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Interviewing For A CIO Position? Here’s How To Avoid Striking Out When You’re Talking To An Executive Recruiter

These tips can help CIO candidates hit a home run during the interview process.

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Are you candidating for a CIO position? Have you been contacted by executive recruiters? Perhaps you’ve got an initial call or a formal interview lined up, and you’re doing your prep work. As an executive recruiter myself, I have some very important tips that can save you from striking out in your interview.

When you interview with an executive recruiter, you have to remember that they are looking for the picture-perfect CIO candidate. Someone who is current on technology while being business savvy. Someone who takes smart risks when it comes to new technology, but who has insight on when to maintain the systems already in place. Someone who can talk to any segment of the business in their own terms, rather than resorting to technical jargon.

With this ideal in mind, there are five “strikes” that will immediately take you out of the running. Executive recruiters are listening for these, so you have to be sure you don’t commit a single one. Remember - just one strike can cause the interview (and your dream job) - to be “game over.”

CIO Candidate Strike 1: Hiding behind Delegation
When talking about specific projects, recruiters want to know whether or not you were leading or delegating the work. If you architected the project, hired all the people, and can talk about the work intimately, they know they have someone who was close to the project. This denotes knowledge, skill, and expertise. If you delegated all the work, that’s a red flag, because the recruiter can’t be sure you have what it takes to lead a project yourself. You want to communicate that you truly understands the inner workings of your projects, and that you have the “hands on” approach of a true leader.

CIO Candidate Strike 2: No Success Stories to Share
If you talk about all of the projects that were started under your direction but can’t discuss completed projects, the recruiter will wonder: Why are so many new projects being opened? Does this indicate a lack of vision and direction? Why aren’t older projects being completed? Does this indicate a lack of planning and execution? So select carefully which stories you will share, and make sure they are true success stories. You want to demonstrate that your new company will reap a solid return on their investment … in you.

CIO Candidate Strike 3: Managing Up Instead of Down
If you’re candidating as a CIO, you’re pretty high up on the company hierarchy, and may be part of the C-suite already. And while that’s great, be careful how you talk about it. If your conversation is all about enhancing relationships with fellow C-suite management and board level personnel, recruiters will assume you are not paying equal attention to your direct reports - another red flag. Make sure you express clearly that you are concerned about the welfare of your employees and appreciate the contributions of the whole organization.

CIO Candidate Strike 4: Comfort with the Status Quo
During the recession, IT budgets stagnated. CIOs couldn’t spend money on new infrastructure: their job was just to keep the system running during this rough time. The problem now is that we’ve seen a boom in technology since the recession days, but the old-school maintenance CIO hasn’t kept up and isn’t willing or able to introduce new technology to the company. You need to make it clear that you are not a “maintenance CIO.” Rather, you are actively and intentionally improving the business by leveraging new technology.

CIO Candidate Strike 5: Bells and Whistles Addiction
The opposite of the maintenance CIO is the CIO who is caught up with all of the bells and whistles of new technology. Recruiters know that these CIOs are often more concerned with the technology itself rather than the return on investment of the technology. You want to present yourself as a pioneer in technology, but a pioneer who always acts with the company’s present and future well-being in mind.

Now that you know how to avoid striking out, go with confidence into your next call or interview - and hit a home run!

A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.

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