Perfecting the CIO Job Interview

Susan Hall

Meridith Levinson's lengthy piece at CIO.com, "How to Ace a CIO Job Interview," should be required reading to anyone interviewing for that job, but also those who aspire to it.


She says it's all designed to answer three basic questions:


  1. Whether the candidate can help the company achieve a particular business goal such as turn around a failing project, help with a merger or acquisition or use technology to better connect with customers.
  2. Whether the candidate possesses certain key competencies, such as leadership, business acumen, strategic thinking, relationship building and the ability to get things done.
  3. Whether the candidate is a good match with the rest of the leadership team.


I've written that even entry-level job candidates should sweat the interview preparation; that's even more essential at this level. Marchex Product VP Tom Leung has written that a common mistake that job candidates make is failing to fight for the job in preparation and drive.


The CIO.com article quotes David Starmer of pizza chain Papa Murphy's International, saying:

You need to show them that you're that rare mix of person who can build the picture of where the organization needs to go, then help it get there.

That requires knowing the company's specific tactical and strategic issues. If the company is ERP-challenged, tell how you can make a difference. This requires the ability to think quickly on your feet and draw your strengths and experience into the conversation to show how you can help solve these problems. (Practice your storytelling to get this right.)


Most companies have moved beyond mere cost-cutting and want to see a track record of transformational leadership-leadership in delivering business outcomes and driving new business.


The article advocates asking questions-and not just those that suggest you're already being hired. Why is this position open? What made that person less than successful? What is the relationship between the C-suite and the board of directors?


The article also suggests knowing about the company culture before going in. Companies are putting more emphasis on people skills all the time and cultural fit-or lack of-can be a deal-breaker.


An important point that can't be emphasized too much is to treat everyone you encounter with respect. The article tells of Virgin Group tycoon Richard Branson once posing as a limo driver who tried to engage a job candidate in conversation en route to the airport. The job seeker would have none of it and dismissed the driver's efforts. Needless to say he didn't get the job and must have been shocked when Branson revealed his identity at the airport.


Another job candidate took a phone call between interviews and treated the caller badly. Three executive assistants reported the rude behavior and the candidate was pulled from further interviews.

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