A New Way For CIOs To Hire IT Managers

CIOs need to come up with a new way to interview job candidates
CIOs need to come up with a new way to interview job candidates
Image Credit: Mirko Tobias Schäfer

As the person with the CIO job, it’s also your job to make smart hiring decisions. You want to invite the right set of managers to join your IT department so that you can share the importance of information technology with the rest of the company. However, it turns out that this is not a simple thing to do. It can be all too easy to hire the wrong person if we don’t know how to go about doing this task correctly. CIOs need to find a better way to get the best managers to join their IT departments.

How We Hire Managers Today

So first off, we need to be very clear about the type of person that the CIO might be hiring. We’re not talking about entry-level hires. If a CIO is investing in a person’s raw potential, it’s vitally important to meet them. But when CIOs need to evaluate experienced managers, almost every motive they have for parading these people through the office defies logic. If anything, interviews may increase the odds of making a dumb decision. This may not make sense to you. After all, job interviews are a hallowed rite of passage in business. If nothing else, meeting people face-to-face is the only way to really get to know them.

However, what CIOs need to realize is that it may be even crazier to continue doing what you’ve always done and expecting a better result. According to a recent study, only 18% of the managers companies hire have the ideal combination of skills to succeed. As CIOs devote record amounts of time and money to the hiring process, an entire industry has formed to provide newfangled assessment tools. Companies can measure an applicant’s body language and facial expressions or evaluate them with virtual-reality simulators. The only convention that’s not being widely reconsidered is the sit-down interview.

The basic rules of how a CIO does a job interview were written during the previous era of lifetime employment, when the idea made more sense. CIOs could assume that any new hire might stick around for decades. And back then, achieving “diversity” in management meant employing graduates from both Harvard and Yale. Interviews were essentially litmus tests. Is this candidate one of us? This bias may be less overt, but it still exists. A 2012 study found that CIOs are more likely to hire workers who are “culturally similar” to them. And CIOs that rely heavily on internal referrals often end up hiring lots of new bosses who are indistinguishable from the bosses they already have.

How CIOs Should Hire Managers

Some CIOs are trying to eliminate unconscious bias by dispatching recruiters to new places, relaxing educational requirements for some jobs or even outsourcing the process. But can they really be objective if they insist on meeting every candidate in the flesh? Another problem with interviews is that what we see can be unreliable. In business settings, studies have shown that energetic extroverts and people who seem highly conscientious are more likely to be chosen as leaders. They’re the folks who wow us in job interviews. But other research suggests these traits are less likely to determine whether a leader is effective.

The No. 1 purpose of any interview, of course, is to ask the candidate questions. Sadly, this may be the most useless tactic of all. A guide for interviewing managers on LinkedIn suggests asking them to describe a time they “led by example.” Google recommends asking how they motivate their teams, and how they approach team members who remain unmotivated. The problem with these “anecdotal” questions is that everybody knows they’re coming. Any reasonably smart applicant has already embellished their stories and rehearsed them in the mirror.

So how can CIOs do a better job of hiring the right people? The most promising method I’ve seen for evaluating management hires is based on a model that already exists—the “360-degree” performance review. That’s when a company evaluates existing workers by soliciting candid feedback from many of their colleagues, and even outside clients and customers. Rather than scheduling an interview, I’d propose asking each nominee to submit the names of five people they’ve worked closely with. In turn, each of those people would send the name of one additional current or former colleague who has firsthand knowledge of the nominee’s leadership style. A jury system would take some getting used to. But I’m absolutely convinced that 10 separate accounts from informed observers would be far more useful, and truthful, than one canned performance by the person with the most incentive to lie.

What All Of This Means For You

On top of everything else that the person in the CIO position is responsible for doing, we also have to do a good job of finding and hiring the right people to be managers in the IT department. The challenge that we have in doing a good job of this is that it can be very hard to determine if a person is going to work out with your department just by talking with them and having a number of other people in the department talk with them. There has to be a better way to go about doing this.

CIOs need to understand that the traditional way of interviewing a manager candidate where we allow them to meet many other people, generally does not work. Far too few managers who do get hired have what it takes to do the job well. The way that we interview managers today was set up when the world was a different place. The problem is that when we interview someone, we get unreliable results. When we ask a candidate questions, they already know what we’ll be asking them and they have a polished answer waiting for us. A much better way to determine if a candidate is the right one for you is to get evaluations of them from people who have worked with them. Their feedback will provide a CIO with more information about a candidate then an entire day of asking them questions would.

The quality of the IT department depends on the people who are working in it. It is the responsibility of the CIO to make sure that the best candidates get hired. This has never been an easy process to do correctly. In order to do it successfully, CIOs need a new way to evaluate the people that they are thinking about hiring. A great way to go about doing this is to get in contact with people who have worked with the candidate and, instead of talking with the candidate, get their feedback. This is a novel way to determine someone’s suitability to join your IT department, but it deserves a careful look by CIOs who want to hire the right people.

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

Question For You: How many people do you think that a CIO should try to get feedback from on a candidate?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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