributes, such as “reliability,” “knowledge” and “frugality,” while omitting more important characteristics such as “innovation” and “leadership”, and it may be an indication that the organization is resistant to change and views its CIO as little more than a type of IT administrator. We all know that any CIO is going to need advocates within the broader organization to ultimately be successful. By using this question you can flesh out those biases.

What Is The Company’s Definition Of Long Term Success?

You hope to have the CIO job for a long time. What this means is that you are going to want to ask questions that will allow you to find out how the company defines long-term IT department success, and what methods they use to measure overall performance. The reason that you ask a question like this is because it is designed to help you understand the enterprise’s view of IT and the department’s role in contributing to business success. You’ll want to listen carefully to the interviewer’s response because it will provide insight into the goals their new CIO is expected to achieve.

Taking the time to probe here allows you to discover what their priorities are in expense optimization, refreshing team talent, driving strategic change, and determining how well everything matches the skills and interests you bring, If it turns out that the company is aspirational, it should be able to articulate clearly the overall company strategy and then link it to what you can deliver as an incoming CIO. Asked correctly, this question will also help you determine how highly the enterprise values its CIO. Understand that some employers may look at you as leading the way in technology, others may see you simply as the head IT guy. If you can see what the company’s expectations are, then you’ll be able to determine if they line up with what you have in mind.

What All Of This Means For You

The job that you are working at today is probably not your last job. In the future you will probably find yourself interviewing for your next CIO job. When this happens not only do you have to present yourself in a way that will make a potential employer want to hire you, but you also have to ask enough questions to gather the information about the job that you need. Knowing what questions to ask and why you are asking them is key.

One of the most important questions that you need to ask is to find out what the status of the IT department is. The goal of this question is to find out where the IT department stands in relation to the rest of the company. You will also want to find out what the company is looking for in their next CIO. You can do this by finding out what they liked the most in their previous CIO. With any job that you take, you expect to be there for a long time. This means that you need to ask questions in order to find out how they define long term success for the CIO.

Every new job is a new adventure for the CIO. When you are looking for your next opportunity you have a responsibility to yourself to find out as much about the job as you can. We will not be a good match for every job that is out there and it is your responsibility to make sure that you’d be a good fit for the job that you are interviewing for. Take the time to ask the right questions and then spend time thinking about the answers that you’ve gotten. Make sure that this is a job that you really want before you make the jump!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If a company does not work closely with its IT department, do you think that this is something that a new CIO can fix?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the CIO of your company, you have been given the job of leading innovation at the firm so that it can realize the importance of information technology. However, it can be all too easy to fail at this task. I think that we all understand that innovation is an important driver of growth, and many CIOs aspire to build capabilities that can deliver sustained innovation. However they have a steep hill to climb: A quarter of CIOs who participated in a recent study say that their innovation capabilities are nonexistent. Of the CIOs who responded, only 11 percent assessed their current innovation capabilities as excellent or leading. Why are we doing such a bad job at innovation?